– Arctic Action selection
Antonín Brinda

With my selection of performances from the Arctic Action (AA), I wanted to present the diversity of the festival. A significant portion of the AA artists consist of established performers whose work has strong visual qualities, the key elements in their performances are their bodies and a few carefully selected objects and the aspect of endurance might be playing a significant role. The screening also features selected performances of the festival’s main organizer and Svalbard native, Stein Henningsen. He stands firmly in this tradition of the endurance and minimalist performance art – with the help of his body and simple objects expressing the exceptional beauty and roughness of Svalbard’s nature.

But the Arctic Action expands this tradition. For example, the featured performance of Ali-Al Fatlawi and Wathiq Al-Ameri shows that the natural scenery of Svalbard can become also a stage for politically loaded works. That is even more clear with the performance of Raeda Saadeh who departs totally from the endurance and body-focused performance art. Instead, a spoken word is here at the center of her attention with the remote area of the archipelago symbolizing peoples and areas who are overlooked by the big centers of political power.

Finally, the festival is a specific hybrid that is partially intended for the local visitors, partially designed for international audiences with the performances captured on video and disseminated via online platforms. The video-documentation tries to be mostly rather invisible, putting the performances themselves at the forefront. But in cases the resulting video-performance functions as a unique art piece on its own. A performance by Nigel Rolfe is one such an example with the video slowed down and a hypnotic sound added (in one of its versions). The performance of Anne Rochat in Pyramiden, an abandoned mining town in Svalbard, goes even further with the artist using a GoPro camera when performing. By switching between the full shot and the GoPro, together with Rochat’s specific costume and her way of behaving, the video refers to the aesthetics of role-playing video games.

The whole selection concludes with the beautiful and absurd work of Kurt Johannesen, a prove that humor permeates even the uncompromising environment of the distant North.

Enjoy the screening!

Stein Henningsen (NO)

is a performance artist living on the arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Since 2005, he has presented his work at many biennials, festivals, and events in Scandinavia, Europe, North America, and Asia. Henningsen is influenced by photography, thinking of his performances as vivid images or visual poetry. His work addresses political, social, financial, and climate issues in a contemporary context.

His first major work was produced in 2005, when Henningsen toured Europe with “Crosses of Liberty” (installation and performance), which was a small military cemetery of life-size reproductions of the American cemeteries in Normandy (www.crosessofliberty.com).

Henningsen´s goal is to create provocative images that resonate with his audiences, causing them to reflect on their complicity with regard to global issues. He is currently working on several new major projects that continue to focus on the current state of our planet, specifically on climate change and the challenges we face. As Henningsen lives in the Arctic where climate change occurs at an accelerated rate, he is acutely aware of the reality of those challenges.
“Today we are living with the result of choices made by our ancestors. As we lay the foundation for our children and future generations, it is critically important that we now make wise decisions about how we live and how we govern ourselves.”…

Nigel Rolfe (IE)

Born in 1950, lives and works in Dublin.
Nigel Rolfe has been active as a performance artist since the 1970s, more recently moving into photography and video, though nearly always trading in images relating to his performance work, or to specific objects used in his performances. He has developed an international reputation over the last 30 years for his careful execution of aesthetic gesture through the interaction between his body and the material world. Rolfe’s work encompasses many media that include sound and audio production, video and photography. His primary reputation for the past thirty years is working live, making performances throughout Europe, and the former Eastern Block, North America and Japan. He has participated in the Biennales of Kwangju in 1997 and Sao Paulo in 1998. His retrospective exhibition Archive was shown at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1994, and Nigel Rolfe Videos 1983 – 1996 was exhibited as an installed retrospective at The Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1996.
He is Visiting Professor in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art in London, and Senior Visiting Critic to postgraduate fine art courses in the United States and Europe. In the 1980s and 90s he worked with the pan-European group Black Market International.
Since the late 1990s he has made solo performances in Ireland at the National Sculpture Factory in Cork in 1998, the Cork Film Centre in 2002, The Church Gallery, Limerick in 2003 and Mount Shannon, Co. Clare in 2004 both as part of the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s National programme.

Ali Al-Fatlawi – Wathiq Al-Ameri (CH/IQ)

Lives and works in Zürich, Switzerland
Ali Al-Fatlawi & Wathiq Al-Ameri won the Price performance Switzerland in 2011, which was followed more recently with the prestigious Swiss Art Award 2012. awarded the Ali Al-Fatlawi & Wathiq Al-Ameri are based in Switzerland and collaborate together as part of the studio Urnamo founded in 2002. They have known each other since their childhood and they studied together at the Bagdad Arts Academy in Iraq. In 1994 they decided to set off on an Odyssey. With false papers and just three US dollars in their pockets they crossed the border into Jordan. There they worked as ‘Copyists’ – reproducing classic Arabic paintings and so earning enough money to travel to Sudan and take a truck through the Sahara, into Libya and finally to land in Switzerland. There the two artists founded the studio Urnamo with the idea of further developing their work through collaboration. Ali and Wathiq have already graduated from their studies at the F+F Art and Media Academy in Zurich.

Artists statement:
The performances, which we present since 10 years, all have the same basic idea. We want to find a material with which we are as another substance, and combine it with the locality, in order to display different images. Does it positively or negatively affect our work? That is questionable. Certain, however, is that the action by the many areas of content and other art works differ. The large volume of material that go from place and time and the inexhaustible possibilities of topics, always makes the actions renewable and expressive. The same work can be monotonous, although no changes in the resulting images can be perceived. In another art form, these images of a work are not possible.
We believe that the whole action art work is designed to present images; but also moments without images. Under this form of experimental work in our presentation: images, moments, change, and disappear only remaining in our memories. We hope that this is what the audience will come across. Together, all the images of an action target, our present topic. You will be welcomed by images through translated feelings and not through the intellect. This makes a pure mediation possible.

Raeda Saadeh (PS)

The woman as an occurring subject in my installations or performance work is represented as living in a state of occupation. This occupation or ‘occupying’ force is issued through political conditions within her environment and this results in influencing the otherwise peaceful quality of her world. There are both private and public elements that manipulate this world.

The occupying force has many facets: it can take the shape of physical tangible realities of the everyday, such as in a wall of concrete, a fence, a checkpoint, a curfew, a barrier of stone – or it can reassign it’s force unto a face of a child, a home, a language, and cultural, traditional expectations. There are limitations on her personal freedom as well: the woman, the mother, the lover, the guide, the protector. She seeks justice and longs for change. She is not blind to the opponents around her and pushes forward with enduring strength – and at times, she feels that it is almost as if she has to assume a sort of madness in her behavior so that she can live unharmed by oppression, in an attempt to always protect those she loves from negative forces of fear.

In my art works, the woman I represent lives in a world that attacks her values, her love, her spirit on a daily basis, and for this reason, she is in a state of occupation – and her world could be here in Palestine or elsewhere; and despite all, she looks towards her future with a smile.

The subject/woman I represent in the majority of my work is weighed down with oppression but is filled with ambition; she is saner than she should be and yet she is also a little mad. She is both fragile and strong, she is fully aware and responsive, and she is constantly on the move. And every move she makes, every act, is an act that exhibits awareness towards her surrounding environment, while simultaneously being an act of revolt towards social orders/conditions.

Raeda Sa’adeh (Palestine) was born in Um El Fahem in 1977, and received her BFA and MFA from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. She was the winner of the first Young Artist of the Year Award organised by the A.M.Qattan Foundation in 2000. Her work in photography, performance and video has been exhibited widely internationally in Europe and the US. Recent exhibitions include ‘Re-Orientations’ at the European Parliament, Brussels; ‘No Man’s Land’, at the GEMAK Museum, The Hague, Holland; ‘In Transit’, House of World Culture, Berlin; ‘Biennal Cuvee’, OK Centre, Lens, Austria (all 2008); Infr’action Festival International d’Art Performance, Se’te, France; and ‘About Time 2’, Kunstmuseum, Denmark (2007). Her work was included in the Sydney Biennial of 2006 and the Sharjah Biennial 8, 2007. She lives and works in Jerusalem. In 2015, Al-Monitor considered her among 50 people shaping the culture of the Middle East.


Anne Rochat (CH)

Anne Rochat was born in 1982 in Vallée de Joux, Switzerland.
She positions the human body at the centre of her artistic work, a body flexible and strong, subtle and athletic, wild and acrobatic. Her postures are incongruous and a little absurd and lead her into offbeat situations, she expresses herself with forbidden gestures we can only dream of engaging in ourselves. The artist takes her position through actions both sensual and powerful, mellow and savage, disturbing, sometimes funny and always informed by rigouruous aesthetic discipline. Spectacular without being a spectacle, the live art performances of Anne Rochat invite us to marvel.

Rochat travelled widely in Asia, prior to her studies at Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne(ECAL). In 2011-2012, she took up an art residence in Varanasi. India, followed by a year long stint at the Swiss Institute of Rome(ISR). She has been awarded many notable prices including Prix Irène Reymond(2013), Prix Kiefer Hablitzel(2012), Bourse culturelle du Canton de Vaud(2011), Bourse culturelle de la Fondation Leenaards(2010), Swiss Awards, Art Basel(2010).

Kurt Johannessen (NO)

Born in 1960, lives and works in Bergen.
Kurt Johannessen works with performance and installation art. Today he is one of Scandinavia’s major performance artists and is prominent on the international scene. Since the beginning of the 1980s he has produced approximately 160 different works and has had more than 300 presentations all over the world. His work is characterized by a minimalist and poetic presence.
In 2007 the Oslo contemporary art center, Kunstnernes Hus, presented a major retrospective on his work. In an essay on his performance work the Norwegian critic Audun Eckhoff writes:
“Kurt Johannessen’s art appears quiet-mannered, poetic, experimental. His actions and productions do not seem heavily loaded with significance, and can scarcely be said to hold the sort of specific meanings many of the well-known performances from the 1960s and ‘70s held. Nevertheless, his artistic practice – begun in the 1980s in an artistic outpost, with few parallels and precursors – is clearly anchored in the short tradition of performance art.”