Something’s growing in the Arctic
by Sangam Sharma
The exhibition will try to shift perspectives on the Arctic in three parts.
Something’s growing in the Arctic
Synonyms of growing (adj.)
burgeoning. developing. expanding. Flourishing, spreading.
An explorative journey and the attempt of a critical approach.
Defnition to explore (verb)
• to traverse or range over (a region, area, etc.) for the purpose of discovery: to explore the Arctic
• to look into closely; scrutinize; examine: Let us explore the possibilities for improvement
Referencing Edward Said’s critique of Orientalism, the Arctic is nothing more than a simplistic, concept
that compensates for a lack of knowledge by projecting a Western worldview onto a distant place (cf.
Arctic Culture Lab).
Since 2018, I have been traveling to areas beyond the Arctic Circle for my work. I have always had a
fascination with places that are close to the poles. This fascination is problematic because of the fabled
white male explorer myth and the associated colonisation and exoticisation of unknown worlds. Some
(wealthy, Western) women also embarked on such expeditions many years ago. Their legacy is as
problematic as it often goes hand in hand with a euro-centric gaze and the construction of a place. The
‘North’ still persists as a romantic symbol but the Arctic not white nor lifeless (cl. Chris J. Gismondi).
A critical refection of the past and questioning positions and narratives are indispensable, also
concerning one’s own point of view. Truths are relative to the imagination that invents them. It’s not the
content of experience that we end up with, but the structure of how we know something (Gretel Ehrlich).
Is it possible to explore in different ways and form sustainable transnational relationships to create (and
collaborate on) works that are not based on hierarchies or ideologies? What does responsibility look like
in artistic creation? What does my fondness and longing for unknown places say about my own identity
and how do I relate to the space I am in?
About the exhibition:
Room 1: Delusion – Arctic Madness (cf. Pierre Déléage)
An attempt to reframe Arctic expeditions and myth-making. Away from the search for the „white spots on
earth“ (the so called terra incognita) and towards a more differentiated view. One could argue the
explorers experienced their own white out’s before even entering Arctic ground – lost in their colonial
race, deluded by ideology and narcissistic traits. I aim to visually translate this via collages mixed with
texts and installation pieces.
Room 2: Illusion – A nostalgia for things that may have never existed
This part of the exhibition shows creatures, things and stories that I encountered during my time in Arctic
Norway which brought new perspectives and initiated further debate. This room mainly consists of
drawings, text, collages and photographs presented in the tradition of Scandinavian romantic landscape
paintings (which have shaped Nordic national identities). But underneath the stylised surface the story of
these places is resonating in the background. Their history is connected to its inhabitants but also linked
to Austria and the second World War. To this day there are many traces of the heavy destruction of
Northern-Norway by the Nazis which is still affecting land and people.
Room 3: Imagination – Everything is always becoming something else (Gretel Ehrlich)
The Arctic is not a white snow desert, but a busy place with very diverse populations. During my travels in
Finnmark/Arctic Norway I have encountered some of them in addition to so-called alien species, which
traveled via human hand and are now disturbing local ecosystems. I have also found many other things,
originating from humans in the tundra as well as in the Arctic Ocean. I referred to them as alien objects.
I would like to shift perspectives in a playful way. What happens when (Arctic) nature and alien species or
alien objects meet? What can come out of it? These pieces are meant to stimulate the imagination via
queer storytelling using utopia as a method with Ursula K. Le Guin and Donna Haraway in mind. The aim
is to show possibilities and highlight the impressive ability of ecosystems to regenerate. This gives hope
for coexistence on a very damaged planet. Here you’ll fnd a mix of sculptures and collage works as well
as photos true to the transmedia approach as applied in the whole show.
Sound artist Kasho Chualan will perform at the opening. Her sound explorations will incorporate feld
recordings I have made during my travels. Kasho’s atmospheric soundscapes are meant to stimulate the
senses and transport the audience to different, sometimes unexpected worlds.
She has been referred to as an antichrist of classical music, breaking borders of classical music by
manipulating it with an experimental, dreamlike, narrative and textural approach. Kasho Chualan is a
Kurdish-Canadian pianist and composer, currently based in Vienna. She is performing with the collective
Ausländer and other collaborative projects while composing and working on a solo record. See:
I am an independent artist and flmmaker based in Vienna.
My art incorporates a variety of interests and techniques. Exploring is key to my practise.
In recent years I have been thinking about the connection between places and identities, refecting on
possible homes and re-contextualizing environments and nature. I am trying to read my queer mixedheritage identity in line with a more global shift towards a nomadic sense of community, looking for
pockets of belonging in multiple places as a form to navigate this world (of ever growing insecurity). The
correlation between space and (physical) sound is particularly important in my video works, as is a queerfeminist perspective. Narratively the boundaries of the personal, memories and factual as well as
documentation, contemplation and fction are often blurred. I also try to refect how images can be shot
,composed and read as photography shapes perceptions of place, identity, history and memory. My mixed
media pieces explore togetherness in times of unrest. Small interventions using experimental
composition and queer storytelling, proposing a new outlook, a still manifest of otherness, creating
different worlds altogether.
More at: www.sangamsharma.com
Ane Huru Torseng
The people I have met in Finnmark who welcomed me and changed perspectives