Ole Hagen

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

Ole Hagen work in sculpture, drawing, performance and moving image, often staging theatrical tableaux for the camera. His work explores selfhood, introspection and perception in the context of cultural narratives relating to the distinction between the physical and the mental, the material and the immaterial.

Ole employs humor and hyperbole to exaggerate the apparent gap between subject and object in order to question orthodox materialist paradigms. He has published papers in the field of consciousness studies and philosophy of mind. As an artist he exhibits nationally and internationally, also curating and doing collaborative projects.






Scholarly biography and interests

Ole Hagen was the winner of the BKH Art Photography Prize 2014, at Fotogalleriet in Oslo for his moving image work The Origin of the Universe. He was the curator of the exhibitions Multiverse (Danielle Arnaud, 2009) and Multiverse Expanded (Akershus Kunstsenter 2011). Ole also works collaboratively, such as the art and science collaboration All There Was, part of Fig2 at the ICA, 2015, with David Cheeseman and astrophysicist Roberto Trotta.

He has written academically about consciousness studies, materialism and cosmology, both mythical and scientific, which is all about the collective narratives on which contemporary culture is founded. His writing and academic research is focused on ontology; what we consider real, the foundational narratives that form the basis for our thinking about subjectivity, environmental issues and the social goals of society. While speculation about the nature of consciousness was long a taboo in critical thought, advances in neuroscience and its impact on questions of free will, artificial intelligence and evolution has changed this picture. In the field of continental thought, which is often visited by artists and curators, there have been tendencies such as speculative realism and object-orientated philosophy, which Ole sees as a hardening of scientific materialism and a block to post-Newtonian thought. He personally thinks a less materialist ontology supporting deep ecology, transpersonal psychology and steady-state economy is in vital need of intelligent support.

Ole Hagen's work as an artist is neither topical nor a direct comment on his academic interests. Yet it is clearly informed by his personal worldview. The use of fiction in fine art practice is central to this work and is reflected in two exhibitions he curated, Multiverse (Danielle Arnaud 2009) and Multiverse Expanded (Akershus Kunstsenter 2011). It is also reflected in collaborative projects he has undertaken such as All There Was at fig2, ICA, 2015, with astrophysicist Roberto Trotta and sculptor David Cheeseman, which explored the shared cosmologies between art and science, and The Return of the Nullifiers at Standpoint Gallery 2016, a collaboration with Kit Poulson and Alex Baker exploring how creative fictions can stimulate the production of art work and make connections between practices.

Regarding Ole Hagen's personal language as an artist, he believes theatricality has been used derogatively about certain sculptural practices, as if it is negative to pretend for something to be other than what it is. But he thinks the term should be revised in a performative context to stand for an understanding of the staged. His sculptures might resemble a collection of props that exist to support a larger narrative, and within his moving image work he builds stage sets, makes props and masks in order to stage, what for him, is an awareness of theatrum mundi; the world as a stage. For him this is the idea that a type of enactment is part of producing reality, and that fiction and imagination play a role in forming what is real to us, or what becomes real. Ole’s work examines how our personal narratives are subliminally informed by larger cultural narratives. His artist’s research projects uses these performative fictions as a mytho-poetic tool to envisage an alternative vision of the world, one where consciousness is primary and pre-personal.

Ole was commissioned to publish the creative writing project Nowhere Less Now for Artangel and Lindsay Seers in 2012. He has further published catalogue essays (such as in Altermodern, Tate Triennial 2009) and research papers in the field of ontology, comparative philosophy and the philosophy of mind, presenting at conferences (such as Towards a Science of Consciousness, Stockholm, 2011).

Ole Hagen studied at The National Academy of Fine Art in Oslo, before completing an MA in Sculpture at Chelsea College of Art and Design and later a PhD at Goldsmiths College. He previously taught fine art at Birmingham City University and has been a visiting lecturer at numerous institutions, including Goldsmiths College and the Metropolitan Film School.

How I like to teach

I am a practicing artist with 10 years of art education myself and 14 years of teaching experience. This includes teaching BA and MA students and some aspects of PhD supervision. I also have experience with curating exhibitions, with working collaboratively and with securing funding. In addition to my fine art practice I have experience with writing on art and with doing academic research in fields that indirectly feed into my practice as an artist.

I believe strongly that the way to engage students in the field of fine art is to facilitate self-motivated learning. Assisting the students in developing a living practice and in generating ideas based on interests close to their heart is vital. This must involve hands on exploration of methods and materials suitable to their needs. It is further important to integrate theory, such as written components of the fine art course with practice. The way to do this is to meet the students where they are, and assist in inspiring and expanding their horizon by enabling them to find practicing artists’ work relating to what they do, as well as academic references integral to the themes and ideas of their research. We want to encourage students to take ownership of their own practice by enabling them to communicate effectively with others through groups tutorials, presentations and discussions, which facilitates peer learning. Through one to one tutorials I aim at stimulating the creative process itself, so that students get familiar with and excited about generating new ideas. I present and talk about my own work and that of others in visual presentations aimed at the level of the different year groups. I facilitate the dialogue between students and technicians at the workshops as well as the dialogue with their theory tutors. We take students to important exhibitions outside the institution and bring in visiting lecturers to help them get a global understanding of the contemporary fine art scene and community. I believe that it is also important not just to teach them professional practice but also show them that practice is something transformative relating to their own life and concerns. In that sense practice becomes something that is not just instrumental but can become a vehicle for personal growth. The best way to make this happen is direct dialogue with the students, bringing their concerns out and helping them to critically examine the conditions of their own subjectivity, both at the personal and the wider social level.

I expect students to take responsibility for their own learning. Factual knowledge can always become outmoded, as we see with generational shifts, but the process and ability to adapt and learn does not become outmoded, but becomes instead an integral part of the creative process. I expect students to be able to present their work professionally, to document it in visually adequate ways and to be able to talk about practice, process and creative outcomes.

We use a wide array of resources in the teaching process, including workshops such as wood, metal, plaster, ceramics, photography, moving image, digital media and online sources. There is a strong emphasis on the course to learn virtual tools that assist the documentation and presentation of work. We need access to video projectors and computer set up to engage fully with audio-visual resources, both through students’ and lecturers’ presentations and through online sources.

Group discussions can take many different forms, from the more informal and social to the critical and controlled. Students learn how to differentiate between seminars and discussions that generate ideas and critical evaluation of practice. The most important tool in fine art teaching is still the one to one tutorial as students are individual practitioners who benefit greatly from in depth conversations about their own practice.

The annual degree show is probably one of the strongest evidences of just how far the students have come in their professional practice, while their dissertation reflects their ability to research and their presentations their ability to communicate. But we also have student feedback forms that allow students to comment directly on our teaching and their own learning. In addition I would say that the students pathway after they leave the institution is one of the strongest indicators of their ability to think independently and prosper in the professional careers of their choice. The success rate of students applying for postgraduate studies in renown institutions is another indicator of our success.


Research activity

Evolution – Devolution is the working title for a project aimed at exploring deep ecology and worldviews that break the hegemony of anthropocentrism in the context of evolutionary biology. This is primarily a moving image project that is meant to culminate in the production of a new 3D film. The film will be launched at Molinare’s cinema in London and be included in proposed solo exhibitions in London and Oslo. Venues to be confirmed.

Pieman and Nogot A graphic novel collaboration with artist Kit Poulson, exploring collective modes of writing, chance and subcultural crime genres as creative processes. The project is linked to the proposal of a radio show, for which different avenues of distribution are currently being explored.

Anti-Materialism, the Ontology of First-Person Empircism is an ongoing academic research project furthering themes from my PhD. It is both a critique of current trends in materialist thought and a proposal for a post-Newtonian ontology that re-evaluates the status of consciousness in in the formation of paradigms. I am currently working on individual papers under this heading.

Selected exhibitions 2014 – 2017

2018 Orbitology, Hanmi Gallery, Seoul

The title refers both to the study of the orbital movement of planetary bodies and to the study of ocuplastic disorders of the ‘orbit’ or eye socket. The show explored the parallels between introspection and extrospection and how the traditional division of subjective and objective observation breaks down on closer inspection.

2017 On Having No Head, Oslo Prosjektrom, Norway.

Solo exhibition of new work in moving image and sculpture. Taking its title from D.E. Harding’s book on nonduality, the exhibition explores the contrast between the head as a subjective point of view of invisibility, with a potential for expanded awareness and the head as the image of a physical volume, linked to notions of containment and subject-object dichotomy.

2016 The Return of the Nullifiers, Standpoint Gallery, London, UK.

A collaboration with artists Kit Poulson and Alex Baker that works with creative fiction as a generative springboard for collaboration. The exhibition included collaborative work and individual work in new constellations.

2016 Ideas Travel Faster than Light, NIV Art Centre, Delhi, India.

Curated by Jasone Miranda-Bilbao. A selected group of Indian artists and a selected group of London-based artists are asked to execute each other’s ideas, in an attempt to break down the barriers of distance and cultural bias.

2015 All There Was, Fig2, ICA, London, UK.

A collaborative project with  sculptor David Cheeseman and astrophysicist Roberto Trotta that explores the post-Newtonian universe as a staring point for thinking about the difficulty of 3D representation of the invisible and the overlap between speculative theory and visual thinking. The title of the exhibition is a play on Dr. Trotta’s book All There Is, a description in common English of the evolution of the universe. Publication to be released in 2017/18.

2014 Spring Exhibition 2014, Fotogalleriet, Oslo and The Norwegian Short Film Festival, Grimstad, Norway.

Launch of my new film The Origin of the Universe, which won the BKH Art Photography Prize. The film explore the theatrical language and use of illusion in early cinema, and a mythical narrative of the origin of the universe that challenges materialism by highlighting the difficulty of giving form to the immaterial.


Dr Hagen received AHRC funding for my PhD studies. In the period 2004 - 2014 won a number of internal research bids from Birmingham City University. These were supports for more extensive public funding bids from the Arts Council of Norway and other national bodies. From 2013 to 2015 Ole had a major grant from the Visual Artists Relief Fund of Norway. Prior to this he won the Norwegian National Artists Association Award for a number of years as well as prior to this the Norwegian National Fund for Young Artists Award.

Between 2010 and 2013 Ole conducted a number of peer reviews for the US publication Philosophy Study.Consultancy: In 2010 he worked as a consultant for Norwegian company Statoil’s presentation of Finnish Photography of the ‘Helsinki School’ at Rogaland Art Museum in Stavanger. This included a public lecture and conversation with the invited artists.




Supervisory Interests

In addition to fine art practice, I'm interested in consciousness studies, philosophy of mind, ontology and religious stuies such as Buddhist philosophy. My own PhD covered continental thought, such as phenomenology, poststructuralism, Derrida and Deleuze, but also philosophy of science.

Education/Academic qualification

Fellow of The Higher Education Academy

Award Date: 26 Nov 2018

Fellow of The Higher Education Academy, Fellow of Higher Education Academy

Award Date: 26 Nov 2018

PhD, Towards an Ontology and Ethics of Introspection, Goldsmiths, University of London

1 Sept 20011 Apr 2006

Award Date: 1 Apr 2006

Master, MA Sculpture, University of the Arts London

9 Jan 19951 Jun 1996

Award Date: 1 Jun 1996

Master, BA/MA equivalent Fine Art, National Academy of Fine Art

1 Aug 19911 Jun 1995

Award Date: 1 Jun 1995


  • NB Sculpture
  • Objects
  • NC Drawing Design Illustration
  • Drawings/collage
  • N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
  • Moving Image
  • Video
  • B Philosophy (General)
  • Consciousness studies
  • philosophy of mind
  • BQ Buddhism
  • Comparative philosophy
  • Ontology
  • NX Arts in general
  • Performance art


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