The Art of Nordic Colonialism: Writing Transcultural Art Histories
The Art of Nordic Colonialism brings together researchers, curators, and artists working on art and visual culture related to Nordic colonial projects in the Caribbean, West Africa, India, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Sápmi.
Since the fall of 2019 the project has examined the contact zones between colonial histories and art histories in a Nordic context, and created platforms for analyzing and discussing the role colonialism has had on the creation and reception of art and art histories across the Nordic countries and their former colonies from the 1600s up until the present.
Artists took active part in Nordic imperialist projects from the 17th century and onwards, either as participants in colonial expeditions, as 'tourists' and travellers, or as onlookers from home. At the same time, colonized subjects used aesthetic practices in their resistance to colonial rule. Yet, art and visual culture pertaining to Nordic colonial histories have previously received surprisingly little scholarly attention and remain to be properly accounted for.
The project’s contention is that the political investment in narratives of national and cultural homogeneity in the Nordic region have overshadowed the traditions of transcultural exchange, influence, and conflict engrained in histories of colonial encounters. The colonial inflection of the definition of art has also framed aesthetic practices by the colonized as 'ethnographica' to be studied by anthropologist not art historians. Aesthetic materials and practices relating to colonial history have rarely entered national art collections but have ended up in institutions such as ethnographic collections or maritime museums – if historicized at all. Questioning the conceptual boundaries of ‘art’, this research project moves beyond nationalized art histories and their colonial legacies in order to develop new transcultural and decolonial approaches to historical engagement with art and visual culture.
The Art of Nordic Colonialism brings together researchers working with art archives and materials primarily related to Danish-Norwegian colonial projects in the Caribbean, India, West Africa, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Sápmi, and Swedish colonial projects in the Caribbean, West Africa and Sápmi from the 17th century and onwards. In dialogue with theoretical discussions in fields such as global art history, decolonial studies, postcolonial studies, and indigenous studies, the project seeks to develop new conceptual and methodological approaches to the writing of transcultural art histories, attentive to processes of cultural syncretism, aesthetic exchange and cultural amalgamation. The research project not only seeks to foster new research, it also seeks to act as an agent of capacity building in the museum sector by stimulating the development of new curatorial and communicative strategies for working with transcultural perspectives and colonial histories.
June 2023: Special Issue of Konsthistorisk tidskrift / Journal of Art History
The research group has edited a special issue of the Swedish art historical journal Konsthistorisk tidskrift / Journal of Art History entitled “The Art of Nordic Colonialism”. The issue includes an introductory essay by Mathias Danbolt and Bart Pushaw, academic peer-reviewed articles by Monica Grini, Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen, David W. Norman, Bart Pushaw & Isabelle Gapp, and a review by Siv Rasmussen. The issue will be available on the journal’s website.
March 3, 2023: Confronting Coloniality: Trans-Cultural Connections in the Faroe Islands and Beyond
TANC members Bart Pushaw and Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen co-organized with Vár Eydnudóttir the one-day seminar “Confronting Coloniality: Trans-Cultural Connections in the Faroe Islands and Beyond” at the Norðurlandahúsið in Tórshavn. The program included contributions from Nivi Christensen, Kalpana Vijayavarathan, Bart Pushaw, Malan Marnersdóttir, Nina Cramer, Kim Simonsen, Aká Hansen, Jóhan Martin Christiansen, Kinna Poulsen, Laila Mote, Vár Eydnudóttir, Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen, and Isabelle Gapp.
December 13, 2022: Guest lecture with Professor Mårten Snickare “Colonial Objects in Early Modern Sweden and Beyond: From the Kunstkammer to the Current Museum Crisis”
In this lecture Mårten Snickare presented his new book that focuses on objects acquired in colonial contact zones and displayed by Swedish elites in the seventeenth century. Colonial Objects in Early Modern Sweden and Beyond (Amsterdam UP, 2022) situates colonial objects in two distinct but related spaces – the expanding space of the colonial world, and the exclusive space of the Kunstkammer – and traces the objects’ physical and epistemological transfer into the modern museum system, where they remain at the center of heated debates over the present state of museums, and their possible futures.
Mårten Snickare is Professor of Art History at Stockholm University and Administrative Director of Accelerator, an exhibition space where art and science meet. He has published extensively on Swedish and European Baroque art and architecture, and colonial objects in museums and other collections.
August 31, 2022: New Article by TANC-members: “I kontaktzonen mellem kunsthistorie og kolonihistorie” in Periskop: Forum for kunsthistorisk debat
The co-authored article by Mathias Danbolt, Nina Cramer, Emil Elg, Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen and Bart Pushaw “I kontaktzonen mellem kunsthistorie og kolonihistorie” now available in Periskop’s special issue in “Art History Today”. Read the article.
April 27-May 6 2022: TANC- Stream at the SASS 2022 Conference in Puerto Rico and Study Trip to the USVI
In April 2022 TANC contributed to the annual conference of SASS (Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies) with the conference stream “The Visual Undercurrents of Nordic Colonialism” with papers by Marlene Broemer, Tone Haugland Sørensen, Joseph Gonzalez, Øystein Sjåstad, Janet Cook-Rutnik, Kurt G. Marsh Jr., Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen, Emil Elg, Bart Pushaw, Mathias Danbolt, Anna Jörngården, Morten Larsen, Erica Johnson, Nikolaj Nielsen and Marianne Stecher-Hansen. After the conference network members went on a six days research trip to the US Virgin Islands and had meetings with artists, curators, scholars, and community organizers including La Vaughn Belle, Frandelle Gerard / CHANT, Janet Cook-Rutnik, David Knight Jr., Priscilla, Monica Marin, David Berg, and more.
February 4, 2022: PhD defence: Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen, “The Museum of Discomfort: Exhibiting Colonial Histories at the Statens Museum for Kunst” at University of Copenhagen, Denmark
TANC-research group member Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen defended her PhD dissertation “The Museum of Discomfort: Exhibiting Colonial Histories at the Statens Museum for Kunst”. The committee was comprised of Mårten Snickare (Stockholm University), Chiara de Cesari (University of Amsterdam), and Anne Folke Henningsen (University of Copenhagen).
The thesis examines the interlinkages between art museums and colonialism with a particular focus on the SMK – the National Gallery of Denmark. On one level, the thesis analyses how colonial history has appeared in both historical and contemporary exhibitions. On another level, the thesis discusses how to analyse and work within the intersecting fields of art history, museology, and studies of colonial history: how should one approach it, what should one look for, and how should one account for the changing historical foundations for how colonial history has appeared?
October 28-31, 2021: “Reflecting Nuuk Nordic” – Seminar series during Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival 2021
TANC returned to Nuuk Culture Festival in 2021 with a four-day curated program organized in collaboration between the Sámi artist collective Dáiddadállu and Nuuk Art Museum. The program included contributions from Dine Arnannguaq Fenger Lynge, Máret Ánne Sara, Ánne Kátjá Gaup, Nivi Christensen, Hilde Skancke Pedersen, Elle Márjá Eira, Marte Lill Somby, Jukke Rosing, Ivínguak’ Storck Høegh, Temi Odumosu, Nina Cramer, Jeannette Ehlers, Lili Frederiksen Chemnitz, Tonje Bøe Birkeland, Dorthe Aagesen, Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen, Hans Lange, Sandra Márjá West, Jonas Nilsson, Maria Utsi, Amund Sjølie Sveen, Susanne Hætta, Jessie Kleemann, Hans Ragnar Mathisen, Joar Nango, Julia Pars, Sylvian Cornau, Mathias Danbolt, Bart Pushaw, Åsa Bharathi Larsson, Inge Seiding, Ann-Sofie Gremaud.
October 29, 2021: Premiere on visual essay Call of the Cold (2021) by Temi Odumosu and Nina Cramer
Call of the Cold is an experimental video essay produced as part of The Art of Nordic Colonialism research project for Nuuk Nordic 2021. We follow the traces and archival impressions left by Black explorers who travelled to Greenland and witness their radical hope under extreme conditions: harsh weather, prejudice, migration experience, and coloniality.
The film’s research genesis was Olaudah Equiano’s impassioned description in The Interesting Narrative (1789) of his travel to Greenland, as part of an expedition seeking an arctic route to Asia. Although a relatively short reference in the context of his abolitionist biography, the text provided an intriguing opening for thinking about how researchers navigate presences and absences whilst studying colonialism: What are our biases and expectations? Are there other kinds of erasures that can happen when we are not paying attention? Where are the (hi)stories that slip through the cracks?
Working with Saidiya Hartman’s concept of “critical fabulation”, alongside Anne Gilliland and Michelle Caswell’s “imagined records”, the film furthermore functions as an unfolding proposition, testing out how multiple narratives and archival materials might be recomposed to produce a shared record – a Black Arctic Record that articulates emancipatory dreams and resonates across space and through time. Call of the Cold is written and curated by Temi Odumosu and Nina Cramer. Visual consultant and production by Laura Hae Na Blankholm. Readings by Aka Niviâna Mørch Pedersen.
August 21, 2021: Release of special issue “Sorthed” (Blackness) of the art history journal Periskop: Forum for kunsthistorisk debat
The special issue “Sorthed” (Periskop, #25), is edited by TANC-members Nina Cramer, Emil Elg, and Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen. The issue includes contributions from Elizabeth Löwe Hunte, Mikas Lang, Juputer Child, Marrinage, Sall Lam Toro, La Vaughn Belle & Jeannette Ehlers, Camilla Klitgaard Laursen, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Bart Pushaw, Emil Elg, Jan-Therese Mendes, Lea Hee Ja Kramhøft, Chalana Brown, Ayana Omilade Flewellen, Helene Engnes Birkeli, Christine Horwitz Tommerup, Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen. Access the issue.
June 9-11, 2021: Panel organized at the conference Greenland-Denmark 1721-2021, Aalborg University, Denmark.
TANC-members Bart Pushaw and Nivi Christensen organized the panel "Greenland Exhibited and Collected: Museums and the Mediation of Colonial Knowledge" with presentations by Nivi Christensen, Ingeborg Høvik, and Bart Pushaw. The panel was moderated by Kirstine Møller and Mathias Danbolt.
May 28, 2021: PhD defence for David W. Norman: "Land, Technology and the Rise of Experimental Art in Post-Home Rule Greenland" at University of Copenhagen, Denmark
TANC-research group member David W. Norman defended his PhD dissertation "Land, Technology and the Rise of Experimental Art in Post-Home Rule Greenland" on Friday May 28. The committee was comprised of Erik Gant, Jessica L. Horton and Mikkel Bolt.
May 21, 2021: TANC-panel at SASS 2021: Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies
Three TANC members presented papers at SASS 2021 in the stream “Firing the Scandinavian Canon” organized by Øystein Sjåstad, MaryClaire Pappas and Patricia Berman. The presenters included: Bart Pushaw: “Black Sápmi’s Fugitive Contours”, Monica Grini, “Differencing Canons: Sámi and Norwegian Art History”, and Mathias Danbolt, “The Art of Norwegianization”.
April 9, 2021: TANC Online Lecture Series: Dr. Liisa-Rávná Finbog: “It Speaks to You: Making Kin of People, Duodji, and Stories in Sámi Museums”, University of Copenhagen (Zoom)
Dr. Liisa-Rávná Finbog’s lecture was based on her recent PhD dissertation, “It Speaks to You: Making Kin of People, Duodji and Stories in Sámi Museums” (2021) where she explores the Indigenization of form, material and method through the practice of duodji. Traditionally, duodji has been defined as Sámi “craft”, but Finbog redefines the practice of duodji as an important Sámi epistemology of aesthetics and storytelling. Using the practices, materials and relations of Sámi duodji as a lens, she examines multiple topics of indigenization and decolonization within museums and cultural heritage institutions, including the histories of disposession, cultural erasure and epistemicide that have shaped, and continue to shape the Indigenous Sámi experience.
March-April, 2021: TANC-contributions to the online lecture series “Whose North? Art History and Visual Studies Lecture Series”
Three TANC members contributed to the online lecture series “Whose North? Art History and Visual Studies Lecture Series” organized by Øystein Sjåstad (University of Oslo, Norway), Patricia Berman (Wellesley College), and MaryClaire Pappas (Indiana University Bloomington). On March 24, 2021, Dr. Temi Osumosu presented the lecture “Who is the Subject? Wilhelm Marstrand’s portrait of Justina Antoine and other images”. On March 30, 2021 Dr. Monica Grini presented the lecture “Sámi Art and the Poetics and Politics of Norwegian Art History”, and on April 7, 2021, Mathias Danbolt presented the lecture “Redrawing Borders: Methodological Nationalism and the Redistribution of Responsibilities in Nordic Colonial Art Histories”.
March 18, 2021: TANC Online Lecture Series: Dr. Moa Sandström, “Framing Decolonization Through Sami Activism and Research”, University of Copenhagen, Zoom
Moa Sandström presented her recent PhD dissertation undertaken with four contemporary Sámi artists/artivists between 2014-2017: artivist Jenni Laiti (including Suohpanterror), poet Timimie Märak, painter/street artist Anders Sunna and joiker Jörgen Stenberg. Sandström gave an overview of the research findings, and elaborated on how she perceives that discourse around “the Sámi” and decolonial terminology has changed in Sweden as a possible result of Sámi artivism during the past decade.
March 3, 2021: Mathias Danbolt and Joar Nango: “Hanging out in Girjegumpi: A Conversation on Colonial Knowledge and Indigenous Practice”, Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Oslo, Norway.
This conversation took its starting point in Sámi architect and artist Joar Nango’s ongoing project Girjegumpi (2018–), a mobile Sámi architectural library which addresses issues related to topics including indigenous architecture, resistance, and decolonization.
November 5, 2020: Panel organized at the conference EadnámetMaid, organized by the Sámi artist collective Dáiddadállu, Alta, Sápmi/Norway, November 5-6, 2020.
Our contribution to the EadnámetMaid-conference included the panel “The art of Nordic Colonialism: From Colonial Knowledges to Decolonial Practice”, with presentations Mathias Danbolt, Britt Kramvig, Joar Nango and Nivi Christensen.
October 31, 2020: Seminar “Colonial Reverberations from Knud Leem to Block P”, Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen
Panel organized in conjunction with Joar Nango’s exhibition “Festspillutstillingen” (2020) at Bergen Kunsthall with Joar Nango, Mathias Danbolt and Tone Huse, moderated by Hanne Hammer Stien. The conversation focused on the long-term collaboration between Sámi artist and architect Joar Nango and Danbolt and Huse, including the research collaboration around the work of the Danish missionary Knud Leem that Danbolt and Nango has collaborated on in the context of “The Art of Nordic Colonialism”. Watch a recording of the panel.
June 20, 2020: Network Meeting on Zoom
Network meeting for The Art of Nordic Colonialism with guest lecture by Dr. Martha Fleming on the project FIELD/WORK in the ARCHIVE, Natural History Museum of Denmark.
March 3, 2020: Public Seminar: “At tage historien tilbage / Reclaiming History”, Forfatterskolen, Copenhagen
Seminar on artistic responses to the persistent settler colonization of Sápmi with focus on questions of political and narrative sovereignty. Lecture by Joar Nango, presentation and film screening of Dalvedh (2014) by Sissel M. Bergh, readings by Sigbjørn Skåden. Organized by Mathias Danbolt.
March 2, 2020: Workshop on Sámi Literature at Forfatterskolen, Copenhagen
Workshop at Forfatterskolen/The Writers’ School on Sámi literature and literary history by author Sigbjørn Skåden. Organized by Mathias Danbolt and Ursula Ankjær Olsen.
December 3 & 4, 2019: Network meeting for “The Art of Nordic Colonialism” in Copenhagen
The network meeting included a visit to The Study Room at the Drawing and Graphics Collection to see SMK’s collection of art from Greenland (presented by Hanne Kolind Poulsen and Birgitte Anderberg), a meeting with artist Anne Haaning in her exhibition Hald Hidden at Den Frie Udstillingsbygning, a visit to The Royal Danish Library’s Collection of drawings, maps, and photographs (presented by Mette Kia Krabbe Meyer), a visit to the National Museum’s Arctic Exhibition (presented by Senior Researcher Martin Appelt), and the exhibition Threshold(s), at CAMP / Center for Art on Migration Politics (presented by Temi Odumosu).
October 7 & 9, 2019: Kick-off conference: “The Art of Nordic Colonialism: Writing Transcultural Art Histories”
At Ilisimatusarfik – University of Greenland & Nuuk Art Museum. The conference was organized in conjunction with Nuuk Nordisk Culture Festival in Nuuk.
The two-day conference that introduced “The Art of Nordic Colonialism” research project included lectures, panels, discussions, student presentations, and performances with contributions from Jessie Kleemann, Jeannette Ehlers, Elina Waage Michaelsen, David Norman Winfield, Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen, Nina Cramer, Dorthe Aagesen, Randi Godø, Bart Pushaw, Temi Odumosu, Mathias Danbolt, Ebbe Volquardsen, Silke Reeploeg, Berda Larsen, Åsa Bharathi Larsson, Monica Grini, Maya Sialuk Jacobsen, Kristine Møller, Lill-Ann Körber, Inuuteq Storch, and Hanne Bruun.
- Nina Cramer, Emil Elg & Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen, “Temaintroduktion: Sorthed”, Periskop – Forum for kunsthistorisk debat 25, 2021, 5–11.
- Mathias Danbolt, Mette Kia Krabbe Meyer & Bart Pushaw, eds. Unfinished Histories: Art, Memory, and the Visual Politics of Coloniality, Aarhus University Press, forthcoming in 2024.
- Mathias Danbolt, Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen, Bart Pushaw, Monica Grini and Åsa Bharathi Larsson, eds. “The Art of Nordic Colonialism”, special issue of Konsthistorisk tidskrift / Journal of Art History, June 2023.
- Mathias Danbolt, Nina Cramer, Emil Elg, Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen & Bart Pushaw, “I kontaktzonen mellem kunsthistorie og kolonihistorie”, Periskop #27, 2022.
- Mathias Danbolt & Joar Nango, ”Å snakke seg varm: En samtale i Girjegumpi” / “Liekkus ságastallan Girjegumppis”, Huksendáidda: Arkitektuvra Sámis / Arkitektur i Sápmi / Architecture in Sápmi (Tromsø: Orkana, 2022), 12-20.
- Mathias Danbolt & Jacob Wamberg, “Fireburn genantændt: Dialogkaffe om I Am Queen Mary”, Litteratur, identitetspolitik og kunstens autonomi. Adam Paulsen & Leander Møller Gøttcke (eds.), Copenhagen: U Press, 2022, 261-293.
- Mathias Danbolt: “Grænsen går her: Metodisk nationalisme og omfordeling af ansvar i historieskrivningen om koloniseringen af Sápmi”, Globale og postkoloniale perspektiver, eds. Søren Ruud and Søren Ivarssen. Århus: Aarhus University Press, 2021, 196-235.
- Mathias Danbolt: “Exhibition Addresses: The Production of Publics in Exhibitions on Colonial History”, Curatorial Challenges, eds. Malene Vest Hansen and Anne Folke Henningsen (New York. Routledge, 2019), 65-78.
- Ann-Sofie Gremaud, ”Krænkelse, moderstolthed og vrede islændinge: Mediedebatten om koloniudstillingen 1905”, Kultur & Klasse 133, 2022.
- Ann-Sofie Gremaud, “Festtid, krisetid og kolonitid”, Globale og postkoloniale perspektiver, eds. Søren Ruud and Søren Ivarssen. Århus: Aarhus University Press, 2021.
- Ann-Sofie Gremaud and Kirsten Thisted, Denmark and the New North Atlantic, Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2020.
- Monica Grini “Arresting Actors: A Sámi Drum and its Complex Relations”. Konsthistorisk tidskrift / Journal of Art History, 2, 2023.
- Monica Grini, ”Kunsten å vende hjem: Lars Hættas miniatyrduodji”, Kunst og kultur, 2-3, 2021, 158 – 171.
- Monica Grini “Sámi (re)presentation in a differentiating museumscape: Revisiting the art-culture system”, Nordisk Museologi, 3, 2019, 169 – 185.
- Monica Grini ”Så fjernt det nære: Nasjonalmuseet og samisk kunst”, Kunst og kultur. 3:102, 2019, 176 – 190.
- Lill-Ann Körber: “Exceptionalisms and Entanglements. Legacies and Memories of Scandinavian Colonial History”, Scandinavian Exceptionalisms: Culture, Society, Discourse, eds., Jens Bjerring-Hansen & Anna Estera Mrozewicz, Berlin: Berliner Beiträge zur Skandinavistik, 2021, 183-204.
- Lill-Ann Körber, “Sweden and St. Barthélemy: Exceptionalisms, whiteness, and the disappearance of slavery from colonial history”, Scandinavian Studies, 94:1-2, 2019, 74-97.
- Åsa Bharathi Larsson, “Colonial Fantasies: Exotic and Oriental Motifs in the Swedish Illustrated Press in the Late Nineteenth Century”, Media History, 2023.
- Mette Kia Krabbe Meyer & Temi Odumosu, “One-Eyed Archive: Metadata Reflections on the USVI Photographic Collections at The Royal Danish Library”, Digital Culture & Society, 6:2, 2020.
- David W. Norman, “Primary Colors for the Fourth World: The Nonfigurative Sovereignty of Synnøve Persen and Frederik “Kunngi” Kristensen” Konsthistorisk tidskrift / Journal of Art History, 2023.
- David W. Norman, “Jessie Kleemann between Orsoq and Turpentine”, A Cultural History of the Avant-Garde in the Nordic Countries Since 1975, eds Laura Luise Schultz and Tania Ørum, Leiden: Brill, 2022, 304-321.
- David W. Norman, ““Land, Technology and the Rise of Experimental Art in Post-Home Rule Greenland”, PhD Dissertation, University of Copenhagen, 2021.
- Temi Osumosu, “The Crying Child: On Colonial Archives, Digitization, and Ethics of Care in the Cultural Commons”. Current Anthropology, 61:22, 2020, 289-302.
- Temi Osumosu, “What Lies Unspoken: A Remedy for Colonial Silences in Denmark”. Third Text 33, 2019, 615–629.
- Bart Pushaw, “Coloniality at Global Scales: Reframing the Nineteenth-Century Exhibition Image”, Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis. 105, 2022, 82-104.
- Bart Pushaw, “Blackness at the Edge of the World: Making Race in the Colonial Arctic”, Forum for Kunsthistorisk Debat, 25, 2021, 60-75.
- Bart Pushaw, “Poq's Temporal Sovereignty and the Inuit Printing of Colonial History”, Journal18 - A Journal of Eighteenth-Century Art and Culture, 12, 2021.
- Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen, “The Museum of Discomfort : Exhibiting Colonial Histories at the Statens Museum for Kunst”, PhD dissertation, University of Copenhagen, 2022.
- Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen, ”Rose dækker bord”, Periskop: Forum for kunsthistorisk debat, 25, 2021, 20-27.
|Nivi Katrine Christensen||Director||Nuuk Art Museum|
|Gunvor Guttorm||Professor||Sámi University of Applied Science|
|Monica Grini||Postdoc||University of Agder|
|Ann-Sofie Nielsen Gremaud||Associate Professor||University of Iceland, Reykjavik|
|Temi Odumosu||Assistant Professor||University of Washington Information School|
|Åsa Bharathi Larsson||Associate Professor||Södertörns högskola|
|Dorthe Aagesen||Senior Curator||SMK – National Gallery of Denmark|
|Randi Godø||Curator||National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Norway|
|Lill-Ann Körber||Professor||Aarhus University, Denmark|
|Mette Kia Krabbe Meyer||Senior Research Fellow||Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen|
|David Norman Winfield||Postdoc||University of Michigan|
|Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen||Postdoc||Aarhus University|