Notes from the Nordic Summer University II

art, curating, recent work, time-out

During the week-long NSU session, I got engaged in a couple of ‘ad hoc’ projects (in addition to my presentation within Circle 7, which was the ticket to my participation here). The first one happened in the context of a cultural evening.* Together with a number of courageous persons, I staged an updated performance of a multilingual poetry reading first realized in August 2014.**

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2014 poster – for full story, see Training the Fundamentals of a Democratic Society

The original project sprung from a poem by Ukrainian author Tanya-Mariya Litvinyuk. In this re-staging, Ms. Litvinyuk is actually present through a sound recording sent from Kyiv the day before; her voice is heard from the laptop at the beginning. Then follows an English translation, read by Dr. Lucy Lyons, after which the English reading proceeds with ten words (all singled out from Ms. Litvinyuk’s poem). Back in 2014, those ten words sparked a collective writing process in a group of civil rights activists, and the poetic result of their joined efforts was translated from English into all languages spoken within the group. Here, I’m reading the Swedish version – followed by a fresh translation into Belarusian by NSU participant Alina Kalachova, created for this occasion. Crucial contributions (although not visible on screen) were also made by Maru Mushtrieva.

The multilingual reading evening engaged about 35 attendants, and took place in the school’s chapel.

My second ‘ad hoc’ engagement was in Disa Kamula’s workshop on Co-writing the future, where my contribution was the real-time mapping of an unfolding utopian narrative… From the resulting vision of a bright future, I finally erased all details but three:
…people of all ages…
…essential work… (cleaning up, that is)
…future generations in focus…

Mapping ‘Visionary Tampere Region’ workshop; resulting World Map,
and workshop leader Disa Kamula collecting workshop material afterwards.

What did I gather from this week? Art is knowledge, and artistic research is here to stay. Democratic structures are essential, although never perfect. Disco dancing is fun – thanks, Ami Skånberg Dahlstedt!
And the map is never complete.

* The NSU multilingual poetry evening was organized by Lara Hoffman, PhD student at Háskólanum á Akureyri, Iceland; she is also the editor of Ós – The Journal, a magazine which features works of fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and artworks in multiple languages.

** The 2014 Evening of Modern Ukrainian Poetry was organized by Yulia Oleksandriv and Julia Shevchenko, in collaboration with Stockholm International Library.

Notes from the Nordic Summer University I

art, recent work, time-out

As July turned August, my Latvian Easter experience brought me further, to Oslo; from an intimate three days’ winter session, to one full week of intense exchange in a much larger group of practitioners and academics within the Nordic Summer University

It took two different trains, a replacement bus, and finally the ‘trikk’ (Norwegian for ‘tram’) to reach Rønningen folkehøgskole at the outskirts of Oslo.

The NSU is an independent academic institution, since 1950 nomadically alternating between venues in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Among its founders and early pioneers were Johan Galtung – principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies – and Nobel prize laureate physicist Niels Bohr. Already in its beginnings, the NSU manifested the idea of interdisciplinarity; and to this day, it has remained open and playful, yet academically stringent; and (not least) with an interestingly democratic organization, free from carrying much administrative weight.

Glimpses from Rønningen folkehøgskole, run by the YWCA/YMCA of Norway

At this NSU Summer session, ten ongoing study circles gathered around themes such as Urban Studies: Between Creativity and Power; Nordic Environmental Ethics; Decolonizing Social Work... and The experiential in artistic practice and research: methods, knowledges and reflective processes – Circle 7, that is, where I took part. (The eleventh circle is the famous Children’s circle, where participants’ kids gather to have a good time too, and sometimes to contribute to the evening programme.)

Some random pictures from Circle 7

There was a full schedule almost every day of the week: for each circle, three lectures/workshops daily, followed by a common cultural evening programme, or the gathering of NSU’s General Assembly (where decisions were taken on next year’s activities and new board members and other in-charge functions were elected). In between, we could benefit from taking a walk in the surrounding areas, take a fresh swim in the river Aker… and for one day off, make excursions in the city.

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…to be continued…


Photo credit: Elina Saloranta

Easter Experience

art, recent work, time-out

To my joyful surprise, I recently got the opportunity to attend a Winter Symposium with the Nordic Summer University. It took place in Latvian countryside, close to a natural reserve (and out of reach for the internet).
The venue, of course, is an extremely powerful tool in the set-up of such a gathering; framing the whole process, contributing to how knowledge is produced, shared and interpreted.

The overall theme for the NSU Study Circle 7 is The experiential in artistic practice: methods, knowledges and reflective processes. Over three days of Easter, a lovely bunch of artistic researchers, academics and practitioners presented their research and shared practices – as well as hot sauna and icy swims.

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Learning about feminist strategies by printmaking, about regenerative farming in Latvia as a base for textile art, and the importance and implications of Wanderlust… Learning from Finnish and Latvian dancers, British artists, a theatre director from Tampere and a Polish philosopher… This has been a unique and inspiring experience in so many ways – not least thanks to Ulla, our exceptional chef! I hope to meet again…

…as I hope for peace, for human awareness towards all earthly beings, and the rebirthing forces of spring.

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