THE WRITER

  Photo by  Salit Krac, 2013

Photo by Salit Krac, 2013

Q&A

with

HELENE LUNDBYE PETERSEN

Helene Lundbye Petersen (1980) is a curator, writer and artist based in New York and Copenhagen. She holds an MA in Art History and Communication and has worked in art institutions such as Sparwasser HQ, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin and in Studio Olafur Eliasson as Studio Manager, Denmark (2008­2011). Furthermore, Helene Lundbye has curated exhibitions at White Box, N.Y. and City States, Liverpool Biennial, 2012 and she has written and edited books such as Yvette Brackman: Systems & Scenarios, published by JRP|Ringier. In 2011 she wrote her first Handwritten work, White, which was published in 2012 as The White Book. The book urges us to rethink our perspectives on human culture and what we want the world to be. In 2012 she founded WhitePageProject consisting of her own books, that includes seven handwritten books so far and a series of Performance Lectures that unfold her visions of The White Book.

 

HOW DID THE IDEA FOR THE WHITE BOOK COME ALONG? 

Throughout my work as a curator, writer and artist I have had a current of thoughts that were bridging existential questions, societal critique and the unique form and potential of arts. All along, I was searching for a space that was able to contain such complexity. The notion of space is abstract. It can be both conceptual and physical and I was looking for both to give form to my philosophy and art. On a journey to Japan in 2010 I came across a white book that had a cover like porcelain, and two years later, as I had just moved to New York, I wrote the book by hand in only three weeks. I was experiencing a momentum in the blank white pages of this book, finding the space I had been looking for

YOU ARE USING A CIRCLE IN YOUR WHITE BOOK – WHAT DOES IT REPRESENT? 

The white book I had bought was completely blank apart from a discrete circle embossed in the cover. The circle is not linear. It does not reveal where it begins or where it ends. This makes it ever ending and never ending at the same time. Visually it contains something by enclosing an inside and an outside of its defining borders. It can contract to exclude as the smallest entity definable or it can expand to include. As I hand wrote the book I started applying the circle as a recurring graphic element. I did not plan its symbolic function as I wrote it but retrospectively I see the main function of the circle in the text as a representation of space – abstract, as well as concrete.

YOU HAVE BEEN LIVING, WRITING AND PERFORMING IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES LIKE ISRAEL, CHINA AND AMERICA, IF YOU WERE TO PICK A PLACE OR COUNTRY FOR THE COLOUR WHITE, WHERE WOULD IT BE?

Technically, white light contains all wavelengths of visible light, as seen in the colours of the rainbow. In that sense white is all colours and no colour. Much like this technical quality concurring with the colour, I would say that white is all places and no place. And this makes white a space not a particular place.  

DO YOU THINK OF WHITE AS A SPIRITUAL COLOUR?

I don’t think of white as a spiritual colour, but I think of white as an inclusive colour. As mentioned, I find that white holds spacious qualities, which is also seen in the technical capacity of the colour white in being able to contain other colours.

NAME ONE THING YOU FEEL THE WORLD NEEDS MORE OF AND TELL US WHY?

We need more inclusiveness.

We need to think beyond static structures that build our institutions and tell us how the world supposedly is. Beyond the given structures there is a freedom that allow us to consider what we actually want the world to be rather than leaning on institutions and systems to tell us how we should think.

We need space, because space provides us with qualities such as openness, awareness and curiosity. These qualities are challenging to deal with, as they do not provide us with the comfort of answers. But I wish to remind us that it is precisely such challenges that allow us to continuously renegotiate, be open and deal –hopefully responsibly – with how we want the world to be. In short, what is needed is courage and responsibility to enter into and navigate within a white space – like an artist or writer confronted with the white canvas or page.