Press Releases

'Thinking at the Edge of the World'

Published 2016/05/26


'Thinking at the Edge of the World'

a cross-disciplinary international conference in Svalbard initiated and developed by OCA and the Northern Norway Art Museum (NNKM)

June 12–13, 2016

'Thinking at the Edge of the World’ is a cross-disciplinary international conference initiated and developed by Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) and the Northern Norway Art Museum (NNKM). Held on Svalbard from 12-13 June 2016, it brings together figures from the fields of art, architecture, psychology, philosophy, history and science, who are 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 conference available on a first come first served basis. For information please email:

For international press inquiries, please contact Matthew Brown on: / T +44 (0) 20 7183 3577 / M +44 (0) 7715 901 047
For press inquiries in Norway, please contact OCA's Communication Manager, Tara Hassel on:

About Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA)
The Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) is a foundation created by the Norwegian Ministries of Culture and of Foreign Affairs in 2001 with the aim of developing cultural collaborations between Norway and the international arts scene. OCA aims to become one of the main organs in the international contemporary arts debate through initiatives such as exhibitions, seminars and publications, as well as by providing support to Norwegian artists for their activities in the international art arena, and by inviting international curators and artists to Norway. OCA has been responsible for Norway's contribution to the visual arts section of La Biennale di Venezia since 2001.

The Svalbard Conference 'Thinking at the Edge of the World’ is part of a wider cross-disciplinary project exploring the cultural history of Northern Norway, initiated and developed by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA). Structured through a series of regional and international dialogues and partnerships, the project is unfolding in various forms and locations across Norway and beyond, including research, artist residencies, exhibitions, text commissions and a number of activities activated through the new OCA pilot office in Tromsø, beside its premises in Oslo.

About Northern Norway Art Museum (NNKM)
Established in 1985, Northern Norway Art Museum is today a central actor within the visual arts in Norway and, increasingly, the international circumpolar North. From its base in Tromsø, the Museum serves Norway’s three northernmost counties (Nordland, Troms, Finnmark) and Svalbard through exhibitions, research and related arts programming. The Museum’s core portfolio includes an exhibition of its permanent collections and a rolling calendar of temporary exhibitions of high international and national quality at its seat in Tromsø. A range of public outreach and educational offerings complement these exhibition activities, as well as a series of touring exhibitions within Norway and abroad. In addition, the museum founded in 2015 a satellite exhibition and project space in Longyearbyen on Svalbard – the Kunsthall Svalbard and its attendant Artist in Residence programme – dedicated to international contemporary art of the highest calibre.