How to make visible what is not meant to be seen, but still exists all around us? In 1910, a Norwegian chemist filed a patent for the production method for a pigment that aesthetically changed all modern surfaces. The white pigment titanium dioxide (TiO2),called “the whitest white,” was capable of covering all other pigments, turning architecture whiter and brighter, and thereby materially accelerating modernism’s desire for inconspicuousness, durability, and homogenisation. Titanium dioxide revolutionised the global color industry by bringing onto the market a pure white paint that resisted discoloration due to dirt and rust. However, a bright future always has consequences. What is the darker side of modernism’s whitewalls? In this talk, Marte Johnslien and Ingrid Halland show how they investigate the materiality of white colour through a method they call an arts-based archaeology, which combines art and architecture history, archival documentation, fieldwork, environmental history, aesthetic philosophy, artistic research, and art practice.
Ingrid Halland is an art and architectural historian and art critic, based in Oslo, Norway. She is associate professor in modern and contemporary art and architecture history at the University of Oslo and associate professor II at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, where she teaches in the PhD programme. She is the leader and principal investigator of the research project ‘TiO2: How Norway Made the World Whiter,’ funded by the Research Council of Norway (2023–2028). Halland’s academic articles have appeared in Log, Journal of Design History, Aggregate, Arkitektur N, and Kunst og kultur, and the book Ung Uro: Unsettling Climates in Nordic Art, Architecture & Design (2021). Halland is founder and editor in chief of Metode, a publishing platform by ROM for kunst og arkitektur.