9 March – 7 May, 2023

Ordinary Dreams by writer, poet and artist Olivia Douglass is a commissioned work that is part of Kunsthall Stavanger’s digital project series Even When We Can’t We Must, honouring Norway’s Queer Culture year 2022.

Queer Culture Year commemorated 50 years since the abolition of a law that stated that sexual interaction between men was forbidden. Effectively, the termination of this law decriminalised the act of being gay in Norway. Throughout Even When We Can’t We Must, which continues into 2023, Kunsthall Stavanger wishes to honour the work of queer pioneers but also give room to artists working with topics and issues concerning current queer perspectives. Ordinary Dreams, which is an experiment in poetry, collage, score and sound on Kunsthall Stavanger’s website, is the second work in the series, following Nat Pyper’s work Gerardo Velázquez.otf. In Douglass’ work they reply to the question “What does the understanding, feeling, or the illusion of freedom mean today?” From here, the writer has worked with the understanding of freedom as an illusion, as something impermanent and an experience which is tied to fleeting moments. This has also led them to look at how the feeling of freedom can be carried through song.

The work features original poetry from Douglass, as well as being made up of different quotes, starting with one by the Norwegian Minister of Culture and Equality, Anette Trettebergstuen, which was part of the official apology from the Norwegian government in regards to the abovementioned law abolished 50 years ago. Also included is a quote by Nina Simone on the experience of freedom from the documentary A Historical Perspective — Nina Simone by Peter Rodis (1970). Douglass encourages visitors to download the work as a poster in pdf format, so that audiences can find ways of reinterpreting the work sonically, and find agency in its content.

The title, Ordinary Dreams, speaks to visions of simultaneously radical and quotidian freedom. For Douglass, ‘ordinary’ is a dream for queer people, mirroring the feeling and yearning of living without being vigilant. It speaks to the day-to-day yearnings of queer life, and what life would look like if queer people were really free.

Olivia Douglass is a British-Nigerian writer, poet and artist, living in London. They are the winner of the Guardian and 4th Estate 4thWrite Prize 2022 with their story Ink. They are the author of Slow Tongue, a verse/lyric-essay hybrid that responds to M. NourbeSe Philip’s She Tries Her Tongue — Her Silence Softly Breaks. Their writing appears in publications including Bath Magg, Nothing Personal, Prototype 2, and they wrote the foreword for Away With Word vol.4. A Barbican Young Poets Alumna, Olivia has been commissioned by the National Poetry Library (London) and Galleria Duarte Sequeira (Portugal), alongside curating reading rooms for Passa Porta Festival (Brussels) and Nottingham Contemporary. They have held residencies with Talawa Theatre Company and Theatre Peckham, been shortlisted for the Rebecca Swift Foundation’s Women Poet Prize 2020, and in 2021 was longlisted for a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship. Olivia was the curator of Strange Echoes, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) in 2022, a six-day Black experimental poetry convening. Olivia is currently an MSt Creative Writing Student at the University of Oxford and is working on their first novel.

Even When We Can’t We Must is a digital project consisting of four commissioned works by Nat Pyper, Olivia Douglass, virgil b/g taylor and Zutana Hadaddeen. The works are presented as interactive projects on our digital platform, the first launched in December 2022, and the others follows in March, May and September 2023. The title for the project is borrowed from a work by Nat Pyper bearing the same name.

Ordinary Dreams borrows language from A Historical Perspective — Nina Simone by Peter Rodis (1970) and the Norwegian Minister of Culture and Equality, Anette Trettebergstuen. Video extracts are from Owed to Chiron (The Wounded Healer) by Hannah Catherine Jones.

Sound Design: Joshan Chana and Olivia Douglass
Curator: Kristina Ketola Bore
Developer: Bryant Wells