The research project TiO2 studies the chemical compound titanium dioxide (TiO2), which was discovered and patented in Norway—originally as a white pigment named titanium white. The production of the pigment was based on advancements in geology and mining; technological innovations in hydroelectric power; and unique chemistry breakthroughs by Norwegian chemists Peder Farup and Gustav Jebsen between 1910 to 1920, most notably for the manufacture of the inorganic chemical compound titanium dioxide and the ‘sulfate process’ which still is the most used production process for titanium dioxide. The patent for TiO2 allowed for the development of the titanium white pigment, which revolutionized the color-industry by bringing into the market an absolute white, non-toxic paint that resisted miscoloring due to dirt and rust. Production for the global market began in the mine Titania AS in Sokndal, Norway, and in the factory Kronos Titan AS in Fredrikstad, Norway, in 1916—and the companies are still key players in the global production of TiO2.
Throughout the 20th century, the techno-natural material was increasingly used in mass-production of surfaces (as coating for concrete, glazing for ceramics, and additive in plastic), thereby the Norwegian innovation changed the aesthetics of surfaces in architecture and design, making surfaces—all over the globe—smoother, brighter, flatter, and more opaque. From white walls to systemic spread: today TiO2 circulates extensively through our material, biological, and economic systems, most of the time completely unnoticeable. The inorganic compound hides in the food we eat, the paper we print on, the paint on the wall, as well as in concrete coatings, in synthetic textiles, tattoos, make-up, sunscreens, and in endless amounts of white plastic products. Currently the Norwegian innovation TiO2 is virtually present in all techno-natural surfaces, globally.
The objective of the research project TiO2 is to critically and visually investigate the cultural and aesthetic preconditions of TiO2 through arts-based methods that merge artistic research and art history and theory. Major outcomes: two international symposiums, a two-weeks research studio open to the public, two edited books, two research-based exhibitions, and a monograph.
TiO2 is divided in two sub-projects; the artistic research project 'The Materiality of White' (MoW) funded by the Norwegian Artistic Research Programme (2022 - 2025) and 'How Norway Made the World Whiter' (NorWhite) funded by the Research Council of Norway (2023 - 2028).
Main institutional parters: The University of Bergen and the Oslo National Academy of the Arts.
Project partners: Jøssingfjord Science Museum, Dalane Folk Museum, Østfoldsmuseene, The Norwegian Mining Museum, Velferden, and ROM for kunst og arkitektur.
Associate Professor Marte Johnslien (MoW) firstname.lastname@example.org
Associate Professor Ingrid Halland (NorWhite) email@example.com
Please contact us if you are interested in the research project TiO2
Principal Investigators: Ingrid Halland (NorWhite) and Marte Johnslien (MoW). Photo: Ilja C. Hendel (2022)