Across the Arctic landscape, culture and art has traveled effortlessly along with the movement of the wind, the sun and our reindeer herds, creating a network of Arctic Highways. Highways that are cultural and spiritual, real and thriving – but as invisible as the system of national borders that have imposed their rigidness and weight upon us, pitilessly trying to nullify the free flow of ideas and identity connecting our souls.
We are indigenous peoples who live in different countries and on different continents, and yet regard ourselves as peoples with kindred spirits. The borders of nation states, arbitrarily drawn without regard to the landscapes of our ancestors, have been used to group the Sámi people, and to set us up to fight against our brothers and sisters living on the other side, fencing in and silencing our voices and our knowledge.
With this exhibition we want to tell our own story, through our own experiences, using our own forms of expression. We want to provide opportunities to think broadly about what it means to be unbounded, pointing to the limits that borders set, not just for indigenous people, but for all of us.
It takes its starting point in the pandemic that swept over the world during 2020 and 2021. How will its ramifications affect indigenous peoples? Can the knowledge of our ancestors, which we still have partially intact, become important and valuable in a changed global reality?
We, twelve indigenous artists from the Arctic region, ask you to join us in a search for answers and commonalities, and for a way to cross the frozen borderland between the two words “us” and “them”. Together we can embark on a journey along the Arctic highway of culture and life that stretches from the past into the future – without ever passing a border.
b. 1957, grew up in a small Sámi village near Björkvattnet in Tärna, under the Arctic circle in Sweden. In his artwork, he asks how colonial heritage has changed Indigenous lives and landscapes, both of the Sámi and other Indigenous peoples. Having lost his mother tongue, the Southern Sámi language, he works with visual art, using Sámi history and collective memory as the source of his art. He is continuously experimenting with new forms of media and material, from overlay glass and metal printing to etching and digital art forms. This way, he seeks to assemble a language to formulate the loss but also rejuvenation of Sámi identity.
(Iñupiaq/Athabascan), b. 1969 in Bethel, Alaska and brought up in Nome, Alaska. Through visual art, community engagement, curation and advocacy Kelliher-Combs works to create opportunity and feature Indigenous voices and the work of contemporary artists who through their work inform and encourage social action. Her personal mixed-media visual art focuses on the changing North and our relationship to nature and each other.
b. 1986 in Gällivare, based in Gothenburg, has trained at Konstfack (University of Arts, Crafts & Design) Stockholm, and works mainly with sculptural expressions where the organic, industrially produced and the handmade are put together into ambiguous figures and objects. Here, the carefully carved wood, the cast metal, the hand-blown glass coexist with the found and raw processed materials. In a playful and serious way, he addresses issues of identity, the present and history. The sculptures that emerge are hybrid figures that slide between categories such as visual arts, crafts, imagination, reality, man and animals. Olof Marsja has recently exhibited at Havremagasinet in Boden, Göteborgs Konsthall, Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm, 3:e Våningen in Gothenburg, Gallery Steinsland & Berliner in Stockholm, IKOLONI in Malmö, Stenungsunds Konsthall, and Gallery Box in Gothenburg.
b. 1988, is a Canadian artist with nêhiyaw (Plains Cree), British and Dutch ancestry based in the city of Ottawa. Her work is predominantly photography based, incorporating the production of props, sculptural garments and performance forming a synergy that transports the viewer out of the ordinary and into a space of contemplation and introspection. She explores the self in relation to land, lineage, history, culture and the more-than-human world.
b. 1963, is a Canadian Inuvialuk artist who works in sculpture, installation and public art. In her practice, polar bear fur, beluga intestines and seal skins encounter resins, vinyl, bubble wrap and metallic tape, forging critical links between life in the Western Canadian Arctic and global environmental and cultural concerns. Gruben was born and raised in Tuktoyaktuk, where her parents were traditional knowledge keepers and founders of E. Gruben’s Transport. She holds a BFA from the University of Victoria and has exhibited regularly across Canada and internationally. She was longlisted for the 2019 Aesthetica Art Prize and the 2021 Sobey Art Prize, and her work is held in national and private collections.
b. 1980, is a Sámi visual artist from the Finnish side of Sápmi. He has a background in Sámi reindeer herding culture. He holds an MA in contemporary art from Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art. Aikio’s art has been exhibited in various countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America. He works with mixed media, photography, sound, installations, video, sculpture and text. His main interest as an artist is to try to offer the spectators a possibility to shift perspective on often marginalised issues. Lately he has been focused on topics like the concept, the idea and the image of nature and how the indigenous cultures seem to be squeezed by the schizophrenic nature relationship of the nation states and capitalism. Aikio also performs as a DJ.
b. 1965, is a Sámi photographer, video artist and filmmaker with roots both in Helsinki and Utsjoki. In her work, she has studied various themes, including her own identity between the Finnish and the Sámi culture. Since 1992, Helander’s work has been exhibited in two dozen solo exhibitions and over 50 group exhibitions in Finland and abroad.
b. 1983, is an artist and an author. She is from a reindeer-herding family in Kautokeino, Northern Norway, and currently works in her hometown. Sara’s work deals with the political and social issues affecting the Sámi communities in general, and the reindeer-herding communities in particular.
b. 1978, is an artisan who lives in an area with two Sámi cultures: the Lule Sámi culture and the North Sámi culture. Laila Susanna’s family was forced to resettle from the north to Jokkmokk in Sweden almost one hundred years ago. This historic event is reflected in her artistic handicraft. The two-year program in Duodji at the Sámi Education Centre in Jokkmokk and a Master’s degree from the Sámi University of Applied Sciences in Kautokeino, Norway, gave her the formal background to practice her art and craftsmanship.
b. 1958 in Karasjok, Norway. Gunvor Guttorm, Professor in duodji (Sámi arts and crafts, traditional art, applied art) at Sámi allaskuvla/Sámi University of Applied Sciences, Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino in Norway. Her research is interconnected with cultural expression in the Sámi and Indigenous societies, especially duodji. The focus of her research deals with duodji in a contemporary setting, and Indigenous people’s context. She has written extensively about how the traditional knowledge of Sámi art and craft is transformed to the modern lifestyle. In an Indigenous world, she has participated as invited speaker at Indigenous research congresses and participated in exhibitions in Sápmi and abroad. From 2016–2018 she worked in a reference group for the exhibition “Let the River Flow”, organized by the Office for Contemporary Art, Oslo. She has also been editor, together with Harald Gaski and Katya Garcia Antón, of Let the River Flow. An Indigenous Uprising and its Legacy in Art, Ecology and Politics (Office for Contemporary Art Norway/Valiz Amsterdam, 2020).
b. 1953, is a filmmaker and still photographer living in Luleå, in northern Sweden. He grew up in a reindeer-herding family in Norway. At the age of 23 he was employed at the Swedish National Television as a cinematographer. Nineteen years later he started to work as a freelancer to be able to work with still photography and to direct his own films.
b. 1951, was born and raised in a reindeer-herding family. Their winter pasture was in Swedish Sápmi, and the summer grazing period was spent on the Norwegian side of Sápmi. She is educated at the School of Design and Crafts at the University of Gothenburg (HDK).
Born and bred in Granö, in Västerbotten, north-eastern Sweden, he is a forest-owner with deep roots in the rural district, where his family have lived and worked for 15 generations. Wejdmark holds an MSc degree in real estate and law, including environmental studies, from KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm. He is the initiator and founder of Mötesplats Granö, the Meeting Place Granö, and funding patron of Artic Highways.