Let the River Flow. The Sovereign Will and the Making of a New Worldliness

Published 2018/03/16

Norsk versjon Sámegiel veršuvdna


'Let the River Flow. The Sovereign Will and the Making of a New Worldliness'
Curated by Katya García-Antón, with Antonio Cataldo
Advisory Board: Prof. Harald Gaski and Dr. Gunvor Guttorm

Exhibition Design: A-lab (Káre R. Anti) and Torsteinsen Design

Opening reception: Wednesday 11 April 2018, 18:00
Opening dates: Thursday 12 April–Sunday 3 June 2018
Opening hours: Wed–Sun: 11:00–17:00 

Office for Contemporary Art Norway
Nedre gate 7, 0551 Oslo I

OCA is proud to announce the opening of the exhibition ‘Let the River Flow. The Sovereign Will and the Making of a New Worldliness’ on Wednesday 11 April 2018 at 18:00.

The Áltá-Guovdageaidnu Action (c. 1978–82) radically shook the course of history in the Nordic region. Its call to ‘let the river live’ was launched against the construction of a large dam across the legendary Álttáeatnu (Áltá river) in Sápmi/Northern Norway. It grew from an unexpectedly broad movement of solidarity across civil society – Sámi, Norwegian and international – in which Sámi artists played a crucial role.

The Áltá Action was a reaction to the profound impact for Sámi communities, their livelihoods, their cultural heritage, and as environmental protectors, of the flooding by the dam of large areas of Sápmi. The resistance movement was as unprecedented within the history of social protest in Europe, as was its dramatic climax – the Sámi hunger strikes in Oslo in 1979. Morevoer it was part of the Áltá Action's new environmental consciousness of the 1970s, as well as the emerging histories of Indigenous empowerment of the time.

Today the action elicits bitter-sweet memories. Some historians have claimed that in catalysing Norway's signature of the United Nation's ILO Convention 169 and the creation of a Sámi Parliament, Kárášjohka, 1989, the action announced a new era of Nordic de-colonisation. One that potentially placed Norway at the fore-front of social justice policy-making world-wide. Yet a new generation of Sámi artists and thinkers claim that this process stalled early on coinciding with the rise of a new economy in Norway, and that the very survival of Sámi culture, land, livelihood and world-views is in serious danger today. Their voices are much sought after amongst the most prestigious cultural arenas internationally, and play an essential role within the powerful Indigenous movement spreading across the world – artistically, ecologically and politically.

'Let the River Flow' is the fruit of three years of dialogue with artists, scholars, and other cultural peers and peoples across Sápmi, traversing four nation-states (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia). The exhibition showcases the essential role of Sámi artists in the action, in particular the radical Mázejoavku: Sámi Dáiddajoavku (Sámi Artists’ Group, 1978-83), as well as the solidarity of non-Sámi counterparts. It presents rare historic works side-lined from the Nordic art historical canon, as well as material from the The Archives of the Protest Movement against the damming of the Áltá-Guovdageino water system and new contemporary commissions that explore the legacy of Áltá today. 'Let the River Flow' simultaneously claims and challenges the place of Sámi art amongst the new global, modernist, museologies dedicated to expand the canon of art history to a world-scale.

'Let the River Flow' is curated by Katya García-Antón, with Antonio Cataldo. The project has been honoured by the guidance of an Advisory Council consisting of Sámi scholars, Prof. Harald Gaski and Dr. Gunvor Guttorm. The exhibition design is fruit of a Sámi-Norwegian collaboration by A-Lab (Káre R. Anti) and Torsteinsen Design.

Artworks, performances and lectures will be presented by: Nabil Ahmed, Áillohaš/Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, Maria Thereza Alves, Jimmie Durham, Elle Márjá Eira, Mai-Lis Eira, Pauliina Feodoroff, Aage Gaup, Trygve Lund Guttormsen, Josef Halse, Geir Tore Holm and Søssa Jørgensen, Berit Marit Hætta, Susanne Hætta, Iver Jåks, Keviselie/Hans Ragnar Mathisen, Áine Mangaoang, Britta Marakatt-Labba, Joar Nango and Tanya Busse, Rannveig Persen, Synnøve Persen, Máret Ánne Sara, Arvid Sveen, Elin Már Øyen Vister, amongst other contributors.

Click here to go to the artists’ biographies.
Click here for lectures, performances and events.

For more information, please contact OCA’s Communication Manager Tara Hassel.

'Let the River Flow. The Sovereign Will and the Making of a New Worldliness' is a highlight of OCA’s long-term programme 'Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North'. Initiated in 2015 'Thinking at the Edge of the World' is a broad cross-disciplinary project exploring the cultural history of Sápmi/Northern Norway, curated by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) in collaboration with local institutions and artistic peers. The programme has inspired OCA to embark on a process of decolonisation of its working practices and institutional structures, addressing three vital areas: Personnel, Programmes and Publics. 'Thinking at the Edge of the World' has been structured through a series of regional and international dialogues and partnerships, the project unfolded in various forms and locations across Norway and beyond, including research, artists’ residencies, exhibitions, text commissions and a number of activities. It was implemented through a newly created OCA pilot office in Tromsø, as well as its premises in Oslo. Highlights included the cross-disciplinary international conference on Svalbard in June 2016; a symposium dedicated to Sámi art and activism, held in the Sámi Parliament in Kárásjohka (Karasjok) in August 2016, and including the launch of documenta 14’s South as a State of Mind, following which eight Sámi artists were invited to participate in documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel in 2017, namely three of the eight founding members of the Sámi Artist Group, Synnøve Persen, Keviselie/Hans Ragnar Mathisen and Britta Marakatt-Labba, as well as Niillas Somby, Iver Jåks, Mette Henriette, Máret Anne Sara and Joar Nango.

Honouring the 100th Sámi Jubilee in Tråante (Trondheim) in 2017, OCA’s year’s programme was primarily dedicated to Indigenous art and thought. In so doing it marked a continuous commitment to urgent, contemporary indigenous issues of global importance. Highlights included 'Museums on Fire!', a symposium exploring the challenge to modernist museologies by the Indigenous Turn, held within a specially created installation by Sámi artist Anders Sunna (April–June); and the three-day gathering in Máze (Masi), under the stewardship of the Sámediggi (Sámi Parliament), to relaunch the legendary Mázejoavku housing and studios as a future Indigenous residency (September).

To read more about the launch of ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North’, please click here.

To read more about the cross-disciplinary international conference on Svalbard, please click here.

To read more about the launch of documenta 14’s South as a State of Mind as part of a day of public programming in Kárásjohka (Karasjok), please click here.

To read more about OCA’s programme in 2017 dedicated to Indigenous art and thought, please click here.