In this 1. part of 2, art director Andreas Hoffmann gives an introduction to Barents Spektakel 2015 which takes place in Kirkenes February 4th – 8th.
Barents Spektakel 2015 – Artic Take Away – features the biggest visual art exhibition in its history with 13 artists from Russia, Norway, Italy, Finland, China and France. As a part of the North-Norwegian Cultural Agreement, the curatorial team Pikene på Broen wants to focus on the internationalisation and intermediation of art while presenting different disciplines and approaches.
Can you give us the highlights of the art program at Barents Spetakel 2015?
– It is Pikene’s pleasure that Frantisek Zvardon accepted the challenge to shoot portraits of workers of the iron industry on both sides of the borders. In his work dirt, noise and smelliness are glued on photographic paper together with the workers environment. I couldn’t imagine to exhibit this project in a white cube, therefore we asked the local mine to lend us a wagon which is used for transportation of ore. Zvardon’s big scale photographs will be placed on the outer face of the wagon according to the construction elements the wagon offers. By placing the wagon in the pedestrian zone of Kirkenes we also question the proportion between living space and industry. Zvardon’s work is the result of a BAR-International residency where he met with the Russian pinhole photographer Igor Bryakilev, which resulted in fruitful discussions between both artists. Bryakilev’s photos will be exhibited at the spots which are subjects of his work. The local anchorage is one of the main goals of the festival exhibition.
Eva Bakkeslett’s research on the local fermented milk culture called Rømmekolle builds an important bridge from the past and shares traditions across borders in the present, but also questions society by using bacteria as a micro-model. Another highlight is our “Videoshop”, where you can watch video works placed in fridges according to the festival slogan, impressions which the beholder can take with him/herself, but which are not for sale.
What inspired you to choose the title Artic Take Away?
– Arctic Take Away is a slogan without a question mark or an expression sign, a statement without the need for emphasis or scrutiny: the Arctic Take Away is taking place everywhere, not only in the Arctic. Up North we feel the results of global changes much more intensely than at any other place in the world. Not only in terms of climate changes, but also of political changes, which are easily looming to take away what people have built up for decades. When thinking about Arctic Take Away we criticize oil and gas explorers, food exporters and all those drilling, digging and rock blasting companies that exploit the Arctic, but while picking cloudberries or mushrooms we easily fall into the same addiction to pick more, and thereby to step deeper into nature. We all know, that each centigrade of global warming has a huge impact on the Arctic. But also our behaviour up North can speed up this tendency.
The Arctic is changing while the world is changing while the Arctic is changing…. We quarrel with each others about global warming and accept social freezing. Social network included.
On the contrary, the Arctic has unique traditions in transporting, taking out and bringing back, moving and travelling across all kind of borders: mental, physical, linguistic, national. By crossing borders people connect with each other, which makes borders stable and human.
What can people visiting Artic Take Away expect?
– Barents Spektakel 2015 extends an invitation to discuss Arctic Take Away through art exhibitions, discussion forums, workshops, concerts and seminars and we forward these topics in a nomadic way, by complimenting the slogan, raising questions and inviting people to take part in the dialogue. When talking about Arctic Take Away we shouldn’t only focus on existential questions. A mental take-away brings immeasurable harm. What do we take away from our neighbours? Is the 21st century Take-Away-mentality reflected in our behaviour? Or are we heading for the opposite as a backlash? Is it easier to give away instead of to take away?
People come and companies go according to the stock market. Culture, Memories and histories culture are a gift we are born with and that can`t be taken away. They are the only values in terms of time and give us a feeling of safety and stability by stimulating and strengthening the feeling of being at home, these makes other people feel to be welcome at our home. Whoever is able to give away, can win; especially nowadays when the overall feeling of safety is fragile like snow.
The press release states how Barents once was an area with floating boarders where the Northern Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Russian cultures spilled over to each other. How is Barents Spetakel contribution to this spill over today?
– From the historical point of view it wouldn’t be right to divide cultures by nationalities. That’s an approach which became inflationary since 1830, and changed our perception of Europe and European art. The last 50 years so many politicians talk about borderless zones, but they only think in terms of business relations. As a fact, the number of borders doubled worldwide the last 100 years! In border regions it is easy to find a mix as a common ground for cultural expression instead of approaches separated in a fundamental way. Looking at architecture, for instance, one can`t find many approved ways how to make buildings from logs. We can define slight differences between the Finish and West-Russian way, but we also have to have in mind, that regions like Karelia, are currently divided between three countries, but the cultural expression in this region in terms of cultural heritage presents a common language.
Another example is the 16th century Russian Orthodox chapel in the village Neiden, a settlement which has been divided in 1852 between Finland and Norway. Until the 1920s a real pidgin language called “Moja på tvoja” existed, which can literally be translated as “Mine’s in the way of Yours”. There is a lot of symbolism in this denotation. Trade was always a key moment in cultural transfer. Just think how the Portuguese fisher man as guest workers influenced the way of preparation fish dishes along the coast line in Norway’s North-West. Actually, Barents Spektakel just continues in a centuries old tradition, artists from all four countries of the Barents Region meet with their colleagues from other countries. Many of them met already during our residency program BAR-International, which has an initial importance for many art projects presented in the festival exhibition. When it comes to contemporary art we have to be aware of the globalisation in terms of references to different aesthetic approaches and conceptual thoughts.
You have a diverse program. Can you tell me about the Visual Art semiar?
– An important event of Barents Spektakel is the Visual Art Seminar where we discuss “Self-censorship as a creativity tool”. This event is a collaboration project between Pikene på Broen, SDG Karasjok, Tromsø Kunstforening and Kunstakademi Tromsø. Personally, I am worrying about the increasing subjectivity on the part of curators and “star curators” who feel the obvious need to leave a comment on any art work of higher medial interest. I became very aware of this tricky concatenation, when for instance one of Russias most influential curators misinterpreted Piotr Pavlensky’s performance Fixation on Moscow’s Red Square as “a manifestation of the desperation and total impotence of the artist in this country”, while Pavlensky himself called it “a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of contemporary Russian society”. By setting these two statements in comparison we easily see, that the curator wants to see a statement against the government (according to the curator`s concept of artists as opponents of the government) while the author formulates an silent outcry with a strong social component which says, that the society should wake up.