Impressionable art: Performances will a journey of discovery for artists and audiences at Arctic Action festival


It’s anyone’s guess when they’ll appear doing what, but chances are it’ll be a unique presentation for both the artists and audience.

Six international performance and visual artists are scheduled to bring their talents to Svalbard between now and September, starting this week with two Iraqi men who found their way to Switzerland by using forged papers and  selling fake replicas of famous works. Much of what the artists present will be determined after they get here and figure out how to incorporate the natural landscape into their works.

“Our first thought was to create a festival over an intense week where all the artists participated simultaneously,” wrote Stein Henningsen, the curator for the inaugural Arctic Action festival. “After further reflection locally and in consultation with our international partners we have concluded that Svalbard is so unique and special that we probably need to think differently.”

The first performers, Ali Al-Fatlawi and Wathiq Al-Ameri, are childhood friends who have spent nearly a decade performing largely impromptu works.

“We want to find a material that we combine to another or with the location to produce different images,” they wrote in a summary of their work at the festival’s official website. “The large volume of material that go from place and time and the inexhaustible possibilities of topics, always makes the actions renewable and expressive.”

Their biography notes they crossed the border into Jordan with three U.S. dollars and the forged papers, then sold reproductions of classic Arabic painting to travel to Switzerland via the Sudan, the Sahara and Libya.

The only set appearance is by Tanya Mars, a Canadian video and performance artist, who is scheduled to be in Svalbard from July 15 to 25. Her work is described as “visually rich layers of spectacular, satirical feminist imagery.”

The goal is to develop the festival into a significant international event from both an artistic and environmental awareness perspective, according to Henningsen