ARcTic, Art and Climate

Field trip to the Abisko Polar Research Station, Sweden, February 19-27, 2022

Today, the news warns us almost daily of environmental threats related to climate change. We are realising that catastrophic crisis is not a scenario in the far future but that the intensification of weather-related catastrophes like bushfires, hurricanes, floods and heatwaves has already begun to impact us for real.

There is a certain risk that we become numb by the flood of never-ending bad news. For many, the feeling still prevails that it only happens elsewhere or in a future that doesn’t concern us personally. Like Marcel Duchamp wrote on his epitaph: D’ailleurs, ce sont toujours les autres qui meurent.

Still, together with most of the science community, more artists are thinking of our civilization as having reached a critical threshold. Not only have we caused the extinction of many species of flora and fauna and damaged the ecological systems of the planet irreversibly, but our way of life is also undermining the conditions necessary for our own survival.

In this Labzone we will be posing the question: what can artists do to get involved in this most urgent discussion of our time? How can we engage in a global discourse that becomes ever more urgent? How can we disseminate information through artistic means, and how can artists collaborate with scientists? 

One aim of the field trip is to expand our perception of these pressing issues by working across practices like Land Art, Activist Art, Environmental Art, Performance, Propaganda etc. in a trans-medial approach. The project focuses on the experience and perception of the arctic landscape by artists as an active relationship that transforms physical conditions and phenomenological situations into political or poetic artistic action.

Every day after the field- and/or studio work, we will hold lectures, discussions and seminars about art, the arctic, and climate change, to motivate students to find a way of researching and producing their own research and practice in these extreme conditions.

Every student will engage in fieldwork, creating and documenting projects that will be discussed by the group. The aim of the course is to establish and deepen a critical dialogue with the arctic landscape. 

This Labzone will be lead by the artist Christoph Draeger who has fervently discussed themes of 'disaster and destruction' in his work. His conceptual projects explore and critique issues pertaining to catastrophe and media-saturated culture. In the past years while living in North Sweden, his work focused on the climate crisis. He was a professor at Academy of Fine Arts in Umeå from 2015-2020.

Dr. Keith Larson is managing director of the Climate Impact Research Centre (CIRC) in Abisko. He is deeply involved in science communication about the climate crisis, and collaborates often with artists. The CIRC has conducted research about climate change for more than 20 years. Keith Larson will be a co-teacher.

Finally, part of the plan is to invite at the same time a group of 12-15 students from the Kuno Network (all Scandinavian, Baltic and Islandic art academies) to participate in the workshop together with Laura Kuusk, associate professor at EKA Tallinn. Laura Kuusk is a prominent Estonian multi-media artist. Out of a deep concern for the climate crisis, she recently engaged in environmental engineering and managing studies at the university of Tallinn.

Accommodation in shared bedrooms (normally 2 beds) at Abisko Scientific Research Station and your travels will be covered by HEAD. We will cook ourselves, or eat in the very reasonable and good lunch restaurant at the Abisko tourist station. There is a well-equipped supermarket in town. During the arctic winter in Abisko, it is predictably cold (between minus 10 to 25 degrees) and there is a good chance to observe northern lights (aurora borealis).

We are planning a preparatory two day-seminar on Dec 6+7 in Geneva to discuss in more depth the content of the project and the practical preparations for a trip such as this.

After the field trip in Geneva, we will organise an exhibition and a publication, each taking into consideration the findings around art and the climate crisis that are the foundation and the outcome of this Labzone.

The deadline to apply for this Labzone is October 31, 2021. Please apply with a letter of motivation and a link to your website, or a short portfolio as a PDF and send your application to Work.Master Coordination: