#101 The Three No's

125x100 cm each, installation dimensions variable | Filler, oak frame

  • About the work

    The title of this triptych refers to a infamous sentence in the Khartoum resolution issued by the Arab League (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait and Sudan) in 1967.  It reads - ”No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel. ” Although the resolution was never enforced, and is no longer relevant to the Palestinian conflict, the text’s categorical rejection remains of interest. Not least as an alternative to the common notion that conflicts can and should always be resolved through dialogue and compromise. The work can be viewed as a statement of support for the Palestinian struggle, but it can also be understood as a reflection on struggle and resistance on many different levels.

    In a situation where conflict is a result of a sustained abuse of power, initiating a dialogue between the parties can function as an extension of the actual assault. If one party exercises power at the expense of others, which often is the case in conflicts, then negotiations with the dominant party can be experienced as a confirmation of the power structure, and be recognized as a legitimation for the abuse.
    Within a Scandinavian and Western context, open conflict and hostility are seen as temporary exceptions to the norm and is expected not last too long. Negotiation, compromise, understanding and forgiveness, are perceived purely as positive concepts. But they can also be instruments of power. Throughout history, rulers and various institutions have used them as arguments to enforce their will, thus showing that established channels for conflict management also can function as an extension of existing power structures. Requirements to solve or handle conflict through the normalization of relations, is for the weaker party, a further form of submission.

    This becomes especially apparent when you read the situation through Michel Foucault´s  power theory, and refrain from viewing power as something directly tied to specific agents or institutions, but rather as embedded in the discourse as a whole. Power consists of defining what can be described as true, and setting boundaries for what is viewed as possible. In this way, the call for acting within the norm of consent, is imperative. Thus rejection of cooperation, can be a more effective tool for struggle or resistance, as we see in strikes and boycotts. When the balance of power is very uneven, the only possible means of resistance can be extreme versions of this rejection, such as hunger strike or suicide .

    In a social context, those insisting on illuminating or sustaining a conflict, are often looked upon as difficult or unpleasant. However, in the case of an abuse of power, creating a distance between the victims and the aggressor, by refusing to reconcile, may be essential for maintaining integrity, and enabling positive self development. Clear boundaries and distance, are usually better than forced solutions, even though this can be perceived as harsh and unforgiving by the surroundings.

  • Note

    The works in the series is also available for purchase individually here. (please scroll)

  • About the series

    A word is always also an image. Language connects to categories and clusters of information that projects an internal image when triggered. In thats sense they function no different than regular perception. What we see is images constructed inside the mind. We never perceive reality objectively or in itself. Perception is interpretation and thus consist of language, in the same manner as words.
    But even more, as vision usually stems from a physical reality, so does also words, written or spoken. Nothing can ever be communicated without being inscribed into matter of some sort. Matter is what connects us, without it we would be completely sealed off. How, or in what way, words are inserted into reality affects how we perceive them. Thus reality itself seeps into language. There exists no clear or unmediated communication. Matter adds to the message. Because which matter we choose to communicate through reflects on who we are, it can also help to reveal unconscious or hidden meanings.

    The first written words were inscribed in stone or clay. One of the purposes was to save them for the future. To protect them from the volatility of time. To speak, or to write, is always to some extent, an act of power. The receiver must always initially submit his or hers attention to the message. No matter how small, the message will always change the receiver forever. The reception can, and will, be processed by the receiver, but he or she, will never be same as before. It is no coincident that many of the first examples of texts are curses, prayers or laws. Different ways of trying to influence reality.

  • Template

    Word series is part of Template, an array of works made by using pieces of wooden plates as templates. They function a bit as a mould or matrix for the finished work. The plates are attached inside the frame and after the first layer of filler had dried they are removed. The remaining empty spaces are filled with filler of a different colour.

    Reminiscent of Richard Serra's Verb List I try to use simple and clearly defined actions to shape the filler in my works. This way there is always non-cognitive aspects of the production process.


If you have any questions about anything regarding my works, please don´t hesitate to contact me!

Johan Söderström | Grenseveien 9b, Oslo, Norway | t. +47 41 355 355 | jodsoderstrom@gmail.com

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©Johan Söderström 2015