The Sweetness of Living Test-Lab

Saturday 14. August

Opening of Kvae og Bark’s Exhibition in Terminal B

STRUKTURER FOR YTELSER OG GJENYTELSER – an improvised ongoing production taking place at Terminal B that is based on three structures that can be moved around the city, on the shore, and in the forest. Artists KVAE & BARK work with the landscapes around them, and will activate these three structures in different ways throughout the exhibition period. In this way, the audience will witness a living installation that changes from week to week.

Wednesday 18. August – Friday 20. August

The Sweetness of Living Discussion Series

Pikene på Broen and Fridaymilk are happy to invite you to our upcoming programme of lectures, discussions and cosy chats, together with artists and researchers taking part in ‘The Sweetness of Living’ Test-Labs. These sessions will take place in Terminal B in Kirkenes, in Murmansk, and are also accessible digitally via the Zoom links below. Each day will feature two or three talks/lectures/presentations followed by a short discussion. The test-labs will conclude with workshops and performances as well as a pop-up ‘la dolce vita’ bar with music and DJ sets, which can also be joined digitally. The working language for the discussions will be English.

Wednesday 18. August (09:00 – 11:00 CEST)

Zoom Meeting ID: 863 9097 2965

Passcode: 091736

Prof. Tatjana Schnell
How sweet is a good life?

In the search for the good life, the sweetness of living might be an inappropriate target: a mindset of striving for the pleasant and “sweet” favours the choice of paths of least resistance and short-term solutions. Recent psychological research has taken up the ancient concepts of eudaimonia and hedonia. A hedonistic orientation has been shown to be associated with materialism and unethical behaviour, while paradoxically failing to fulfil its inherent longing for happiness and satisfaction with life. Allowing and embracing questions of meaning – of the why, the wherefore, of consequences and implications – is more challenging and “bitter”, but arguably unavoidable in reforming the way we relate to ourselves, each other and the more-than-human world. And interestingly, it is precisely this approach that is ultimately followed by positive and fulfilling experiences – both on an individual and a social level.

Alexander Vileykis
Abandoned, Remained: Labor migration in Murmansk region

The Russian North is a reflection of the Marxist term “subsumption,” which describes mixed institutional formations when elements of different economic regimes and historical eras are present in the same territory. The lecture is about the reasons behind population change, about the atmosphere of restructuring of some Arctic cities in rotational mode, and the preservation of other local centres and the existence of the whole city in a “waiting” state.

Thursday 19. August (09:00 – 11:00 CEST)

Zoom Meeting ID: 892 3222 0168

Passcode: 011382

Olga Zubova
Staying with Others

About: Bacterial micro-world, that has changed knowledge about the human being, was a starting point for the creation of collective project iBiom – a fictional company that works with users’ microbiome.

Gunn-Britt Retter
Why should ‘green’ energy replace green economies?

Drawing upon a tradition of oral storytelling, Gunn-Britt Retter – head of the Arctic and Environment Department in the Saami Council – discusses indigenous knowledges, cloudberries, climate justice and responsibility, and the politics around the current ‘green’ transition of energy solutions in Norway. The talk forms part of Retter’s ongoing work that concerns indigenous peoples and indigenous peoples’ knowledge in relation to climate change, biodiversity, language, pollution and the management of natural resources.


The artist focuses on one of the main pillar of his long term project Nolanders – coexistence of human being and industrial entity in a mutated sound and visual environment in the Northern monotowns. It elaborates on the attitude of a monotown resident to the surrounding space where the factory becomes a new full-fledged actor along with nature, cityscape, pop culture, education and barbecue time. It is a unique state for a native monotown resident directly connected with economic relations, soundscape aspects, visual patterns and a forming mindset.

Friday 20. August (09:00 – 11:00 CEST)

Zoom Meeting ID: 867 3831 1038

Passcode: 101942

Ksenia Gavrilova
Presentation of the book, “Children of the Nineties” in the modern Russian Arctic

The book identifies and analyses the factors that influence the social behaviour of young people living in the Russian Arctic – those whom we have named “the children of the 1990s”. The research project that led to this book started with a question “What motivates modern-day northerners (born between 1980 and 1995) to remain in the North or to leave?”

Puolanka Pessimist Association

Puolanka is not a dying town. It’s dead already, with nothing but pessimism left. So how to take advantage of the only thing that is left in Puolanka?

Tommi Rajala introduces the unique brand of pessimism that has been blossoming in Central Finland. What makes Pessimism the start of a cultural resistance? What are the challenges and rewards of making cultural events in small, rural places in the Barents region? And what is the outlook for the future?

Saturday 21. August

Clay Plays Workshop – Riikka Keranen
10:00 -12:00 & 13:00 -15:00 (Terminal B)

Riikka Keränen will present a series of clay experiments and other findings during her stay in Kirkenes. The artist works primarily with sculpture and when she arrives in a new place, she likes to explore it by walking, and by collecting some small things such as rocks, soils, vegetation, or interesting bits of trash – anything can hold a curiosity, a story or a value.

In the workshop we will explore together the different qualities of local clay and soil with hands-on methods, by smelling, touching, squeezing and playing with these materials. Everyone can take part in their own way by doing, watching or talking. Sharing local stories and experiences are also encouraged as part of the process. The workshop is thought of more as a gathering, thinking with hands, around these materials and engaging in discussions around them.

BYEN – Performance – Kvae & Bark
12:00 CEST (Terminal B)

On the footpath stands a cart at rest. On each side two figures have donned the colour green. They say nothing, simply drawing in air through their nostrils, and opening their mouths occasionally to taste something from the cart. Prior to this moment, they’d been walking the streets on an open search. Now at the end, they unfold two stools and sit down with the wagon between them. They pull forth two cotton nets from inside the carriage and pour colorful contents over the table-like surface.

BYEN is part of the work STRUKTURER FOR YTELSER OG GJENYTELSER – an improvised ongoing production taking place at Terminal B that is based on three structures that can be moved around the city, on the shore, and in the forest. Artists KVAE & BARK work with the landscapes around them, and will activate these three structures in different ways throughout the exhibition period. In this way, the audience will witness a living installation that changes from week to week.

KVAE & BARK are the artists Karoline Sætre and Øyvind Novak Jenssen. They like to move gently through the landscapes they enter, trying to taste and smell their way, and gathering local knowledge until they find a connection with each place. They use foraging as a starting point for storytelling, and work in relation to many existing traditions. Through performative meetings with raw materials, together they process, compose and serve small descriptions of the landscapes they come in contact with.

La Dolce Vita – pop-up Bar

20:00 – 23:00 CEST (Terminal B)
kr 100;-

Zoom Meeting ID: 856 2795 1465
Passcode: 318000

Neither Kirkenes nor Murmansk may have a Trevi fountain like in Federico Fellini’s famous 1960 film ‘La Dolce Vita’, but that will not stop us from opening a pop-up ‘La Dolce Vita’ bar on Saturday 21. August. The exhibition space opens late, drinks will be served, there will be music from the Puolanka Pessimist Association, a DJ set from Matti Aikio in Kirkenes, as well as a live sound stream from CINDEREMBER (aka. Artem Palmer) Murmansk.

Friday 27. August

FJÆRA – Performance – Kvae & Bark
(Gapahuken på Prestøya, Sør-Varanger – 18:00 CEST)

Just a few metres out from the shore lies a raft that is gently floating. It has just been carried out by two figures, again in costume. They stand in the water of life. One of them holds onto the raft, while the other puts on a diving mask and begins to dive under the water. Bobbing in the currents, his face down towards the seabed, in search of shells and snails and other edibles from below the water’s surface.

Wednesday 1. September

SKOGEN – Performance – Kvae & Bark
Location TBC – 18:00 CEST

Between three pines a small entourage stops. Two familiar characters with a structure between them. They’ve carried it at each end, and they must use their feet to unfold the support-like legs under the structure. It can then be put down on the moss and heather. One of the bearers wipes his clammy forehead, and finds a small birch bark basket from a compartment in the structure they have just set aside. They start searching with their eyes for berries and mushrooms. The structure stands as an anchor point, while they each go off in search.


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

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

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