This year’s NoVA symposium took place on 19-23 April 2021. Due to the current covid-19 pandemic, the symposium was held completely online. Also unlike from previous years, the symposium was organized by NoVA faculty and students from Aalto University alone. However, this did not prevent us from having a wonderful week of discussions over contemporary issues in art, education, and culture in the Nordic countries.
The aim of the NoVA Symposium
The aim of this year’s NoVA Symposium was to take a closer look at what the term “Nordic” might entail for visual studies and art education today. While Nordicity, Nordicness, and the so-called Nordic Model have been associated with equality, societal wellbeing, and social democracy, it is important to approach these characterizations with caution. After all, the Nordic countries have also long histories of exclusionary nationalisms, exploitation of natural resources (both locally and globally), and colonizing endeavors (both locally and globally). This doesn’t mean that art and education in Nordic countries are completely reducible to these contested and complex histories. Rather, the critical discussion concerning Nordicness during the symposium served as an invitation to constantly rethink what is it that we are doing here in the Nordic region and why.
The symposium week consisted of two interrelated parts: 1) three visiting lectures by Ane Hjort Guttu, Pigga Keskitalo, and Dahlia El Broul; and 2) three workshop sessions facilitated by NoVA students focusing on the topic of their choice. During the workshop sessions, we discussed learning environments, multisensory approach to education, and feminist pedagogy. Below, you’ll find brief reflections from the guest lectures presented during the week.
1. Ane Hjort Guttu
Ane Hjort Guttu is an artist, writer, and curator based in Oslo. She holds a position as professor at Oslo National Academy of the Arts at Department of Fine Art. Her article The End of Art Education as We Know It, published last year in Kunstkritikk, as well as recent film, Manifesto, address the institutional, ideological, and spatial frameworks of artist education in Nordic countries today.
During the visit, we watched her film Manifesto (2020) and discussed how it resonates with educational practices before and during the pandemic. The film made us realize how we miss informal gatherings. Online learning can be very goal-oriented and functional. However, important parts of learning and teaching happen also in small conversation while lunch time or when having a coffee together. These are difficult to organize in online environments. We also discussed if distance learning continues, how would it affect our educational practices and how we might change the situation for better.
Dr. Pigga Keskitalo, Title of Adjunct Professor, works as a researcher at the University of Lapland, Finland. At the moment, she is working on an Academy of Finland funded project that aims to develop Sámi language distance education. Keskitalo’s research interests focus broadly on the field of Sámi education and its research and she has published widely about the topic. Her latest publications include Sámi Educational History in a Comparative International Perspective, which discusses the past and present of Indigenous education in the Nordic region and beyond.
Dr. Keskitalo presented about past and present issues in Sámi culture and education. She discussed how the Sámi people live across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia and that 75% of people live outside of Sami homeland. She also presented about the current situation with different Sámi languages and their revitalization programs. From her visit, we learned a lot about Indigenous peoples’ education and its relation to general education. Based on our discussion, we recognized the need to take into consideration the variety of backgrounds when developing learning spaces and programs.
Dahlia El Broul
Dahlia El Broul works as a Programme Officer at Frame Contemporary Finland. She earned her MA in Curating, Managing, and Mediating Art from Aalto University and her MA thesis examined the complex relations between art, gentrification, and agency. She is currently the vice chair of Catalysti ry, which is an arts association focused on anti-racist work, inclusivity and equity in the Finnish art scene.
In her presentation, El Broul discussed how she had been building her own career in Finland and what kind of issues she had faced. As NoVA has a significant number of international students, we found this particularly useful. Her presentation on recent art projects on Nordicity led us to discuss Nordic values and how are they present in our program. We also shared our views on our own countries and discussed what are the things we like about our cultures.
Generally, the symposium offered a possibility to reflect broadly and critically on current issues in Nordic art education. The workshops facilitated by NoVA students led to three projects, and one of them will be shared on this blog soon!