This November, the Luleå Biennial welcomes visitors to one of the world’s northernmost art events. Budding into the arctic circle at Sweden’s border to Finland, the vast region of Norrbotten plays host, with its heavy industries, mining landscapes, high-tech research centers, unique nature and the historical homeland of the Sami people, Sapmi. 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 hyperlocal perspectives come together in site-specific installations. Outside of numerous exhibitions, the 2020 edition will also include a touring literature program, theater, 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, theater, magic and, not least, art itself.
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.
Venues: Luleå Art Center, the former prison Vita Duvan, Luleå University of Technology, the Storforsen waterfall, the Museum of Norrbotten, Galleri Syster, Havremagasinet Regional Art Center in Boden, the Arjeplog Silver Museum, Välkomma High School in Malmberget, and the Korpilombolo Night Festival.
The Luleå Biennial is a project by Konstfrämjandet, the People’s Movements for Art Promotion.
Participating artists: Dimen Abdulla, Linnea Axelsson, Chto Delat?, Elisabete Finger & Manuela Eichner, Giorgi Gago Gagoshidze, Aage Gaup, Beatrice Gibson, Apostolos Georgiou, Maria W Horn, Thomas Hämén, Susanna Jablonski, Ingela Johansson, Kapwani Kiwanga, Birgitta Linhart, Hanna Ljungh med Mattias Hållsten, Michele Masucci & Karl Sjölund, Fathia Mohidin, Santiago Mostyn, Christian Nyampeta, Ingrid Ogenstedt, Didem Pekün with KHORA, Charlotte Posenenske, Sofia Restorp, Iris Smeds, Augusta Strömberg, Cara Tolmie, Isak Sundström, Erik Thörnqvist, Tommy Tommie, Danae Valenza, Ana Vaz, Mats Wikström, Peter Weiss & Hans Nordenström, Måns Wrange, Markus Öhrn.
Curators: Karin Bähler Lavér, Emily Fahlén, Asrin Haidari.