Kven Connection er et bilateralt gjestekunstprosjekt som har engasjert ti kunstnere, fem fra Finland og fem fra Norge i en utforskning av kvenkultur i dagens samfunn. Prosjektet er gjennomført over tre år, med i alt fire gjesteoppholdsperioder med utgangspunkt i Vadsø, og to samlinger, RootCamp i Rovaniemi og ProductionCamp, i Vadsø.

Utstillingen rettet lyset mot minoriteten kvener i dag. Hva er minoritetskunst og minoritetkunsts rolle, finnes det kvensk kunst eller kvenske kunstnere? Følgende kunstnere deltok: Maija Liisa Björklund, Asle Lauvland Pettersen, Georgia Munnik, Marsil Andelov Al-Mahamid, Sonja Siltala, Meri Nikula, Pirjo Nykänen, Sanna Korteniemi, Merja Briñón, Katariina Angeria. Utstillingen var sammensatt i både vinkling og uttrykksmåte. Det er også blitt produsert en katalog til utstillingen.

Prosjektet har fått støtte fra Norsk kulturråd og er et samarbeid med Varanger museum, Art Promotion Centre Lapland og den russiske kuratoren Anastasia Patsey. Prosjektet ble stilt ut i Vadsø i oktober 2017, og på Arktikum i Rovaniemi i april/mai 2018.

Fra prosjektet Kven Connection i Vadsø Kunstforening. Foto: Jukka Suvilehto

In the Barents region, arts and culture play a remarkably significant role in local development. While the region faces many challenges, it also offers many possibilities. The location is peripheral, the circumstances are harsh, and it is far from Central Europe and the capital regions. On the other hand, from an international point of view, the Barents region is an interesting and even exotic area. Mobility, building partnerships and strengthening human networks are indispensable for actors in the creative field in the Barents region. The limited art markets in Finland and Norway means artists are under pressure to expand their networks into international venues. The artist residencies promote artists’ international mobility, bring different points of view to art and help develop international relations. International residencies provide the artists with opportunities to present their art, create international networks, reach new audiences, and familiarize oneself with the art scene of a foreign country.

The projects’ managers in Kven Connection were Art Promotion Centre Finland, The Regional Office of Lapland (Taike), Varanger museum dep. Vadsø museum – Ruija kvenmuseum and Vadsø Arts Association. Taike is an expert agency under the Ministry of Education and Culture. It continues the activities of the Arts Council of Finland, founded in 1968. The Centre’s task is to promote the arts on both a national and international level, as well as to promote different aspects of culture. Varanger museum consists of three departments, located along the Varanger Fjord, in Vadsø, Vardø and Kirkenes. Vadsø museum was established in 1971 (as Vadsø museum). The museum in Vadsø is also responsible for the documentation and presentation of the history and culture of the Kven people. Vadsø Arts Association was founded in 1966. Its mission is to present professional contemporary art in Vadsø. Vadsø Arts Association fosters and collaborates on various art projects in the region and the trans-national north.

The other important partners in the cooperation were LETKE – Performing Art Centre in Lapland, The County of Finnmark, The Regional Museum of Lapland – ARKTIKUM in Rovaniemi and Kainun institutti – the Kven Institute in Børselv. ARKTIKUM, which is a museum and science centre right on the Arctic Circle, cooperated with the initiators when partners and participations visited in Rovaniemi in September 2016. ARKTIKUM is showing the exhibition in Rovaniemi in April 2018.

Fra prosjektet Kven Connection i Vadsø Kunstforening. Foto: Jukka Suvilehto

During this project, we wanted to find new ways to discuss Kven traditions in a contemporary context; whilst at the same time our goal was to promote inter-cultural dialogue. Our aim was also to inspire Kven artists to create and promote the building and safeguarding of identity among the Kvens and Norwegian Finns. Kvens/Norwegian Finns are a Finnish ethnic minority in Norway who descend from Finnish ancestors migrating to Northern Norway from Finland, Russia, and the northern parts of Sweden, mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries. In public life, the Kvens are considered an antiquated people whose culture is on the verge of dying out. In reality, the Kvens, like any other ethnic group in Barents area, are modern people who live in present-day society. However, many people of Kven ancestry, especially young people, know little about their cultural heritage, which is one of the consequences of the long and effective assimilation politics that lasted nearly 100 years, from the 1860s to the 1960s. Thus, the main aim of the project was to stimulate interest in Kven tradition and culture through engagement with innovative contemporary arts.

The Finnmark Fylkeskommune/County of Finnmark offered accommodation in the Vadsø residency. Vadsø Arts Association and Varanger museum offered production support and/or presentation facilities. Residency artists could work with local professionals and tradition bearers from a range of disciplines and sectors and/or working within a broad or defined context on the Kven culture theme. The artists researched the theme within the context of contemporary arts. The artists in residency were also asked to leave some kind of mark on the Vadsø region in the form of an installation, exhibition or a workshop, which was agreed upon and designed together with project initiatives.

In the years 2016-18, Kven Connection explored the theme of Kven culture, which the partners found interesting and inspiring. It is important to offer new possibilities to artists, curators and arts managers to inspire new impulses and opportunities. Kven Connection has been a great opportunity for professionalization for artists, which provided opportunities for creative investment, development of ideas and connections. Participating was also important for the artists’ own professional development in general. Kven Connection added cultural development for the artist, community and other collaborators. The experience of being in residence has also built capacity for cultural awareness and competence, for organizational development, personal development and managerial skills. It has promoted interest in the Kven culture, artists’ working possibilities, conditions and mobility between Finnish Lapland and Northern Norway.

Kven Connection launched the call for artists in December 2015. The curator Anastasia Patsey (Museum of nonconformist art, St Petersburg Art Residency) and the reference Board consisting of Inger Birkelund (Ihana!), Riina Kaisa Laitila (RDM-Porsanger Museum), Tomi Aho, (Taike) and Henrik Sondal/Toril Østby Haaland (North Norwegian Art Center) selected five Finnish and five Norwegian artists from different fields of arts to participate in the project. The Artists were invited to spend a month at Vadsø Artists Residency between November 2016 and August 2017. In April 2018 it was presented in ARKTIKUM in Rovaniemi, Finland. It was important that the project was shown in the two collaborative and connected contries Norway and Finland.

March 2018 Malla Alatalo, Kaisa Maliniemi and Monica Milch Gebhardt