THE CHARACTERS – Tonje Bøe Birkeland

What is an explorer in 1870? – is he a man?…

The male explorer is famous and often plays the part as a romanticized role model. His journeys and discoveries are well documented in diaries with dramatic descriptions of landscapes and stories about dangerous journeys, but where are the women in these stories?

In The Characters, Tonje Bøe Birkeland explores the authenticity of history through self-portraits, diaries, and objects. By creating fictional characters of female explores, she challenges women’s position in both history and in science. Historically, women haven’t had a place in science or as exploders, unless they were guided by a male peer. Tonje Bøe Birkeland herself takes on the role of the female explorer and builds the characters through diary entries and travel descriptions, personal belongings such as clothes, cameras and maps. She gives women a place in history at the intersection between fiction and reality. She opens the narrative and gives the viewer an insight into the characters’ intimate realities and connects them to the realities of history. For example, Character #IV Anna Aurora Astrup (1870-1968) decides to publish her discoveries from Greenland, but like so many other female pioneers, is discarded by publishers and the manuscript is forgotten and left unfinished for many years.

Tonje Bøe Birkeland (b. 1985 in Bergen, Norway). Completed her MFA from the University of Bergen in 2021. Her project “The Characters” began in 2008 and has since developed into five characters. “The Characters” has given her The Victor Fellowship from The Hasselblad Foundation in 2012 and her book on Character #V “The Bhutan Trilogy” from 2016 won her 2nd place in the Norwegian design competition “The Most Beautiful Books of the Year” in 2017.

The exhibition is a part of Nuuk Nordisk Kulturfestival 2021 and is exhibited partly at Nuuk Art Museum and partly at Café Killut.