By Liv Bugge and Sara Orning  


Child:  Image courtesy/Photo credit: Liv Bugge

Stone in hand: Image courtesy/Photo credit: Hans Arne Nakrem, Museum of Natural History, Oslo

Man with two parts of trilobite: Image courtesy/Photo credit: The Museum of University and Science History, Oslo

The following extract is based on a series of group discussions held by the artist Liv Bugge where methods derived from animal communication is tested in a telepathic conversation with a fossil trilobite. Trilobites were in their time one of the largest groups of animals on the planet and is among the most common fossils in Norway, and it is especially common in the Oslo area.

A couple of people from the Monster Network were invited to take part in such a conversation as part of Liv Bugge’s artistic research project. The session involved a group meditation, then individual conversations between the participants and the trilobite, followed by a group discussion. The conversation is an exercise in non-linear ways of relating to historical existences and concepts of time, as well as using the body as an image producing apparatus. By engaging in conversation with a fossil that is dated several hundred million years back in time, the exercise is partly about letting the fossil stay in the now. The image of the fossil as governed resource is challenged by the image of the fossil subject, felt and experienced by the participant’s own body.

The extract is taken from the artwork Instructions to make use of an already present itch, which was on view in the exhibition What remains at Fotogalleriet, Møllergata 34, Oslo in March 2017.

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Some of the questions we agreed upon asking the trilobite included:

– do you feel presence? Our presence?

– in which time do you exist?

– do you have feelings? Can you feel things?

– what about your transformation from lived life to your current form?


I made the questions as tangible as possible before I asked them. I started by asking if it had any words, if that was how it communicated. I got a clear “no” to that question. Then I started visualizing cursive writing. Seismic, three-dimensional writing. I thought it might be something along those lines, something visual. But again I got a “no”. I got this feeling that it was saying, “I can try to answer if it’s that important to you.” It was definitely impatient. I felt a sort of resistance and aggression from it the whole time: “I can give you this much,”, it stated, but there wasn’t time to stay in the moment. There was friction and movement all the time, and the feeling of heaviness.

I felt a slight pain in my right shin. It was crawling on me, and I thought that maybe the movement was language. It seemed like it wanted to crawl all over me as if saying:

“This is how we can communicate.”

“You can feel me on your body, in a physical way, and therefore you know that I am here.”

“I have something to say, but I will not let you know through language—I just won’t.”

It suddenly moved very quickly to the side, then it drew a trace behind itself, and then it paused. Several curved lines were drawn up on the ground. I figured that was language. Maybe it wasn’t the actual trace itself that was the language, but the action and movement.

It questioned within what time and state I was addressing it. The actual moment it is in isn’t important, but rather what time I think it is present in. Where I decide to date it. And what such placement in time does to it, and to me. What state does it have as I am talking to it? Is it alive, fossilized, or something in between? That’s when I started to think about what happened to it from the time it was alive, and what “alive” even means? Does it mean having a heartbeat? Being made up of organic material? How did the transformation of bare body happen? What kind of substance is it composed of? Is it animal? Is it rock? Is it neither? Or is it both? How do these materials and the substance of the body affect the questions we ask, and how we ask them? I then had this clear image of me placing it in my timeframe, and then it dissolved. Disappeared. The question about time blended in with the question about the transition from lived life to current form.

Finally, I sent an image of soil, and in return I got one of dirt being flooded by water. The sea entered the scene of us on the path in the woods. Maybe it wanted the ocean to be there, or maybe it was an image of erosion. I am not sure what this meant, but the image of water washing over the ground kept reoccurring. I saw a cross-section of the earth with water, sediments, and sand lines, and then a black, oily substance seeping out in-between the cracks of the lines. I got a clear image of things that protruded from its head. Black bubbles came out. It told me that it didn’t miss the ocean, but I saw that it was slimy and wet like a snail.



Liv Bugge studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo and HISK (Higher Institute for Fine Art) in Belgium.

Bugge’s artistic practice incorporates a variety of media, with emphasis on video. Many of her works are disrupting narratives of past and present, facts or fiction through a sometimes confrontational approach.

Liv Bugge is currently a research fellow at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo with the project “The Other Wild- an aggressive inquiry”, revolving around what she calls “structural magic”. Her research is questioning normative structures with focus on what the embodiment of such mechanisms of government does to the contemporary subject.