An artist residency in Svalbard, Norway, an archipelago of four islands in the Arctic Circle, has been announced by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture. Jointly operated by Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA), the Northern Norwegian Art Museum (NNKM) and the Queen Sonja Print Award, and funded through the new Art in Svalbard Foundation, the programme plans to invite artists and cultural practitioners from Norway and abroad to take part every year, as well as foster exchanges with international institutions.
The announcement was made during 'Thinking at the Edge of the World’, a cross-disciplinary international conference initiated and developed by OCA and NNKM, and held in Longyearbyen on Svalbard. The conference brought together leading figures from the fields of art, architecture, psychology, 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 19th and 20th century - often led by artists and intellectuals from Norway and its indigenous communities - be sought again to enlighten this debate?
The programme included a conversation between Candice Hopkins, Chief Curator at The IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, NM, USA, and legendary journalist and Sami political rights activist Niillas Somby; as well as AK Dolven, one of Norway’s foremost visual artists, in discussion with Kim Holmén, International Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute. A panel discussion on the future of the oceans was complemented by a boat trip to the glacier and a special screening of Leviathan, an experimental work about the North American fishing industry by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel. There was also a sensory intervention and scent workshop devised by design historian, writer and curator Emily King with leading perfumer Nadjib Achaibou.
Speakers included 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; and Sami poet and visual artist Synnøve Persen.
The conference also coincided with the opening of a solo exhibition ‘The Expedition’ by the Norwegian contemporary artist Olav Christopher Jenssen at Northern Norway Art Museum’s Kunsthall Svalbard in Longyearbyen, which features new work inspired by Jenssen’s recent residency project with Kunsthall Svalbard and runs until 25 September 2016.
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.
Katya García-Antón, Director of Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA), said: 'We are honoured to be key partners of the Svalbard Art Residency, as part of the Art in Svalbard Foundation. It is a natural fit with “Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North” - a programme of lectures, new writing, exhibition projects, research journeys and residencies curated by OCA - through which we are actively working with international artists, curators and other thinkers to link their concerns with those of the North. We are delighted this significant announcement coincided with the successful first Svalbard conference in collaboration with NNMK Tromsø, and we are excited about the international attention that it is bringing to the region. We look forward to helping forge many imaginative and profound intellectual and personal relations between artistic and other related communities within and beyond Norway as a result of this new residency programme and our wider focus on the North.'
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 is recognised as an important contributor to the international contemporary arts debate through initiatives such as exhibitions, seminars and publications. It also supports Norwegian artists in their activities in the international art arena, and invites international curators and artists for research in Norway. OCA has been responsible for Norway’s contribution to the visual arts section of the Venice Biennale since 2001.
About the Northern Norway Art Museum
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.