Worst-Case Scenario. Four Artists from Greenland
6 March – 30 May 2021
Pia Arke, Julie Edel Hardenberg, Elisabeth Heilmann Blind, Jessie Kleemann
In the autumn of 1974, Lunds konsthall hosted the exhibition ‘Greenlandic Art Today’. Back then ‘glacial’ was a synonym for ‘unchangeable’. Today we have been disabused of this complacency, as we observe how fast the Arctic ice sheet is melting away.
On 11 March 2020, The Guardian carried this headline: ‘Losses of ice from Greenland and Antarctica are tracking the worst-case climate scenario, scientists warn.’ We promptly appropriated the keyword for the title of our exhibition, to illustrate how topical Greenland has become through no fault of its own.
On 19 July, 2019, Jessie Kleemann took a helicopter to the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier in West Greenland, where meltwater is menacingly collecting, to carry out one of her trance-inducing performances. The video documentation of Arkhticós Doloros conveys the terrifying sensation of being – acting – at the ground zero of the climate crisis.
Yet this is not the only lens through which our exhibition title may be read. When Sweden’s leading newspaper Dagens Nyheter introduced its readership to postcolonial theory back in 1995, in a series of articles commissioned by critic and writer Stefan Jonsson, photographs by Pia Arke accompanied all nine texts, which also informed her own path-breaking essay Ethno-Aesthetics from that same year.
In today’s Greenland, as in most postcolonial societies, the colonial condition continues to be a lived reality despite enhanced self-governance. It began with the Danish-Norwegian protestant missions in West Greenland in the 1720s and formally ended only in 1953, after most of Denmark’s sovereignty over the world’s largest island had been transferred to the US during the Second World War.
Of the four artists in our exhibition, Julie Edel Hardenberg is the only one permanently residing in Greenland. Her practice unmasks postcolonial realities, mapping networks permeated by inherited colonial privilege using visual identity markers such as the Greenlandic and Danish national flags.
Elisabeth Heilmann Blind reinterprets and renews the precolonial Inuit mask dance tradition, brought from Alaska and Canada by the ancestors of today’s Greenlandic Inuits in the 12th century, and enriches it with influences from Japanese dance and ‘Western’ performance art.
We thank all participating artists and the estate of Pia Arke, represented by her son Søren Arke Petersen. We also thank the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Brandts Art Museum in Odense, the Malmö Art Museum and the Nuuk Art Museum for lending works by Arke, and Nordic Culture Point, headquartered in Helsinki, for its generous financial support.
In collaboration with Kohta, Helsinki.