Julie Edel Hardenberg, Swedish Army Anorak, Norwegian Dogpelt. This is one of my favorite works by Julie. It follows the theme she worked on in her time at art school, about how through the application or removal of a few very simple and generic symbols or ways of presenting oneself, that they can be perceived as belonging to a certain race, which then gives the viewer a superficial sense of knowing so much about the person and their background. This then gives them a degree of control over the person and allows them to make the person’s actual background or heritage irrelevant because it can be so easily overriden by the outside, from factors the individual has little control over. Julie illustrates the problems of this ‘visualization of ethnicity’ here, by saying that with the application of an anorak and fur hood that have no connection at all to anything distinctly Greenlandic, when approached in the work of a Greenlandic artist (and when they are made to look cold), anyone could fit into the picture of a Greenlander.
Posts tagged Greenland.
Ad for Greenlandic tin souvenirs (of all things) in an old journal from Sisimiut.
The new Nuuk
mall Center is set to open in the summer.
As with every new architectural plan in Greenland the design sketch is radical and dramatic, juxtaposed design on the wild landscape. But undoubtedly it will come out as any other mall. ‘Malling’ I think is an actual benchmark in the urbanizing process. There are arguments to be made for and against - for, because some may suggest that Nuuk being able to collectivize and gradually become a more cosmopolitan center while other areas remain as they have been show hope that Greenland can hold its own in the world and allow for different ways of life to coexist. On the other hand it suggests a greater segregation between the capital and the rest of the country, especially with the expensive new national gallery and Qinngorput housing developments.
Another excellent work by Pia Arke, from the series Legends. In these works Pia attempts to counter the major historic means of Western understanding of Greenland from the first explorations through to today: mapping. From this belief, mapping illustrates the “truths” of the land, it informs and brings confidence to the explorer (scientist, general), and it conveys what is most interesting to these figures; that being mainly its vastness, ruggedness, geographic uniqueness, and in his mind, reveals the nature of the lives of those in the land. The way such figures read an extensive coastal map like this with many fjords and natural harbours, is that the people of Ittoqqortoormiit are bound by their connection to the sea, and so it defines their lives. But it is the people who define their lives. And so Pia places portraits atop these maps, in the foreground, to say that people define the land just as the land contributes to their definition. But to know a land one must know the people, and to know the people one will inherently know the land, because their knowledge of it extends far beyond any maps, ice charts and satellite images.
Sermitsiaq’s photo of Mâliâraq Vebæk who died 3 days ago aged 95. She was an extremely important figure as the first published Greenlandic woman novelist. Her book dealt with the struggles of Greenlandic women coming to Denmark, when following the 1940s Greenlanders for the first time started moving abroad in large numbers, encountering racism, hostility and scarcity in many levels of life (she holds her book in the photo). She also made the first academic study of the lives of Greenlandic women in Denmark, and was one of the first Greenlanders to start collecting Greenlandic stories and legends when in the past foreigners would come in with their translators and leave, and the stories would leave with them (with the exception of Knud Rasmussen who was raised in Ilulissat and was half Greenlandic, which many people forget). And subsequently by gathering stories from elders in her specific region of South Greenland, she preserved many signifiers of the Qavat dialect which has since died out completely. And still she also often collaborated on Greenlandic children’s books that transformed many of these stories and legends so that they will not only exist in the dusty academic shelves. She lived a full life and gave tremendous gifts. If you would like to read more about her you can go here (Google translate is generally OK with Danish compared to others but be prepared for missing bits).
First page from an old Sisimiut journal. Where the author discusses how Danish liability offices are concerned for business privatization in Greenland. Because it does not fit in with “the path one envisions for Greenland”, ie expanding ”too quickly.” Hm. Also note the bizarre old orthography with â for aa and some odd spellings.
Ad for the new Greenlandic men’s clothing line Eskiman.GL. It’s t-shirts mostly so I don’t think much of the brand itself but the idea the video proposes is great: to encourage Greenlanders to wear parts of the national costume in everyday life. To some degree this has to happen, I think, in order for the costume to retain its relevance within the culture. If it’s confined to the rare national celebration it will slowly feel like a hollow symbol. The difference between this and Peter Jensen’s collection I mentioned before is that it only suggests Greenlanders choose how to wear parts of the costume. It’s still a tricky area, though. The wonderful Neeta Inari has discussed similar questions several times in the Sámi context.
Also the rap in the video is hilarious.
Taken with instagram
Means “stop the depletion of Greenland’s riches.” Yes. But when what to do with Greenland’s minerals is actually in Greenland’s decision, as right now (regarding oil, which the picture is referring to. Interesting that the person making the poster didn’t show a Canadian aluminum smelter being built in Maniitsoq or a Danish coal mining company in Uummannaq, the second of which goes back to long before Greenlanders had a say in their government), Danish people need to stop talking.
So it’s time I talk about the most publicly sponsored and widely exhibited Greenlandic artist: Aka Høegh. She has participated in big multi-artist international projects and is responsible for some of the most iconic Greenlandic public artworks, a beach park in Aarhus and the Stone and Man project in Qaqortoq, a small detail of which seen above. If you sense a bit of skepticism in this description you are correct.
Aka Høegh is touted as Greenland’s “best” artist by the government and cultural offices, and she is applauded for bringing “traditional Greenlandic art” to a higher level. I do not deny that some of her projects are ‘cool’, especially the massive iceberg painting above which is 2 x 5 meters. However there is little about her work that articulates the intricacies and ‘spirit’ (for lack of a better word) of Greenlandic “traditional” art, and reveals little about today’s Greenlandic psyche. Her work draws more from a language of vaguely “traditional” images (the face of stone) and of Greenland’s nature, reliant upon refined skills in Western media (oil painting and massive public sculpture) - in other words, the same images and means white artists have been using to depict Greenland without penetrating to the actual people and meanings behind the face. I will say the park in Qaqortoq is important for bringing art into the public sphere, and in the case of the her illustrated children’s book of the story of the Mother of the Sea for keeping story alive, and in Qaqortoq for bringing artists from many nations to collaborate in Greenland. But as art they do not offer nearly as much as the conceptual work of Pia Arke, Inuk Silis-Høegh, Jessie Kleemann and Julie Edel Hardenberg that I have discussed in the past. And it is not because she chooses a path more “traditional” than them - because it really isn’t.
“Traditional” Greenlandic art celebrates pointed details within the smallest object, self-referencing humour and especially usefulness or the sense that it can be directly interacted with in different ways, something living and lived with. They have a sense of both smallness and largeness, regardless of the actual size, which this by Inuk Silis-Høegh and this by Miki Jacobsen both illustrate. This is something that anyone looking at a work intent on seeing it foremost as “Greenlandic” or “indigenous” or “ethnographic” will miss because what comes first in that field of vision is the difference in aesthetics to preferred Western styles. Clearly Aka employs this perspective to make her works more comfortable on an international level. Still she is quite significant for being one of the first Greenlandic artists to bring Greenlandic art to the international stage and to work on a very large scale. But as far as the social and creative commentary, formal exploration and interactive ability that I believe art needs to have, she does not shine compared to others.
This massive sculpture by the former statesman Thue Christiansen, Treeroot with Tupilaat, and the enlarged carved ‘mask’ below by Miki Jacobsen are, I think, perfect examples for how Greenlandic art can be both “traditional-looking” - and so reflective of the historic art forms - and massive in scale, while still being engaging, critical and formally unique. And very importantly, they are not large just for the sake of being large, which is the sense I get from much of Aka’s work in all media. Thue’s sculpture incorporates faces in the style of a tupilaq - sculptures or totems carved to protect or to harm an enemy. But they are carved into a massive treeroot - which are fairly nonexistent in Greenland - and so immediately call up questions of who are the tupilaat created against, which is really a question of how internationalism challenges Greenlandic culture today; also the root being the life-giving part of the tree, drawing most of its nutrients, as opposed to the more common media for making tupilaat - driftwood (which would have traveled so long to Greenland they are very distant from any life), bone (which comes with many other things from a hunt) and ivory (which is literally dead). Is it something living that has been killed, or a foreign living thing transformed into a Greenlandic symbol?
Likewise Miki’s ‘mask’ almost seems to mock the ethnographic collectible mask, the more serious the better for anthropologists. It can certainly not be worn so the discussions of dance and ritual are removed and it demands to be looked at specifically as an object in itself, it is so large it seems to challenge the viewer like a peer, instead of sitting quietly on a pedestal or wall. Yet this connects it even more to the ideas informing mask dance - the nature of which is that the dancer is transformed into something else, human but not, and which is humorously critical of its viewers.
But humour and denial of the Western vision of ethnographic objects is no way to win favours among Western critics, who do not like their views immediately and entirely cast down. Which is why it is understandable that Aka, whose career largely began in the ’80s and ’90s when art centres were just opening up in Greenland and few Greenlandic artists ever exhibited abroad, would employ these concepts of Greenlandic art in her work. It may have felt like the only way to get attention for a small indigenous nation, and certainly was the only way to get state promotion, when the country’s whole tourist promotions rely on both nature and “traditional life”. And historically - namely with Aron from Kangeq, or the writer Thomas Frederiksen - there is a celebration within and outside of Greenland of “self-taught artists” which perhaps results in a distrust of artists with some formal training (like Julie and Inuk) when often (but certainly not always) training and the many perspectives one can experience through it has the potential to give artists an extra push to think deeper. But slowly this is beginning to extend into all areas of Greenlandic life anyway. Things are opening up, and more and more Greenlanders are finding ways to discuss Greenlandic life on their own terms.
Aka Høegh, Stone and Man, friend’s photo
Aka Høegh, The Ice, Bryggen Art
Thue Christiansen, Tree Root with Tupilaat, Nordens Institut i Grønland
Miki Jacobsen, Untitled, own photo