The Nordic Summer University (NSU) is commissioning artistic projects, research projects and new collaborations around our historical archive in Copenhagen. We are seeking proposals for works which tracethe spread of NSU’s values across the world. The projects will culminate in a mini-festival in Norway in Summer 2020 to celebrate NSU’s 70thanniversary – truly the oldest Nordic institution of its kind!
PROPOSALS HAVE NOW BEEN CHOSEN
Watch this pace for the 10 Projects that will explore NSU’s history (see Ideas for Proposals for inspiration) through audio, films, writing, artworks and artistic experiments/interventions.
The first week has been spent driving on the roads of Minnesota and Wisconsin meeting the descendants of the Norwegians who lived in Oleana, the utopian colony founded by Norwegian violinist Ole Bull in Pennsylvania. Their forebears came in 1852 intending to settle in the Midwest. However, after disembarking in the New York harbour, they were sidetracked by Bull with promises of land and of a good life. The area around Blair and Whitehall in Wisconsin attracted a group of 8 families after the colony failed. For some of the descendants of these eight families the stories of how their ancestors came to America have been handed down, while others know very little other than they are connected to Norway. I met with descendants young and old in their homes and at the country fair of Black River Falls. I listened to their stories and looked at old family pictures.
Inflection is a process of word formation. It essentially means that a given word will be modified in order to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, mood, etc. Some languages are highly inflected, especially those closer to the Proto-Indo-European, such as Latin, Greek, Spanish, Biblical Hebrew, and other modern Romance languages, such as my own native one: European Portuguese. Others, like modern English and contemporary Scandinavian languages (Icelandic excluded), are markedly less so.
An example. In English you can start with “cat”. You need “cats” to convey plural. “Catty” to mark someone out as being prone to sly and spiteful remarks. “Categorical” to point out something or someone as an absolute, a sphynx-like mystery, standing in the deep silence of staring cats. “Concatenation” to single out a group that behaves not like a unity, but like an intensely telepathically linked hivemind, covertly scheming to rule your house from the catnip hangout. Oh, “catnip”, here we go…
In earnest or less so, one speaks of the inflection of a given voice. Some languages, like Maasai (spoken in Kenya and Tanzania), Tlatepuzco Chinantec (Southern Mexico) and Mandarin, are even prone to inflect using tone change alone, producing distinct meanings merely by the sonic variations of pronunciation of the same word. But when one speaks of the inflection of a given voice, one is bound in a specific conversation, meaning pouring from every corner of the acoustics of the room, or forest, or beach, or tunnel, or bunker, or airport lounge, or shopping mall, or school yard, or favourite waffle café.
Audio-books are all about inflection and situation. To have a text, in its literal complexity and unabbreviated glory, read out loud into your ears. Pages and pages and pages, every single one full of sentences and words and words, each of them inflected by a human being. An actor in a recording booth, a minor god of literature. A gift of meaningful sound. And the situation? That is all yours. Washing dishes, jogging, sitting in a couch, sharing an earbud with a significant other, playing it out loud so the cat can hear. (If at this stage you are, however understandingly, assuming I am a cat person you are severely skewed in your assumption.)
Books are dead things mostly built by now dead people. Or are they? Yes, they really are. Except… When they are being choreographed in someone’s mind and body, by a voice, be it inner, outer, or unqualifiedly all of the above. The browsing eye, skimming the contrasting surface of immovable tiny black bodies on white shores, the fingertips chasing bump after bump, ridge after ridge, or just fucking shutting up and paying attention, for as long as we can muster, creatures of distraction that we are.
There is an artistic project behind these gangly words, and it is about bring text into sound. It is called “Lived Anthologies”. It departs from NSU’s body of publications, produced between 2000 and 2018. I am reading all the texts, some closer than others. Out of the mess, and my own criteria, and a few opinions I will seek, a selection will come about. Around seven to ten pieces. And then we will go into compositional cacophony, and use every dirty trick and every available tool to turn these into sonic compositions, unabbreviated, messy enough, hopefully drinking deep enough of the original meaning to create other, unsuspected layers of relation between reader/listener and the words put down. Listening forward to it.
Into the forest will show a form of dialectic between nature, Art and time. The VR serves both as a perceptive experience of time – at a scale unknown to human, individual experience – and a reminder of what little time humanity has to act; to reflect on humanity’s impact on the environment.
Objects in the space will draw from the symbolic canon of Nordic and Celtic cultures from the past and their evolutions to the present. The piece will compose, in a playful and aesthetic way, original images or icons, by suggestion and association with the main tools of anachronism, eclecticism and accident.
The idea of creating purposefully ‘eclectic’ objects stems from the recent insights of Archaeological and anthropological studies that, contrary to popular beliefs, Nordic and Celtic cultures have always grown and evolved through the process of acculturation and exchange (matrimonial, commercial, etc.). Having probably originated from Indo-European populations migrating westward, archaeology has shown an “arrhythmic diffusion” of the first Neolithic, European civilisations. These stages were marked, locally, by ‘pauses” during which we can see renewals of their cultural structures. (One example would be the creation of written Celtic languages, such as in the VIIth century B.C. in contact with Etruscan culture: the Lépontique).
Into the Forest is an attempt to create a ‘post-secular iconography’, a restoration of the symbolic power of ancient Nordic and Celtic culture.
Conversations flow over a journal text being scribed, between Manchester, Oslo, Berlin, Berkeley and Tallinn…
Four NSU artistic researchers – Per Roar, Camilla Graff Junior, Luisa Greenfield and Myna Trustram – will summon a collective performance essay from the NSU archive. Mixing their individual practices of writing, film, choreography and performance art, the group offer an insight into the hybrid possibilities of new research methods.