Arctic Culture Lab


The Arctic Culture Lab runs a residency facility on the Northwest coast of Greenland. In the stunning land of contrasts of the Disko Bay area, close to the UNESCO heritage side Kangia Icefjord, Arctic Culture Lab strives for a critical multidisciplinary platform for the increasing artistic interest in the Arctic. 
Our program strives to facilitate a knowledge exchange between residency artists and local knowledge bearers. During a two to three month stay we support, inform and motivate artists to reflect on the vulnerability of the Arctic and its cultures as an initial aspect for artistic research.

How can performers, visual artists, musicians or interdisciplinary artists reflect on the vulnerable North and bring this message to their homeplaces? How can the observation of a constantly changing culture influence the artistic way of thinking? Local communtities in the high North face major challenges responding to social-ecological changes which result in an instant adaptation to changes in natural condition and governance frameworks. According to the Arctic Human development Report Arctic societies have a well-deserved reputation for resilience in the face of change. However, the reasons for social resilience in these societies and why this strength is more present in some communities than others are still unclear. Here, where researchers and scientists couldn`t define inidicators, artists could open up new viewpoints, which in return help the locals to reflect on the process of change they are -involuntarily- involved. The capacity to change to maintain identity, as E. Carmack (2012) describes the ability to cope with disruptive shocks in Arctic marine systems, makes it literally impossible to define a certain period or even time-frame as traditional or even as heritage. Instead, coastal culture is an instantly changing phenomenon. The impossibility to define a traditional or authentic form of coastal culture based on the knowledge of Sami and Inuit peoples implies a huge potential for artistic reflection since artists are representatives of an ever-changing aesthetical value and show a broader understanding for the benefits of changes.


Why are we doing this?
We focus on long-term residences because in our short winded times artists are rarely willing to invest the necessary time span to understand the Greenlandic Arctic. Encountering the end of the world, the unknown and mystical Ultima Thule became intellectual fast food, the artist`s mission completed with the return from short «study-visits», filled with impressions and opinions made up before arrival, often presenting the artists back home as explorers and experts. Because they have been there.

The consumption of the Arctic as an exotic place might add some fancy event on the CV of a visiting artist, howabeit it will not contribute to the Arctic. To speak with Edward Said`s critizism of Orientalism: the Arctic is nothing more than a simplificating, western concept which compensates lack of knowledge by projecting a world-view towards a place far away. A short residency doesn`t challenge the artists perception and thus the mental construct rooted in subjective experience isn`t congruent with the physical and psychological space.

Our program is open to international artists and curators who can help us to formulate another narrative of the Arctic and Greenland as predominantly presented in the mainstream media.

In terms of artistic research we are aware of Linda Tuhiwai Smith`s (1999) warning, that «the word itself, ‘research’, is probably one of the dirties words in the indigenous world`s vocabulary». On the other hand, the term Arctic itself reveals to be unreliable, unsubstantial and inable to call forth a description of something concrete. Therefor artists as critical thinkers should be able to distance themselves from the conventional shared idea of the Arctic without repeating stereotypes which have been created to meet an Arctic agenda.

We are interested in artistic processes, experimentation and fearless curiosity in respectful interaction with the local community. We expect our residency artists to be aware of research methodologies related to indigenous people and to accept our expectation of a reciprocal approach. The residency gives visitors an unique opportunity to discover Greenlands cultural and sociopolitical context. We expect our residency guests to be aware of research methologies related to indigenous peoples and to accept our expectation of a reciprocal aproach. Through this, artists and curators can expand the scope of their practice and learn about the under-communicated Greenlandic art scene.

Administrative, curatorial and professional support is guaranteed by our staff. Arctic Culture Lab will provide the artist with all necessary help concerning logistics in situ as well as knowledge based help.