Det gode liv // The Sweetness of Living is an ongoing networking, knowledge exchange, and experience-sharing artistic research and contemporary art process. Beginning in 2021 through a series of artworks, a ‘test-lab’ event in Kirkenes and Murmansk, and a symposium which took inspiration from Matt Hern and Am Johal’s 2018 publication Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life: A Tar Sands Tale, the process will now continue with a new symposium during Barents Spektakel 2022 on Friday 25. and Saturday 26. February. This time the focus is on communities, and the knowledges, structures, and relations that form and emerge through their continual processes of re-configuration.
How and why are communities formed? What are the rules for their structures, power dynamics, and the knowledges and meanings that are shared? What are the conditions needed to begin, or become part of a community, and how are these conditions maintained or challenged? What is the specific role of communities in places outside of larger cities, or through things like language, dialect, or through certain sub-cultures? And how do we take some of these questions further, and think about community as something that includes the other-than-human world? What does it mean to be in community with the land, with the weather?
Drawing upon a range of perspectives, with contributions from social science PhD researcher Irina Shirobokova, artists Espen Sommer Eide and Riikka Keränen, Chill Survive [visual anthropologist Tinna Grétarsdóttir and performance artist and researcher Pia Lindman], anthropologist Prof. Tim Ingold, artist Matti Aikio, performance artist Tea Andreoletti, dancer Alexander Kozin, choreographer Maria Pyatkova and visual artist Matthias Härtig, and the contributors of a Cod Connection discussion [composer and musician John Andrew Wilhite-Hannisdale, marine biologist Rebekah Oomen, visual artist Anastasia Savinova, together with Vardø-based fisherman Svein Harald Holmen], Pikene på Broen is proud to present a series of lectures, audio-visual contributions, discussions and performances, all of which introduce different ways of thinking through community in relation to the topic of the sweetness of living.
Irina Shirobokova: Exploring Queer Potentialities of Darkness – a multivocal lecture on modern marginality in the North. Stemming from an involved research process using collective writing as a community engagement method, the lecture shares some of the research insights found throughout the process + Q&A
The dualism of light/darkness arose as a symbolic formula for morality once primordial darkness had been split into light and dark (Anzaldua, 1987). Now Darkness, my night, is identified with negative and evil forces. Darkness is a particular material condition of the nocturnal space in the Arctic; material and metaphorical space of women’s invisibility, and simultaneously, a source of emancipation and alternative knowledge production.
This lecture is an effort to debunk the Enlightenment myth associated with darkness as the “other” of light, as an absence, a lack, or inverse. Through the concept of darkness I suggest respatializing traditional geographical hierarchies where dispossessed female/subaltern bodies, sexualities, stories, and lands were considered as “dark”/ “ungeographical other”.
An artist talk with Barents Spektakel exhibition artists Espen Sommer Eide and Riikka Keränen as they discuss their working processes, engagement with materials, and the social and community aspects related to their current artistic practice.
Chill Survive (Tinna Grétarsdóttir and Pia Lindman): Song of Cow Dung – a performative presentation that chews up the good life, bit by bit – like cows. The research ruminates in Nordic vernacular architecture. There, cows and humans lived together under the same turf. These lived companionships have almost come to their ends and are swallowed, digested and absorbed. Later, to be re-membered as undivided parts of the good life. Fermentation transforms sources of continuity – of those who have become and those yet to become world makers and nourishers.
Planetary transformations dissolve human identities to weave new dependencies and collaborations between a multitude of existence. Myths and history intermingle. Kuusamo historian Ervasti tells us that “lantalaiset” is a name the now almost forgotten forest Sami gave the Finnish colonisers, who brought cows. Cows provided dung for agriculture. “Lantalaiset” means “the people of the cow dung”. Cow dung nurtures the microbe Myxcoccus vacchae (Cow’s bacteria) and that is connected to human happiness. Naming is defining: this bacteria lives in any kind of rotting soil independent of cows. Happiness de-colonised.
Their presentation is an exercise in collective re-membering with cow dung, amniotic sacks, songs, listening, and hearing.
Tea Andreoletti: Poor Leadership – Towards the 2026 candidacy
In 2026 Tea Andreoletti will run for mayor as an artist in the elections of her hometown, Gromo, a small village of 1200 inhabitants in the mountains of northern Italy.
It is a long-term project that involves an ambient method of artistic practice: Learning something through doing something else. Tea has chosen to explore leadership through the lens of poverty.
In the culture where the artist grew up, a particular form of poverty has maintained links with its positive condition. It has survived the colonisation of economic language, the disappearance of certain social assets, and Catholic hegemony interpretations. In Gromo – as in other places and different forms – positive poverty has survived in gestures, between the verses of songs and disguised under ancient traditions.
Performing leadership through positive poverty opens to non-stereotyped directions. It is done with what is available and welcomes mildness, shortage, vulnerability, amateurism, and a multicultural and multidisciplinary union of poor leaders. The lecture will be followed by a Q&A.
Prof. Tim Ingold and Matti Aikio Traces in the Atmosphere – an audiovisual collaborative keynote lecture that deals with the perception of the world around us, as well as how cultures can be thought of in terms of traces and atmospheres. Drawing upon recent works Imagining for Real (Ingold, 2021) and The Archives of Matti Aikio (Aikio, 2021), the artist and anthologist collaborate in a new work that formally explores the topic through voice, space, and visuals + Q&A
Cod Connection [Anastasia Savinova, Rebekah Oomen, John Andrew Wilhite-Hannisdal, and Svein Harald Holmen]: A discussion about Norwegian cod communities, listening, noise pollution, and the current collaborative work and research being done collectively by the group.
Can we have a community without listening? For centuries, humans in the Barents region and all over Norway have been living with cod, but in recent years, Norwegian cod populations have been dwindling dangerously. As a result of noise pollution, cod can no longer hear each other. Scientist Rebekah Oomen and sound-artist John Andrew Wilhite-Hannisdal have been studying codfish mating music, and trying to understand how and why they make sounds. With artist Anastasia Savinova, they create sound-sculpture installations, using cod music, old fishing boats and floats. Fishing artefacts are intertwined with the images of fish bodies, and the installations reflect on the relationship between fish and human.
As part of the Sweetness of Living symposium, they will give insight into their current work. Together with Vardø fisherman Svein Harald Holmen they will also discuss how better listening between scientists and fishermen can help us live in harmony with our aquatic friends.
The Ocean’s Poem: A performance screening of the 2018 collaboration by dancer Alexander Kozin and choreographers Maria Pyatkova and Matthias Härtig representing the tragedy of those who were unjustly convicted and covertly executed en masse in Sandarmoch – a tract of land in Karelia.
One of the missions of this project was the preservation of historical memory and the rethinking of it through the lens of art. The project tells a story of three outstanding humanitarian researchers who were executed and buried in Sandarmoch in 1937: Les Kurbas (an avant garde theater director who revolutionised theater of his time), Kuzebai Gerd (folk Udmurtian poet and writer, ethnographer, who played a unique role in the development of Udmurtian literature and culture), Nikolay Dornovo (outstanding linguist whose research in Slavistics and dialectology up to now constitute the foundations of linguistics theory).
The conceptual framework of the production is a section of a poem by Walt Whitman In Cabin’d Ships At Sea which tells of the profound fates of seafarers. Drawing inspiration from Whitman’s poetry, the artists live through the various dimensions of the inner worlds of the pioneer scientist of the time: from passion, fanaticism, faith, and sacrifice to uncertainty and despair. The digital environment consequently supports, resists, and then absorbs the people serving as a symbol of the helplessness of those who confront a political system
Det gode liv // The Sweetness of Living is an ongoing networking, knowledge exchange, and experience-sharing artistic research and contemporary art process.
The research takes its inspiration from the publication Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life: A Tar Sands Tale (2018) by Matt Hern and Am Johal, where the authors investigate philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s invocation of Alexandre Kojève’s phrase ‘la dolce vita’ in the context of globally complex issues that relate to an overheating planet.
The ideas of ‘la dolce vita’ describe a common attitude in Spain, Italy, and southern Europe that is claimed to be qualitatively different from the Protestant work ethic of northern European countries. Agamben argues that this attitude describes a wholly different relationship to the future, a recovery of time, a resistance to capitalism, and the preservation of a significant way of living: in short, the capacity to define life as something outside of work.
det gode liv // The Sweetness of Living builds on these gestures, investigating and challenging what ‘the sweetness of life’ represents specifically in the Barents region / the nordic countries and north-west Russia / Sápmi. The process is grounded in the belief that the topic has become an urgent cultural question following the events of 2020 and 2021, when the present societal changes taking place throughout the Covid-19 pandemic have urged a radical re-configuration and reflection of the priorities of life and living.
The process began by opening up the topic through three artworks, as well as through several discursive, performative, and processual responses during The Sweetness of Living Art Symposium under the 2021 edition of the Barents Spektakel festival. The next event will be a series of talks and discussions (available to join online), a new exhibition by Kvae og Bark, and a testlab research week in Kirkenes and Murmansk – all of which will be documented in the archive section of this website, as well as across other Pikene channels.
Kirkenes has been the connecting point for these new dialogues, uniquely positioned in Norway as a gateway to explore several significant topics: with its geo-political position 10km from the Russian border and 50km from the Finnish border, as a place also steeped in the histories of war and famine, and through its current existence an arctic community with over 70 nationalities, as well as through its role as a site for heavy industry and extraction with the Sydvaranger iron ore mine.
In addition, Kirkenes is in close proximity to the nearby Pasvik national park, and its position also opens it up to discussions of land and territory politics in relation to indigenous ways of life. It has an involvement within the tourism industry within the arctic circle, and it is also considered a key witness on the front line of global and arctic warming, as it observes a new, wetter climate, more frequent extremes of temperature through warmer summers and winters, unusual species that are now traveling and emerging here, and as it anticipates the human effects of these changes, such as the prospect of increased shipping traffic between Europe and Asia, and further oil exploration in the ocean due to melting ice. Finally, this region has also been an unlikely site for several cultural interventions and reflections through art, theatre, music, and literature over the years – Kirkenes especially prides itself as being a ‘meeting place’ for several artistic voices. All of these factors make it an incredibly rich place to think through some of the narratives at play that relate to the topic of the ‘Sweetness of Living’… what it means to live, and what it means to live well, both on an individual level and for society as a whole.
If you are interested in contributing or would like to get in touch to find out about future events, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
With thanks to John Savio, image courtesy of Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Gutter med lasso / Gánddat suohpaniin / Boys with Lasso