Luleå Biennial 2020:
Time on Earth
The Luleå Biennial stretches across the vast region of Norrbotten. Budding into the arctic circle at Sweden’s border to Finland, the region – with its heavy industries, mining landscapes, high-tech research centers, unique nature and the historical homeland of the Sami people, Sapmi – plays host to one of the world’s northernmost art events. This time, the biennial will take place in Luleå, Boden, Malmberget, Storforsen, Arjeplog and Korpilombolo – in an evacuated school, in a church, at a silver museum, at art centers, in a former prison and at Norrbotten’s Regional Museum.
The Luleå Biennial is an international biennial for contemporary art where global and hyper-local perspectives come together in site-specific installations. Alongside of numerous exhibitions, the 2020 edition will also include a touring literature program, theatre, radio and an online journal. The 2020 Luleå Biennial grapples with the question of what ”realism” could mean today both as a concept, expression and paradigm. Through their works, the invited artists tell of realities related to society as a system – bureaucracy and logics of mass media and industrial infrastructure – but they also break into, challenge and topple these reigning arrangements; through strikes, the psyche, theatre, magic and, not least, art itself. Realism emerged as an art historical concept in the second half of the 19th century and remained prominent into the first half of the 20th. This multifarious project grew out of a general interest in portraying society as it actually appeared in all its roughness and mundanity and injustice. On the one hand, realism pro-posed a set of aesthetic conventions, but more than that it meant the introduction of a new world of motifs to art. The realistic project was initially led by an intellectual bourgeoisie, but would since come to involve art and literature in which the working class asserted itself as both topic and agent. With its more blatant political edge, this later period is often referred to as social realism or socialist realism.
When we choose to look back on the tradition of realism and place it in our degenerating contemporary time, it is without a sense of obligation towards history. What we are revisiting is the artistic ambition to make the world appear whole. In such a practice there is both courage and madness; an act of inhibition that requires you to engage with the impossible and forge together the splinters of a broken world in order to make sense of it. On the small and large scale, the artists in the biennial present their own perspectives on how to organize the world.
In collaboration with Sweden’s Public Art Agency and the curator Edi Muka, the biennial presents Woven Songs, a series of existing and newly commissioned works that are integrated into the exhibitions or appear in public spaces in Norrbotten. This exhibition within the exhibition questions something as immediate as the earth and how we live our lives on
it. This earth that accommodates at once a profane and magical symbolism, and figures a material ground for both sanctity, life and death, all directly beneath our feet.
The Luleå Biennial constructs a kind of realism that often moves far away from an illustrative or documentary tradition. Rather the works tend to present reality as a theater: staged, alienated, longed for and, in many cases, completely absurd. Perhaps these spectacles can help us reconsider the meaning of realism and our actual agency, in relation not only to the -ism but to reality as such – during our time on earth.
Karin Bähler Lavér, Emily Fahlén and Asrin Haidari,
curators Luleå biennial 2020
Emily Fahlén, artistic director
Asrin Haidari, artistic director
Curators: Karin Bähler Lavér, Emily Fahlén &
Producers: Olle Arbman, Malin Hüber
Technicians: Thomas Bush, Thomas Hämén, Kalle Nordström, Pontus Stråhle
Graphic Design: Aron Kullander-Östling & Stina Löfgren
Web development: Julia Novitch,
Assistants: Tal Gilad, Vera Kavaleuskaya
Light designer Välkommaskolan: Maja Lindström
Operational developer Konstfrämjandet:
Text contributors: Karin Bähler Lavér, Emily Fahlén, Asrin Haidari, Edi Muka, Benjamin Wagner
Translator: Kristian Vistrup Madsen
Arjeplogs Art Association, Diös Vita Duvan, Filmform, Galleri Syster, Gällivare Municipality, Gällivare Museum, Havremagasinet Regional Art Gallery, IASPIS, KKV Luleå, The Night Festival in Korpilombolo, Ljudbang, LTU, Art Gallery Luleå, Norrbotten Museum, ArtNorth, The Silver Museum, Public Art Agency Sweden, Swedish Lapland AiR, Luleå Theater Academy, The Academy of Fine Arts in Umeå.
THANKS TO Agentur, Blackis Svartöstan, Margaretha Bähler Lavér, Sara Edström, Ege Carpets, Genelec, Ulf Friberg, Markus Gustafsson, Petter Hallén, Hanna Isaksson, Stefan Jonsson, Jiab Hyrcenter Gällivare, Kalles Bud, Kilen Art Group, Staffan Lamm, Birgitta Lindström, Medicinhistoriska museet, Michele Masucci, Nova Stage Gällivare, Paulina Sokolow, Maria Udén, Dag Udén, David Väyrynen, Kerstin Wixe, Wange skog Gällivare, Navid Zanjani, XL BYGG Luleå/Gällivare.
Luleå Municipality, Swedish Arts Council, Region Norrbotten, Saha, The Nordic Culture Fund, Sparbanken Nord.
Lulu is how Luleå first appeared in writing in 1327, a name of Sami origin that can be translated as “Eastern Water”. This is the title of the Luleå Biennial’s journal, fiirst published in conjunction with the Luleå Biennial 2018. For this years edition of the biennial readers are offered different points of entry to the biennial’s overall theme: realism today. The Lulu journal is made by the biennial’s artistic and invited guest editors. It is published here on the biennial’s website and can be downloaded for printing. Design: Aron Kullander-Östling & Stina Löfgren.
Radio 65.22 is an auditory cross section of the biennial’s theme and contents, which amplifies and makes accessible written texts, framed situations and artistic voices. Radio 65.22 also enables an encounter with chosen parts of the Luleå Biennial’s activities for those who cannot experience the biennial in situ.
With Radio 65.22, we want to inscribe ourselves into an experimental and exploratory radio tradition, where the media itself becomes a platform for our ideas on radio and its capacity to depict and mirror the world around us. The task of Radio 65.22 is to tell of reality, in further ways that may not be possible through the image or the text.
Under Fragments: Time on Earth you will find radio programmes and sound pieces in different genres and forms that reflect this year’s biennial in various ways. Spirit of Place is a touring series of literary conversations on language and place. The culture journalist Kerstin Wixe takes us along to places that have played a significant part in an author’s stories, or carries the story’s history. Woven Songs is a deepening series of radio programmes that accentuate singing, the voice and the role of storytelling in the creation of new world views and orders.
Listen, reflect, enjoy!