In this section you will find documentation from our digital symposium held in February 2021. Contributions came from Matt Hern & Am Johal, Vera Dvale and Silje Linge Haaland, Cecilia Åsberg & Marietta Radomska, Matti Aikio, Espen Sommer Eide & Riikka Keränen, and Line Thastum & Sissel Thastum.
Matt Hern and Am Johal introduce their research process and some of the key questions that inspired their 2018 publication, Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life: A Tar Sands Tale (MIT Press), where the authors set out to propose a new understanding of ecology that links the domination of the other-than-human world to the domination of humans by humans. They argue that any definition of ecology has to start with decolonization, that confronting global warming requires a politics that speaks to a different way of being in the world, and a reconstituted understanding of the sweetness of life. Their lecture stitches together their experience with their current thinking, as well as their speculations on new considerations of community and friendship.
Q&A with Matt Hern and Am Johal following their lecture. Moderated by Pikene curator Neal Cahoon and with thanks to Aileen Aseron Espiritu for the additional contribution.
The collaboration between Silje Linge Haaland and Vera Dvale is nurtured by an audio and visual exchange based on play, intuition and sensing, and where animated moving images are connected through sound. Sirutumine is the title of one of the pieces of music in the video work BLANT by Linge Haaland, and it now becomes the title of this new meeting point. Based on the video work, Vera Dvale introduces a live sound collection where new combinations of her compositions are connected to the images. The material consists of both individual and collaborative productions.
In their Keynote lecture, Marietta Radomska & Cecilia Åsberg ask the questions: How can we think and act from within multiple crises? What does the sweetness of living mean in the times of environmental and social disruption? The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic sheds light on environmental violence, injustice, socio-economic inequalities, more-than-human entanglements and an ethico-political call for action. This talk offers low-trophic theories-practices as a way to rethink and reimagine both our present(s) and future(s) in the care-ful and situated registers of more-than-human ethics for a multispecies world.
Line Thastum & Sissel Thastum present Gadus morhua, a meditative endeavour and an invitation to the audience to come closer to the cod fish, its element, and our connection to other beings within the perspective of deep time and our common origin from the ocean. Gadus morhua explores and emphasises the vibrance and agency of all matter. It shows the growth of a biocrystallization of the codfish alongside poetic and philosophical reflections on our entangled being-in-the-world. Gadus morhua is an excerpt of the larger ongoing project Kin.
What are the values that modern life holds onto? What happens to these values in the middle of a pandemic when it is not possible to buy our way to happiness as usual? What processes happen to individuals and communities, for example, when restrictions are handed down by governments, and monetary compensation is provided in the absence of living as one might intend?
Being prevented from living in an accustomed way is a familiar feeling for many indigenous peoples, including Sámi communities, who are often caught between the extremes that exist within the nature policies of nation-states – from the non-indigenous perspective, nature is seen either as a resource to be extracted unsustainably, or as a place of ‘intact nature’ that needs to be strictly protected from almost any human influence, including those of indigenous ways of life. This is the case even if these indigenous cultures and practices have been an essential part of these particular ecosystems for millennia.
Matti Aikio connects these issues through a new process-based work which opens up questions of how and why these different ways of living on this planet are in constant conflict and what exactly are the fundamentals beyond these opposite forces.
Through a growing archive of materials, and a process-based production residency that began in the middle of January and continued to grow, Aikio presented and activated a collection of books, texts, notes, photos, sounds, and video clips relating to this topic. The work has been shown under the 2021 edition of the Barents Spektakel festival ‘The Essentials’, as well as during Festspillene Nord-norge 2021, as part of the festival exhibition ‘I am Multitude’.
Britt Hennie Halvorsen works in both two and three dimensions with the traditional and relatable material of wool. Så Nær was complemented with soundworks in collaboration with the sound artist and composer Nils P. Johansen and with thanks to: Elliina Peltoniemi, Sylvi Hollman, Daniil Efremov, Ekaterina Efremova, Gunnar B. Halvorsen and Luna Aareskjold Drecker.
Under Barents Spektakel 2021 the artist made use of the entire 2nd floor of Pikene’s Terminal B gallery space to create a large-scale wool installation – a textile soundwork that provided associations of past, present and future.
As visitors physically entered inside the artwork and became part of it, they sensed the materials, sounds and smells, and considered their associations. From the swaying walls, generations of Norwegian, Finnish, and Russian voices sang out in a conversation with time and space, weaving together what has been and what is yet to come.
“I grew up in the shadows of nuclear tests in the north, when political games drew hard lines between us. It was them and it was us. New times arrived, and we could gently approach each other through dialogue, collaboration, and the chance to make new friendships. Today, more than ever it’s important to protect these delicate connections.”
In deep winter, Kvae & Bark (Karoline Sætre and Øyvind Novak Jenssen) introduced Taxi Take Away, a service that made it possible to order an artwork from your own home in Kirkenes during the Barents Spektakel festival.
Participating audience members could choose one of the dishes from the menu and receive an art experience connected to this choice.
Through stories told via the telephone line, and continued through home delivery, the artists shared insights from the ingredients and raw materials in a series of intimate and memorable meeting places.
Home deliveries are a care service. The meal has a vital role, but the delivery itself also has a social side. Under the pandemic it became clear how connected we all are, and how we rely on and support each other. Sharing meals is a way to make this visible – occasions for coming together and looking to the future. The use of local, foraged ingredients and the narrative work with these ingredients was another way for the artists to show care to the local area. At a time when we have had to make more use of the resources available where we are, and the relationships we have with local land, Taxi Take Away is a reminder of what can be found and how to use it.
“We stand on top of a hill and look towards the town. We do not know what is behind our bodies, only that Kirkenes is in front of us. We sit on cushions and we listen to all of the sounds. Is it a car idling or a bird’s call? We take what we get, but we are happy looking out upon the town, from a place with a view.
Berries and mushrooms, and whatever else you can pick. We pack these gathering traditions with us wherever we go. Carrying scissors and cloth, small boxes that can hold a taste or smell, a potential meal – for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or supper.”
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.
BYEN / Saturday, August 21st – On the footpath stands a wagon that rests. 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 wagon. 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.
FJÆRA / Friday, August 27th – 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.
SKOGEN / Wednesday, September 1st – 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.
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.