– Autumn/Winter 2017

The Delicate Difference Between 'Thinking at the Edge of the World'

Carola Grahn

View of Svalbard from the boat The Polar Girl, 2016. Photograph: Herman Dreyer. Courtesy Herman Dreyer and Office of Contemporary Art Norway (OCA), Oslo

‘Far from what?’ my father replies when I complain about how cumbersome and time-consuming it is to travel home to Jokkmokk to visit him. I had happened to say, ‘Jokkmokk is so far away’, which was stupid of me, because of course he is right: ‘far away’ depends on from where you start. It assumes a centre and a periphery, and even though many Swedes would argue that moving from Jokkmokk to Stockholm would be a transition from the periphery towards the centre, my father would never subscribe to that idea – and I admire him for it.

  1. The work is an installation and performance that involved the participation of Sami poets, composers and several European craftspeople. The installation was composed of reindeer and seal hides as well as traditional Sami housing structures. The events around the work included sound installations and video projections.

  2. Kristofer Lundström, ‘Documenta satsar på kulturkrockar’, SVT News website, 12 April 2017, available at https://www.svt.se/kultur/konst/konst-som-broar-mellan-manniskor (last accessed on 14 May 2017).

  3. For more information, see ‘Thinking at the Edge of the World. Perspectives from the North’ [press release], Office for Contemporary Art Norway, available at https://oca.no/programme/projects/ thinking-at-the-edge-of-the-world.perspectives-from-the-north.1 (last accessed on 15 May 2017).

  4. ‘Highlights of 2017: a year of indigenous art and thought’ [press release], Office for Contemporary Art Norway, 25 January 2017, available at https://oca.no/news/9385/highlights-of-2017-a-year-of- indigenous-art-and-thought (last accessed on 17 June 2017).

  5. This ignorance about the north is not exclusive to the arts; rather, it applies to society at large. The northerners of Sweden often argue that the government only regards the north in terms of ‘resource intake’, exploiting its supply of iron, wood, wind- and watercraft, while not paying atten- tion to the well-being and needs of the people living there. Northern Sweden is less populated than southern, and a continuous decline in the northern population is encouraged by governmental policies, for example, hospitals and schools are being systematically closed. On top of that, Swedes’ knowledge of Sami culture is close to zero. Schools do not teach the history of Sami oppression by the Scandinavian nations; they hardly teach anything at all regarding Sami culture. It is strange that Sweden, a country often regarded as a role model when it comes to equality and solidarity, has not attempted to right its unflattering history of the mistreatment of native peoples. Erasure is, as we all know, nothing less than a part of suppression.

  6. Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, poem 509, The Sun, My Father (1988, trans. Ralph Salisbury, Lars Nordström and Harald Gaski), Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997.

  7. Amongst other curatorial activities, García-Antón organised the flagship exhibition ‘Gestures in Time’ (together with Lara Khaldi) – the very first edition, in 2012, of the Qalandiya International biennial in Palestine. She also curated the work of artist Dora García at the Spanish Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2011. The work García made for the Biennale, Lo Inadecuado (The Inadequate), was a six-month evolving performance investigating matters of marginality. For more informa- tion on García-Antón, see Ingvild Krogvig, ‘Katya García-Antón New Director of OCA’, Kunstkritikk [online journal], 8 November 2013, available at http://www.kunstkritikk.no/nyheter/katya-garcia-anton-new-director-of-oca/ (last accessed on 14 May 2017).

  8. It is worth mentioning that the artist Joar Nango was invited to participate before the documenta 14 team found their way up to northern Norway.