Just about everything we surround ourselves with has been in a container at some point. The exhibition CARGO examines questions of communication across borders by land and by sea, the distribution of goods and benefits, access to resources and consumption and transport routes. It relates these themes to the schoolroom or classroom, a place where worldviews are made and knowledge is imparted to those who are to further develop society and democracy.
The project is a result of Urstad's interest in and fascination with the different methods and technologies used to communicate across distances in our recent history: from the communication between captain and engineer in older ships where one would stay above deck and the other in a noisy engine room, via telegraphy, Morse code and other types of radio communication across oceans and great distances, to the innovation of our time – the digital terrestrial network and use of fibre optics.
CARGO circles around the connection between technological development, mobility and the historical development of our conception of the contemporary and the global, and our accumulated personal ballast in the form of experiences and our location in a geographic, economic, social and cultural field.
Nine modified school desks, audio recordings of individuals' stories from different parts of the world and a multi-channel sound composition are the main elements in CARGO. As such it contains a supply of stories that expands by incorporating new stories for each new place the project is presented.
In CARGO we encounter personal stories, stories that have been collected by Urstad through interviews with different people she has met and who are a part of her life. In the Bergen version we meet the Zimbabwe-born curator Clare Butcher, who relates and reflects on her experiences from the streets of Madrid and Cairo in spring 2011, and how she, as a white person growing up in Zimbabwe, could not take part in public protests. Vassilij Vassilevich, a 92-year old radio operator from Kaliningrad, recounts his experiences as a radio operator back in The Soviet Union years and up till the present day, and talks about the importance of radio as a means of communication in Russia throughout several decades. Smallholder Alfhild Toft puts technological development in perspective in her personal story about doing laundry in the river. Michel Mutambuyi shares the story of his journey from Congo, his homeland, to South Africa ten years ago, and speaks of his work as a tour guide and how he for the past ten years has struggled to obtain a residence permit, work, house and a home in the new country.