Visits to the Archive no. 3: What is NORDIC to you?


'Saga. Nostalgia. Vikings. Valhal. Light. Cool. Nature. Consideration. Open. Harmony' ....
'Pure and clear. Beautiful. Cool. Clean. Cold. Fog. Light. Strength. Birch. Freedom. Noise and alcohol'.

In 2009, I did a quick email survey among 50 of my Danish friends and colleagues:
What colour, what object, what word, and what natural phenomenon do you associate with NORDIC?

The examples above come from the list of WORDS associated with Nordic. 'Vikings' and 'cold' are mentioned a lot, as well as 'blond' and 'cool' - but there is also 'sea beating hard against rocks', 'melancholia', 'drunken Swedes', and for some reason: 'Jan Johannson'!

On the list of COLOURS, 'blue' or variations of blue are chosen by more than half the respondents. Green or variations of green come in second, but not even close to blue. One respondent seems to capture the whole year in the answer: 'Light, light, light, and heavy darkness, dark, dark, dark, blinding white, white, white'.

Light is also the number one NATURAL PHENOMENON mentioned. 'Northern lights. Forest. Icelandic horses. Wolf. Light. Polar bears. Seals. Ladybird. Sunsets. Forest. Northern lights. Wind. Elk. Snow.' Some are more elaborate, like: 'Green silent forests' or 'skumringstime' (that translates less poetically into 'hour of dusk'). Other respondents decide to paint a whole picture: 'Salmon - bears - smell of leaves - anemones - beech trees - wind over mountain - wind over sea- taste salt'. Or: 'Woodpecker stuck in the tree that it is pecking, big sun setting behind it'.

The list of OBJECTS is perhaps the most diverse. 'Sweater. Glass. Ferry. Snaps. Kolonihavehus (cottage, sort of). Rock. Tea cup. Ice. Axe. Kuglegrill (Weber grill). Ship. Football. Amber.' And my favourite: 'Woolly cap and violin'!


50 answers is not exactly statistics, but still a tantalising peak into the conceptual and linguistic imprints made on our minds by a combination of geography, culture, mythology, personal history, sensations and relations that is difficult to define.


Experiment: Nordic Crossings

All this was a preface to the experiment 'Nordic Crossings' ('Nordiske krydsfelter'), a collaboration between 4 Nordic artists with one main characteristic in common: Their work reflects, presents or partly includes aspects of both traditional (ethnic) and contemporary (globalised) art forms.

The artists were:
Åsa Simma, Swedish/Samisk performer and singer/joiker
Henrik Munch, Danish composer and musician
Jessie Kleemann, Greenlandic artist and performer
Steinunn Knutsdottir, Icelandic director and performer

One of the outcomes of the collaboration was this video that the artists created together: A cheerful and ironic comment on identities, national and ethnic.


To celebrate Laboratoriet's anniversary, artistic director Barbara Simonsen is making this series of Visits to the Archive, rediscovering 10 years of performing arts experiments and artistic research at Laboratoriet.