Rethinking Nordic Colonialism: A Postcolonial Exhibition Project in Five Acts

Rethinking Nordic Colonialism: A Postcolonial Exhibition Project in Five Acts

Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art (NIFCA)

March 17, 2006

Rethinking Nordic Colonialism:
A Postcolonial Exhibition Project in Five Acts

Curated by Kuratorisk Aktion
(Frederikke Hansen & Tone Olaf Nielsen) for
NIFCA, Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art

Rethinking Nordic Colonialism:
A Postcolonial Exhibition Project in Five Acts

Act 1: Reykjavik, Iceland, March 24 April 16, 2006
Act 2: Nuuk, Greenland, April 21 May 14, 2006
Act 3: Tórshavn, The Faroe Islands, May 12 June 4, 2006
Act 4: Rovaniemi, Sápmi/Finland, June 16 July 9, 2006
Act 5: DVD Box Set Launch in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo & Stockholm, November 25, 2006

Curated by Kuratorisk Aktion (Frederikke Hansen & Tone Olaf Nielsen) for
NIFCA, Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art

Nordic Amnesia

The colonial history of the Nordic region is a dark chapter that seems to have slipped the memory of many of the Nordic populations. Although it continues to make itself very much felt in the regions former colonies, this history is alarmingly absent in the collective memory of the once-colonizing Nordic countries.

With Rethinking Nordic Colonialism: A Postcolonial Exhibition Project in Five Acts, we aim to shed light over this history. Not only do we hope to explain why this past has been forgotten in some parts of the region. We also want to show how this history continues to structure the Nordic societies today, and how our contemporary problems of intolerance, xenophobia, and nationalism have their roots in this history.

Hopefully, the project will also demonstrate that the postcolonial state that the region finds itself in today is not only a story of oppression and sad destinies. The historical chain of cultural clashes between colonizers and colonized have resulted in other formations of modernity and other value systems different from those of the West. If we dare engaging them, they might pose fruitful alternatives to existing norms and values.

Exhibition Structure
Rethinking Nordic Colonialism will revisit this history during the course of five acts, which combines exhibitions with workshops, conferences, hearings, and happenings in the locations of Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Sámi area of Finland. 56 internationally recognized artists, theorists, politicians, and grassroots activists from all over the world participate in the project, which runs from March 24 November 25, 2006.

The project opens in March in Reykjavik, Iceland (a former colony of Denmark) with an art exhibition and a workshop. In April, the project moves on to Nuuk, Greenland (also a former colony and now a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark), where audiences are invited to attend a new art exhibition and a public hearing. Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands (also a former colony and now a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark) will host Act 3 the following month, where yet another art exhibition is complemented by a performance event. Act 4 takes place in June in Rovaniemi in the Finnish part of Sápmi (the home land area of the indigenous Sámi people) and also features an art exhibition combined with a conference. In the fifth act, the many activities and conclusions of the project will be documented in a DVD Box Set, which is released on November 25, 2006 during four simultaneous closing events in the Nordic metropolises Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, and Stockholm. With Act 5, the projects many postcolonial voices reach the past colonizers of the Nordic region and become audible to their present populations and to the world at large.

Rethinking Nordic Colonialism is remarkable in a number of ways. It represents a first attempt at writing a comprehensive history of Nordic colonialism and involves all the Nordic countries. It supports the incipient postcolonial studies in the Nordic region. And last, but not least, it is based on extraordinary partnerships between important art and culture institutions in the region: The Living Art Museum and The Reykjavik Academy in Iceland; Greenland National Museum and Archives as well as the Teachers Training School of Greenland in Nuuk; The Faroe Islands Art Museum and The Nordic House in Tórshavn; The Arctic Centre and Finnish Railways Locomotive Engine Shed in Rovaniemi in Northern Finland (Sápmi).

M. Jacqui Alexander (works in Canada), Pia Arke (Greenland/Denmark), Nadiah Bamadhaj (Malaysia/Indonesia), Bolette Benedictsen Blaagaard (Denmark/The Netherlands), Stephanie Black (USA), Randi Broberg in collaboration with Tine Bryld (Greenland/Denmark & Denmark), Center for Land Use Interpretation (USA), Katrine Dirckinck-Holmfeld & Inuit Youth International (Denmark & Greenland), Godfried Donkor (Ghana/United Kingdom), Anida Yoeu Esguerra (Cambodia/USA), Paul Gilroy (United Kingdom), Tamar Guimarães (Brazil/Denmark), Archana Hande (India), Laila Hansen (Greenland), Julie Edel Hardenberg (Greenland), Marja Helander (Sámi, Finland), Imani Henry (The Caribbean/USA), Richard William Hill (Cree, Canada), Geir Tore Holm (Sámi, Norway), Høgni Hoydal (The Faroe Islands), Inuk Silis Høegh & Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen (Greenland/Denmark & Denmark), Maryam Jafri (Pakistan/USA/Denmark), Ívar Jónsson (Iceland), Isaac Julien (United Kingdom), Jane Jin Kaisen & Tobias Hübinette (South Korea/Denmark & South Korea/Sweden), Rauna Kuokkanen (Sámi, Finland/Canada), Moshekwa Langa (South Africa/The Netherlands), Reina Lewis (United Kingdom), Mikela Lundahl (Sweden), Aviâja Egede Lynge (Greenland), Kobena Mercer (Ghana/United Kingdom), Kent Monkman (Cree, Canada), Rannvá Holm Mortensen (The Faroe Islands), New Meaning (Norway), Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki, Canada), Steve Ouditt (Trinidad, West Indies), Pratibha Parmar (Kenya/United Kingdom), Humphrey Polepole (Tanzania), Gillo Pontecorvo (Italy), Kaisa Raitio (Finland), Henriette Rasmussen (Greenland), Ruangrupa (Indonesia), Vandana Shiva (India), Katarina Pirak Sikku (Sámi, Sweden), Paul-Anders Simma (Sámi, Norway/Sweden/Finland), Slut (Sweden), Makere Stewart-Harawira (Waitaha, New Zealand/Canada), Fatimah Tuggar (Nigeria/USA), 200 (The Faroe Islands), Ósk Vilhjálmsdóttir (Iceland), VISION den om lighed (Denmark), Voima (Finland) & Kara Walker (USA).

Rethinking Nordic Colonialism is accompanied by a User Guide to the four exhibitions and discursive events as well as a website which will be launched March 20, 2006.

Rethinking Nordic Colonialism is realized with financial support from: NIFCA, Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art; Nordic Council of Ministers; The Living Art Museum; Stoðir hf.; The Reykjavik Academy; Greenland National Museum and Archives; Teachers Training School of Greenland; The Faroe Islands Art Museum; The Nordic House in the Faroe Islands; Finnish Railways; The Arctic Centre; The Danish Arts Council’s Committee for International Visual Art; Atlantic Airways Ltd.; Embassy of Canada in Finland; Icelandair; Arts Council of Lapland; FRAME: Finnish Fund for Art Exchange; Royal Arctic Line A/S; The Nordic House on Iceland; Hótel Leifur Eiríksson; Dronning Ingrids Hospital Central Laboratoriet; Nuuk Værft A/S; and more to be announced

Kuratorisk Aktion

Kuratorisk Aktion is a platform for curators engaged in a critical practice along the lines of race, class, gender, and sexuality. The platform was founded by Danish-born curators Frederikke Hansen and Tone Olaf Nielsen in spring 2005. Merging feminist, queer, and activist informed approaches, Kuratorisk Aktion pledges itself to raise consciousness on the politics of representation and translate this consciousness into practice. We attempt to achieve this through a 65/35 percent representation of minoritarian and majoritarian subjectivities respectively in all our productions, at the same time as we open this procedure up to critique as part of the curatorial methodology. In this way, Kuratorisk Aktion hopes to demonstrate a politically correct practice one, however, that steers clear of tokenism and allows alternative thinking to be the dominant trait, not only in terms of the identity politics of the participants but more importantly in terms of their practice. Among other projects, Kuratorisk Aktion earlier this year submitted a proposal entitled Whats Left of the Left? Rethinking Left-Wing Politics in the Age of Globalization to the First International Festival of Contemporary Art in Denmark 2007. The platform is also presently constructing a website (

For more info, please contact:
Press Coordinator Hamayun Latif Butt
45 22 54 97 27

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March 17, 2006

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