Nordic News Weekly – May 3rd

Venice Special: a guide to Nordic exhibitions and events taking place during the Venice Biennial’s opening days.

Larissa Sansour/Søren Lind, In Vitro, 2019, film, 2 channels, production still. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Søren Lind.

The Danish Pavilion will be covered in hand-painted Palestinian tiles in a traditional black and white pattern for the opening of the Venice Biennial next week. The architectural intervention is part of Larissa Sansour’s exhibition Heirloom. Curated by Nat Muller, the exhibition will comprise a two-channel science-fiction film, In Vitro, a sculptural installation, and the architectural intervention, andinvites viewersinto a dark, postapocalyptic universe.Larissa Sansour was born in 1973 in East Jerusalem, and moved to Denmark in 1999. Often dealing with the spaces between fiction and reality, her work addresses the political situation in Palestine, but also considers more general issues concerned with nationhood and belonging. “The Palestine psyche is suspended between the past and the future; between the exodus of 1948 and the prospect of a Palestinian state. As a result, the present disappears,” Sansour said to Kunstkritikk. Read the interview here.

Left to right: artists Ane Graff, Maria Teeri, Janne Nabb and Ingela Ihrman, curators Leevi Haapala and Piia Oksanen, Venice 2018. Photo: Kansallisgalleria / Pirje Mykkänen.

The Nordic Pavilion

The ongoing climate crisis is the main theme in the exhibition presented in the Nordic Pavilion. Weather Report: Forecasting Future features the artist duo nabbteeri (Janne Nabb and Maria Teeri) from Finland, Ane Graff from Norway, and Ingela Ihrman from Sweden. According to the curators Leevi Haapala and Piia Oksanen the artists examine the relations and coexistence between humans and other living organisms, while combining perspectives from the realms of art, the humanities, and the natural sciences. Nabb and Teeri create site-specific installations that interact with the environment and its multi-species inhabitants, often at the scale of the smallest observable lifeforms. Ane Graff’s sculptural installations show how the human body is exposed to other organisms with individual agency, including environmental toxins. And Ingela Ihrman’s plant-shaped sculptures address concepts of belonging as well as the relations between different forms of life. Read an interview with co-curator Piia Oksanen here.

The Miracle Workers Collective: The Killing of Čáhcerávga, 2019. HD Video Still. Courtesy of the artists.

The Finnish Pavilion

While also taking part in the Nordic Pavilion, Finland has its own national pavilion, which is dedicated to The Miracle Workers Collective’s inaugural project A Greater Miracle of Perception. The group includes artists, writers, filmmakers, intellectuals, performers, and activists such as Maryan Abdulkarim, Khadar Ahmed, Hassan Blasim, Sonya Lindfors, Outi Pieski, Leena Pukki, Martta Tuomaala, Lorenzo Sandoval, Christopher L. Thomas, and Suvi West, as well ascurators Giovanna Esposito Yussif, Christopher Wessels, and Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung. The exhibition, which includes a cinematic collaboration between members of the collective, and a site-specific sculptural installation by Outi Pieski, will “explore the miracle as a poetic vehicle,” and focus on the transnationalism of the Sámi people across Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. 

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir/Shoplifter, installation view of Nervescape VII , The National Gallery of Iceland, 2017. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Frosti Gnarr. 

The Icelandic Pavilion

This year’s Icelandic Pavilion is dedicated to Shoplifter, aka. Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, who will create a large-scale multisensory environment in a former warehouse on the island Guidecca. Using her trademark materials – human and synthetic hair –Shoplifter’s installation Chromo Sapiens alludes to organic structures that range from the microscopic to the immense. The organic material, accompanied by a sound work by the Icelandic metal band HAM, will create a psychedelic and surreal experience that, according to a press release from the Icelandic Art Center, “evokes one’s desire to return to nature in a culture that is overwhelmed by artificial matters.”

Danh Vo, mothertongue, 2015. Installation view from the Danish Pavilion in 2015. Courtecy: The Danish Arts Foundation.

Nordic artists in the main exhibition

The three Nordic artists represented in the main exhibition at this year’s Venice Biennial are Danish artists Danh Vo and Jeppe Hein, and Norwegian-Nigerian artist Frida Orupabo. Neither Vo, who exhibited at the Danish Pavilion in 2005, nor Hein, who received international acclaim for his fountain in front of the railroad station in Venice in 2003, are newcomers to the biennial. The self-taught Orupabo however, will show her works in Venice for the first time, as part of curator Ralph Rugoff’s exhibition titled, May You Live In Interesting Times. Asked about her reaction to Rugoff’s statement that “art does not exercise its forces in the domain of politics,” Orupabo mentioned the Black Panther activist and artist Emory Douglas’s work as an example of how art can be connected to activism and change. “The fact that art and artists experience censorship is in itself a sign that art can exercise its forces in the domain of politics,” Orupabo told Kunstkritikk. Read the interview in Norwegian here.

Joan Jonas: Moving Off the Land II, 2019. Photo Enrico Fiorese, TBA21-Academy.

Other Nordic projects and events

Besides the national pavilions and the main exhibition, this year’s biennial features Nordic artists and curators in a number of different venues, events and projects.

Curator Jonathan Habib Engqvist of the Nordic Art Association, Sweden, has commissioned the first ever VR (virtual reality) Pavilion at the biennial. Presenting work by Venetian artist Sara Tirelli, the Pavilion, titled Medusa, will be staged at the Communist party centre and on a small boat departing every thirty minutes from Calle Nova. Medusa is an immersive video work experienced through VR glasses, and draws upon recent images of refugees who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean, while the inhabitants of Europe witness the events through television screens. An earlier version of Tirelli’s work was shown last winter at Borås Museum of Modern Art in Sweden.

At Palazzo Ca’ Tron, the Pinchuk Art Centre will host an exhibition of the twenty-one artists shortlisted for the Future Generation Art Prize –a global prize for artists aged thirty-five or younger. Among them are Norwegian artist Eli Lundgaard, who has created an environment in which she will mix the viewer’s perception of inside and outside through biomorphic sculptures and a contemplative video. Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen was also shortlisted for the VR piece RE-ANIMATED (2018), which proposes a utopian response to the story of the last Hawaiian Kauaʻi ʻōʻō bird, which died in 1987, marking the extinction of thespecies. 

At the Korean Pavilion, Danish-Korean artist Jane Jin Kaisen will be part of a group exhibition titled History Has Failed Us, but No Matter, along with siren eun young jung and Hwayeon Nam. The three artists will introduce video works that highlight the voices of women who have been historically marginalised. Kaisen’s work Community of Parting centres on the myth of Princess Bari, who was abandoned by her parents at birth because of her sex, but later sacrificed herself to save her parents. Kaisen’s work examines how the myth persists in the present day.

In the Arsenale, the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm will presenta performance by Tarek Atoui during the biennial’s opening. The project will be performed together with the research platform Composing/Public/Space (C/P/S), a post-Masters course that is part of the institute’s research program. Atoui is known for performances marked by his intense physical presence and the use of custom-built electronic instruments and computers. C/P/S consists of Alan Affichard, Ami Kohara, Igor Porte, Jeremiah Runnels, Johanna Martensson, Julia Giertz, Ragnhild May,and Rossana Mercado; with special appearances by Shane Aspegren and Vivian Wang.

At Studio Giardini, Iaspis (The Swedish Art Grants Committee’s international programme) and Moderna Museet will host the international release of the publication IN & BEYOND SWEDEN: Journeys Through an Art Scene. The publication is the result of curator Joa Ljungberg and artist Santiago Mostyn’s two year research into the Swedish art scene and “offers insights into current artistic expressions from a nation in the progress of change,” according to the press release.

Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art and Lofoten International Art Festival will host a reception at Palazzo Contarini della Porta di Ferro announcing artists and details on the two upcoming biennials. The event also includes a talk between the curators of the two biennials, Lisa Rosendahl and Hilde Methi, and a performance by Swedish artist Nils Bech.

While in Venice, make sure to stop by Ocean Space, a new collaborative platform for cross-disciplinary research, discovery, and innovation supporting ocean stewardship and conservation. In the newly restored Church of San Lorenzo, Stockholm-based curator Stefanie Hessler and TBA21-Academy presentJoan Jonas’ssolo exhibition Moving Off the Land II, which focuses on the biodiversity of the seas. While the exhibition has been open for a couple of months, a live performance by Jonas will take place during the biennale’s opening days. 

Jakob Kudsk Steensen: RE-ANIMATED, 2018. Video still.