When I say that the theme of this year’s Oslo World is “Avant-garde – in the periphery”, people seem surprised. Avant-garde may not be the most obvious theme for a world music festival. Well, let me start by saying once and for all that we do not present “world music” at Oslo World, we present music in all genres from all over the world. We give the world to Oslo and Oslo to the world. Usually we have themes such as “forbidden songs”, “belonging” and “boundaries”, topics that are immediately perceived as more political. So why should Oslo World grasp the Avant-garde? And what do we mean by the periphery?
In our euro-centric world, everything outside the US and Europe, is considered the periphery. A large part of the program Oslo World presents comes from other countries and regions and is based, according to such an interpretation, in the periphery.
Avant-garde is originally a French military term from the Middle Ages, which means being at the forefront or in front of the squad. The term in the arts also occurs in France in the first half of the nineteenth century and is often associated with the French philosopher Henri de Sant-Simon and the circle around him, who were the precursors of the great socialist thinkers. They strongly believed in the social power of art and its ability to create a better society.
It is this aspect of avant-garde we want to emphasize during this year’s festival. We have invited artists and activists who use the power of art to push boundaries to create greater freedom and action in communities in the global south, often characterized by censorship and political oppression, or in our part of the world, which is increasingly characterized by xenophobia and nationalist currents.
We promote those who are at the forefront, who are pioneers, who promote radical ideas, who are unconventional and create important meeting places. Artists that one might not immediately place under the avant-garde genre, but who have used their voice and art to consciously or subconsciously create social change. The avant-garde concept blends differently in different parts of the world both historically and today. Throughout an entire festival week, we will talk about the mechanisms behind the artistic use of the avant-gard and make it available for the masses. We are going to devote a whole house to afro-tourism, we have comissioned works from artists as different as Øyunn and Rossy de Palma, and we present one of the Middle East’s very first female artists, who started of with electronic indie music. We open with Calypso Rose – an icon within the calypso genre and a role model for women in the Caribbean, who today can devote their lives to music. The line up at Oslo World 2017 is filled with pioneers.
For 6 days, on 27 stages, we will take the world to Oslo, to the city center, or to the periphery, if you want.