“These are international discoveries from unfamiliar places, true international artists whose work feels tangibly of its place, who take some searching out and who do not yet speak the ubiquitous art Esperanto that makes so many contributions to so many biennales feel so interchangeable.”
Waldemar Januszczak, The Sunday Times 23rd September 2012
The inaugural North Atlantic Pavilion brought together artists from Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands as part of City States at the 2012 Liverpool Biennial.
Hosted in the former Royal Mail Sorting Office at Copperas Hill, the exhibition featured new works from artists including Sigurður Guðjónsson (Iceland), Hanni Bjartalíð (Faroe Islands) and Jessie Kleemann (Greenland). The preview event featured a live performance of Sassuma Arnaa / The Mother of the Sea by Jessie Kleemann, Iben Mondrup and Niels Lyngsø.
The exhibition showcased installations, performance and moving image works by artists from countries in the North Atlantic. Their work challenges and dissects the tensions that exist in embracing a strong national and regional identity – focusing especially on work that questions the received notions and surface appearances of what ‘hospitality’ means.
The geographical region explored in the pavilion represents a unique interaction of diverse localised cultures spread over a vast area that, all at one time in recent history, have been officiated over and represented to the outside world by the Danish Flag. The North Atlantic Pavilion asks how, in a world being transformed by the digital era, nationalism and regional identity remain constructs of mythical narratives implemented on specific artifacts: artifacts that will be exposed to further acts of territorial negotiation in the context of Liverpool Biennial 2012.
Sigurður Guðjónsson premieres a new video work, Prelude. The film draws the viewer into a sound-space and visual world in which repetition and rhythm create an atmosphere referring to cultural background and mental state. Guðjónsson (b. 1975) is a visual artist from Iceland, working primarily with video and photography for his installations. He studied at the Academy of fine arts in Vienna and the Iceland Academy of the Arts. With equal attention to music and image in his atmospheric films, Sigurdur’s work exudes mysticism, desolation, the grotesque and the bleak, and reflects a tangle of emotions that are universal and timeless.
Hanni Bjartalíð’s wood objects are made from recycled material and waste wood. These three dimensional sculptures provoke associations with childhood and are shrouded in silence and mystery. The artist’s work often features small-scale objects and his unique miniature houses elicit great intimacy in their relationship to the viewer. He will be creating a new large scale sculptural work for the exhibition. Bjartalíð (b. 1968) is a major innovator in Faroese art. He is probably the only Faroese artist making sustainable work. Originally a painter, he has been compared to the Italian Arte Povera artists by using found materials close at hand. Bjartalíð recycles his canvases to such an extent that they are almost always heavy with paint, even the small paintings. He currently lives in Finland.
Jessie Kleemann bases new installations and performance on the importance of sea blubber to Greenlandic culture and its duality of aggression and aesthetics. Kleemann uses shamanistic rituals as a mode of expression through performance to create a new form of artistic language. Inuit traditions and beliefs in spiritual beings are given new life on stage. She performs in elegant silk robes and recklessly dances with blubber and meat, creating a unique expression that harnesses the unique polarities between materials and that is simultaneously repulsive and captivating. Kleemann (b. 1959, Upernavik, Greenland) lives and works in Copenhagen. She works with performance art, paint and is also a poet. During performances Jessie works with traditional and contemporary Inuit themes, mixing video/film and music, poetry and dance. Kleemann has appeared in numerous international exhibition spaces, in remote villages in Greenland, and is a regular guest-wolf of the international performance art group The Wolf in the Winter.
“The Faroe Islands are also represented, as is Iceland, in a section of the show described as the North Atlantic Pavilion. It’s a decrepit but exciting venue, and the intense way in which it interacts with the city’s social history is again typical of this event. These are not your typical biennale artists, whose names are embossed on busy Airmiles reward cards and who are sure to pop up soon at the Serpentine Gallery. These are international discoveries from unfamiliar places, true international artists whose work feels tangibly of its place, who take some searching out and who do not yet speak the ubiquitous art Esperanto that makes so many contributions to so many biennales feel so interchangeable.” – Waldemar Januszczak, The Sunday Times 23rd September 2012