By Svetlana Usenyuk-Kravchuk, Head of the Arctic Design School and Senior Research Fellow, National Research Tomsk State University and
Timo Jokela, Lead of the UArctic Thematic Network on Arctic Sustainable Arts and Design, Professor, University of Lapland
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed development targets also in the collaboration of the UArctic Thematic Network on Arctic Sustainable Arts and Design (ASAD) to improve long-distance sharing of arts and design education, research, and results. At a time when so many once-available tangible objects and socializing practices suddenly became inaccessible, we turned “compulsory digitization” into a versatile tool to efficiently reach out to both theorists and practitioners as well as to the audience during the lockdown.
The team of the Arctic Design School in Yekaterinburg, Russia (ASAD member since 2017) organized an international online exhibition as part of a larger research project on Arctic design, supported by the Russian Science Foundation. The exhibition aimed at continuing the educational and artistic activities of the ASAD network through providing a broad overview of socially engaged art and design across the Arctic. Due to the virtual nature of the event, the variety of accepted media was initially limited to photography, digital graphic, digital visual design, and video.
The very idea of the exhibition Arctic Makes: Observations, Lessons, and Solutions from the Geographic Periphery came from The Indigenuity Project by artists Joar Nango and Silje Figenschou Thoresen. In 2010–2012, they conducted a journey through northern parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway to examine the concept of indigenuity – the local and indigenous ingenuity in everyday design in severe Arctic conditions.
In our exhibition, we picked up where they left off and put the investigation of the local and vernacular design tradition on a new level to discuss what artists and designers could learn from encounters with Arctic environments and their inhabitants; how they could creatively and ethically utilize local knowledge; and how to integrate this knowledge into the art and design educational practice.
We encouraged the widest possible understanding of the theme of Arctic creativity and inventiveness that brought together, contrasted and confronted the following viewpoints:
- Art and design in the Arctic: a purely geographic association based on what the land can provide
- Art and design together with the Arctic: mutually beneficial collaboration between the land and the people with emphasis on inclusive participation
- Art and design in the Arctic: ideas, technologies and know-how that the Arctic region can export to the rest of the world, particularly in respect of more sustainable and caring use of resources
As a result, 29 artists, designers and researchers from ten countries presented their answers to the questions of the creative and ethical use of local knowledge, integration of this knowledge into art and design education, and support and popularization of this knowledge and skills on the local level.
In the situation where our settled mode of thinking and acting turned fragile and unstable, these diverse artistic and designerly representations of the Arctic provided an exceptional window into the world where isolation, fragility and uncertainty are parts of everyday being.
View the exhibition online at https://arcticdesignresearch.ru/en/exhibitions/sdelano-v-arktike-nablyudeniya-uroki-i-resheniya-s-geograficheskoy-periferii/