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Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North

1 Jan '16 – 31 Dec '17

    'Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North' was a cross-disciplinary research project initiated by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway in 2015, researching the cultural history of Northern Norway, and developed in collaboration with local protagonists during 2016 and 2017. The project manifested itself in various forms and locations across Norway (notably Svalbard, Karasjok and Oslo) and beyond – including international conferences and artist residencies across Northern Norway, as well as new art, exhibitions, various forms of documentations and writing commissioning.

    Interview with Synnøve Persen. Commissioned by OCA as part of a long-term research project ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North’.
    Interview with Niillas Somby. Commissioned by OCA as part of a long-term research project ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North’.
    Interview with Keviselie / Hans Ragnar Mathisen. Commissioned by OCA as part of a long-term research project ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North’.
    Interview with Máret Ánne Sara. Commissioned by OCA as part of a long-term research project ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North’.
    Interview with Ánde Somby. Commissioned by OCA as part of a long-term research project ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North’.

    ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World’ is structured through regional and international dialogue as well as partnerships (institutional and individual). It includes invitations to artists and intellectuals to visit and think about the region, considering it a unique vantage point from which to reflect upon the environmental, aesthetic, architectural, economic, political and scientific forces that are shaping the North of Norway and its relationship to the world. The Arctic region, in particular that of Norway, sits at the heart of heated as well as inspiring debates of scenarios for possible futures. Scientists tell us that that the latent forces released by melting ice into in the frozen North would be enough to power the world’s cities for many generations; that global warming is forming navigation channels across the so-called Arctic Highway; and that the geography of India, Bangladesh, China and other nations, will be affected with dramatic force which will result in harsh consequences for their social and economic frameworks.

    ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World’ addresses some of the wider implications of these changes in the North of Norway and invokes the innovative thinking that being at the edge of the world raises for the world at large. How are frontiers questioned from an Arctic vantage point, and how might this questioning catalyse new thinking regarding territory, power and resource exploitation? Could concepts of society, aesthetics and community explored during the nineteenth and twentieth century – often led by artists and intellectuals from Norway and its indigenous communities – be sought again to enlighten this debate? Will the Arctic become, due to the increasing desertification in the South, the new garden of the globe for food production and distribution?

    These questions and the subsequent narratives of a developing future are rooted in the unfolding physical forces embedded in the North. However they also interlock with a wider past of myth and legend, a storytelling deeply connected to the region, its exploration, exploitation, accessibility and aesthetic history, as well as forthcoming issues of trade, transportation and security.

    ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World’ explores therefore the poetic and innovative impact on artistic and other disciplinary forms of thought that the extreme location of Northern Norway provides. In particular the project focusses on the relationship between art, the environment and activism in Arctic Norway as well as its northerly neighbours, in order to highlight the global impact of these issues over time. Mindful of the conflicted history and currency of the notion of territory and resources, the project explores their relationship to indigenous communities, their environments, culture and contemporary perspectives – in particular the past and present of the Sami communities inhabiting Northern Norway, but also Sweden, Finland and Russia. From this vantage point, ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World’ seeks to contextualise these questions in order to shift them beyond a purely local understanding, linking them with synergic issues found in diverse geographies and communities around the globe.

    Highlights in this project include the international conference, ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World’ held in various locations on Svalbard; a talk by OCA IVP curator Candice Hopkins with a music performance by Sara Marielle Gaup and Risten Anine Gaup held at Small Projects in Tromsø (both in June 2016); an artist’s talk by OCA ISP resident Rometti Costless at Nordland kunst- og filmfagskole in the Lofoten archipelago in May 2016 (the first artists-in-residency); and establishing a temporary OCA office in Tromsø during 2016, under the auspices of The Cultural Business Development Foundation SpareBank 1 Nord-Norge.

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