Ann Cathrin November Høibo, Hvis verden spør, så er svaret nei #2 (If the World Asks, the Answer is No #2), 2020, wool, cotton, rayon, ceramic hooks (by Marthe Elise Stramrud), 89 3⁄4 × 57 3⁄4 × 1 3⁄4".

Ann Cathrin November Høibo, Hvis verden spør, så er svaret nei #2 (If the World Asks, the Answer is No #2), 2020, wool, cotton, rayon, ceramic hooks (by Marthe Elise Stramrud), 89 3⁄4 × 57 3⁄4 × 1 3⁄4".

Ann Cathrin November Høibo

While its title, “Hvis verden spør, så er svaret nei” (If the World Asks, the Answer Is No), might have sounded slightly discouraging, visitors to Ann Cathrin November Høibo’s recent exhibition probably felt very welcome. The works on view were marked by the artist’s (sometimes literal) interweaving of the handmade and the ready-made as well as by her highly idiosyncratic relationship with material objects in general and textiles in particular. The zigzag patterns of the four tapestries that make up Hvis verden spør, så er svaret nei #1, 2020, for instance, are made with both hand-spun wool from Old Norwegian Short Tail Landrace sheep and industrially fabricated cotton, rayon, and tulle. Predominantly dark gray, with jagged fields of bright yellows, greens, blues, pinks, black, and more, the panels showcase Høibo’s significant compositional and coloristic fingerspitzengefühl, or “fingertip feeling,” which recalls that of a modernist painter. This is not to say that Høibo places herself outside of a textile tradition; the contemporary touch added by a couple of interwoven smiley faces does not detract too much from the debts owed to Norwegian textile-art pioneers such as Hannah Ryggen (1894–1970) and the artist’s mentor Else Marie Jakobsen (1927–2012). The artist introduced further natural handmade elements by hanging the panels from either roughly whittled pine sticks or ceramic hooks made by her colleague Marthe Elise Stramrud.

Two smaller tapestries, #2 and #3 in the series, dated 2020 and 2019, respectively, hung in the part of the gallery facing the street and are similarly composed, but dominated by light, undyed wool. They shared the room with Hvis verden spør, så er svaret nei #4, 2019, a set of three lamps—their bulbs just a couple of feet from the floor and their glass shades magnificently green—hanging from the ceiling, and an X-ray of the artist’s mouth, Hvis verden spør, så er svaret nei #5, 2020. The latter has an almost monstrous, oddly symmetrical look to it—a result, I am told, of the metal earrings the artist wore to the procedure. (You are not supposed to wear jewelry when being X-rayed.) One of the nine small weaves in another room was similarly adorned with feminine tokens: plastic-ball hair bands tied into long, loosely hanging rayon warp threads. Chocolate molds were used as “frames” for another two, although they by no means contained the tangle of threads; their offhand appearance exemplified Høibo’s lack of deference to the medium.

Similarly, her deployment of ready-made objects and her integration of consumer goods into her work could be viewed as a way of undercutting the weightiness of the textile-art tradition to which she belongs. Such a conclusion, however, would imply a hierarchical relationship between separate categories that finds no real support in the works themselves. Confronted with her tapestries, I was reminded of Marcel Duchamp’s notion of modern paintings as “assisted readymades” on account of their being made with industrially manufactured, preexisting tubes of paint. Choosing not to color her own yarn and incorporating industrially dyed threads and commercially produced fabric, Høibo, too, is aided by the ready-made in the production of her tapestries. At the same time, her actual readymades are far removed from Duchamp’s cool, impersonal objects. Rather, they are defined by the sometimes sentimental value they carry—the green lamps came from Høibo’s favorite hometown shop, and her interest in synthetic fabrics stems from her father’s shoe-importing business, for instance. Her failure to remove her earrings, then, is another way in which she weaves objects into the very structure of her work.