Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North
'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.
‘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.
'Thinking at the Edge of the World’ conference, Svalbard
'Thinking at the Edge of the World’ was a cross-disciplinary international conference held on Svalbard from 12-13 June 2016, initiated and developed by OCA and the Northern Norway Art Museum (NNKM). It brought together figures from the fields of art, architecture, psychology, philosophy, history and science, who were invited to visit and think about the region, considering it as 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.
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?
The conference coincides with the opening of a solo exhibition by the Norwegian contemporary artist Olav Christopher Jenssen at Northern Norway Art Museum’s Kunsthall Svalbard in Longyearbyen. The exhibition features new work inspired by Jenssen’s recent residency project with Kunsthall Svalbard.
Confirmed highlights include a conversation between Candice Hopkins, Chief Curator at The IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, and legendary journalist and Sami political rights activist Niillas Somby, as well as Lisa Philips, Director of New Museum in New York; Robert Templer, Director of The Center for Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary; Elena Isayev, Professor of Ancient History at the University of Exeter, UK; Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director of NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore; Luba Kuzovnikova, Director of Pikene på Broen, Kirkenes; Julie Decker, CEO and Director of Anchorage Museum, AK, USA; Sami poet and visual artist Synnøve Persen; and AK Dolven, one of Norway’s foremost visual artists. A panel discussion on the future of the oceans is complemented by a special screening of Leviathan, an experimental work about the North American fishing industry by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel, and Kim Holmén, International Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, will lead a boat trip to the glacier front.
Other elements of the diverse programme include a 24-hour sensory intervention and scent workshop devised by design historian, writer and curator Emily King with leading perfumer Nadjib Achaibou.
Katya García-Antón, Director of OCA, comments: 'The Arctic region, in particular that of Norway, sits at the heart of heated as well as inspiring discussions of scenarios for possible futures. Svalbard is home to researchers from around the globe studying the oceans, the ice edge, marine mammals, arctic botany, polar micro-organisms, extreme environment technology, maritime trade-routes, the psychology of extended light duration, or the notion of sensory tourism, amongst so many questions. An arena for kaleidoscopic global thought, Svalbard brings forth histories of survival, territorial delimitation, and continuous re-invention as much as it paves the way for the considerations that will formulate the new societies of the future. We feel there could be no better place from which to launch the Svalbard Conference 'Thinking at the Edge of the World', as part of OCA’s long-term research, lectures, and exhibition programmes in the North as a commitment that we hope will draw significant international attention to the region.'
Jérémie Michael McGowan, Director of Northern Norway Art Museum, comments: 'Svalbard is currently entering into a period of profound change, with the mining activities that previously defined the archipelago’s identity increasingly being replaced by a range of international research communities on the one hand, and a booming tourist industry on the other. It is a place where the future is still very much up for discussion, and where arts practice in particular has the rather unique potential to play a defining role in debates ranging from questions of community and lifestyle to ecology and heritage management. It is for these reasons that Northern Norway Art Museum began already in 2013 to engage with Svalbard and its nexus of far-reaching local concerns, establishing in 2015 its Kunsthall Svalbard satellite and attendant Artist in Residence programme as strategic means for engendering arts-driven dialogue around contemporary issues of pressing concern for the Arctic and those communities who make it their home.'
There are limited spaces at the co
Launch of documenta 14’s 'South as a State of Mind' within a day-long public programme