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Indepth Arts News:

"Nordic Art Expedition Crosses the Arctic Circle"
2006-06-19 until 2006-07-09
NIFCA, Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art
Helsinki, , FI Finland

This summer, 25 performing artists, visual artists, musicians and authors have been selected to participate in a fortnight‚s art experiment in the Barents region ˆ in the borderland of Norway, Finland, Sweden and North-West Russia ˆ a unique location mainly north of the Arctic Circle. Behind the project, Connection Barents, are four art institutions of the Nordic Council of Ministers: NIFCA, NordScen, Nomus and NordBok and cultural producers Pikene på Broen. The artistic director of the project is Ong Keng Sen, director and leader of Theatre Works in Singapore.

Leading artists from Nordic and Baltic countries as well as North-West Russia have been given an opportunity to challenge themselves and each other in the borderland between traditional and contemporary art and culture. >From 19 June until 3 July 2006, the participants in Connection Barents investigate the physical and mental border areas of the Barents region. As navigators in the search for new artistic raw materials, the organizers have invited artists from the international art, performance, music and literature spheres, all of whom have experience of dealing with questions of relevance to the area.

Along with the artistic director of the project, Ong Ken Sen, the project‚s research laboratory is led by the performance artist and author, Coco Fusco from New York and the internationally known documentary film-maker, Wu Wenguang from Beijing. Speakers taking part in the project‚s concluding symposium include the Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata, London-based sound artist Kaffe Matthews, Indonesian writer Ayu Utami and the video artist Akram Zaatari (Arab Image Foundation) from Beirut.

Encounters between international, Nordic and local artists, together with the artists‚ dialogues with the everyday life in the region, comprise the core of Connection Barents, says Ong Ken Sen:

- The aim of the expedition is to join art and aesthetics with everyday life. As artists we must realize that the world is happening and changing before our very eyes. If we are to survive as artists, we must connect our creative work with the realities surrounding us, which are undergoing constant change. My hope is that during this expedition, the participants will perceive the artistic value of local knowledge and see it as an integral part of their work.

In collaboration with Hilde Methi from Pikene på Broen, Ong Ken Sen has focused on four themes relevant for the Barents region -- border cultures, nature and ecology, marginal existences and the region‚s new economic preconditions. During their stay in the Barents region, the artists will investigate these themes together with local experts.

Interdisciplinary co-operation is another important part of Connection Barents:

- Even though we represent four independent art institutions, each with its own artistic profile and areas of focus, we have decided to join together in order to fortify the networking and the collaboration between and among the art fields as well as the artists involved. However, border-crossing isn‚t without risks, and this kind of collaboration requires courage and the will to try something new ˆ both for us, as organizers of the project, and for the participants. We all hope that Connection Barents can contribute to strengthening both future Nordic cultural cooperation and the cultural life of the Barents region, says Anne-Sofie Ericsson, Secretary General of NordScen.

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