Worlding Northern Art (WONA)

Worlding Northern Art (WONA) is a research group at the Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education. The group's members are affiliated with Art History, Media- and Documentation Studies, and the Academy of Contemporary Art. Our goal is to strengthen research in art history and visual culture in Northern Norway and the Circumpolar North, and to incorporate curatorial practices and artistic research.

WONA's interests and activities are oriented towards both new and traditional art historical objects, media and research fields. Theoretically and methodically WONA operates in the contact zone between different disciplines including anthropology, history, religious studies, sociology, gender studies and indigenous studies. Ongoing and upcoming projects within the group demonstrate a diversity in terms of research material, geographical scope and historical parameters. What brings these projects together, however, is a common engagement in the fields of Arctic visual culture, Sami art, exhibition practices and museum institutions.

At the core of Worlding Northern Art is the understanding of art as an important social and political factor which we see as our mission to explore and disseminate. The concept worlding is useful in discussions of art in relation to place and identity, ecology and ways of life, and our understanding and acquisition of knowledge. Our research relates to the following topics:

  • Art and identity: regional, national, transnational and global arts and visual culture; art and indigenous people.
  • Art and ecology: the significance of art in relation to "the three ecologies" – the environmental, social and human ecology; art in Northern living.
  • Art and science: art as a form of knowledge; artistic research versus academic research; performative methods

In recent years, the term worlding has become a key concept and way of thinking in (post)humanistic research in disciplines such as philosophy, literature, anthropology, cultural geography and cultural studies. The meaning of the term is ambiguous, however, and can be linked to quite different theories and theoreticians, from Heidegger and Goodman to Spivak and Haraway. Despite its ambiguity, or diversity, the term/concept worlding unites our research which is characterized by a broad entry into a large field.

When applied to art historical research, worlding may give an in-depth and challenging understanding of the value of art in itself, at its place, and as a transnational phenomenon in the global world. The concept may serve as a tool for better understanding totalities and connections while at the same time it may function as a way of criticizing historically transmitted understandings and truths. In addition, worlding may be applied when identifying the often problematic ways in which "world-making" happens.

WONA intends to actualize northern art and art practices (historically as well as contemporary), and to highlight these as significant. Northern art and art practices are not marginal, and they do not take place "at the edge of the world". In this context, worlding considers art as world-making, the world that art itself sets up, and which invites sensation, experience and thinking.

WONA intends to criticize representation, historical writing and research on art in the Circumpolar North. In this connection, worlding is understood as different forms of contextualization and / or opinion-writing that invite critical assessment.

In addition to criticizing established humanistic research and dissemination practices, participants in WONA will explore curatorial and artistic activities as a research strategy and art as a form of knowledge. This entails a dissemination of our results that moves beyond “the scientific article” to also encompass exhibitions, art laboratories, performative activities, public conversations and statements.

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Worlding Northern Art is a research group at Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, UiT The Arctic University of Norway. WONA's intention is to strengthen the field of Art History and Visual Culture in the Northern Norway, incorporating curatorial practises and artistic research.

Art is conceptualised as worlding in a broad sense, referring to Tsing (2010) and Haraway, as co-operative and conflictual ways of "world-making". The research is organized in thematic clusters:

  • Art and indigenous/northern peoples, transnational and global art 
  • Art and ecology, art in Northern living
  • Art as form of knowledge