Ten artists have spent the last year searching for the spirit of ’Nordic-ness’, an elusive identity that is as much valorised as longed for.
Is it somehow in the breath, reminiscent of Old Norse languages which used to include ‘nasal vowels’, redirecting air through the nose? Is it in the pure fluidity of languages between and within the Nordic countries? After all, at least one early member of NSU, Carl Lesche, is known to have taught himself Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Turkish, Armenian and Italian, besides speaking English, German, Finnish and Swedish…
Is ’Nordic-ness’ found in holding strong against adversity? The qualities which would propel intrepid Nordic travellers off into the “New World” in the 19th Century, to found supposedly ‘Utopian’ colonies? Or, closer to home, the willingness to spend Summers in stormy Iceland, or break ice off of your tooth brush in Czech Republic, just to attend NSU?
Is there something ’Nordic’ in a confused relationship to time? With busy Nordic countries becoming ’time poor’, work continues on how to preserve their history in new ways. As NSU explores, whether you are interacting with statues through Augmented Reality, or with speeches of the past through podcasts triggered by locations, the past can always be re-interpreted.
Or is there something ‘Nordic’ in finding intimacy even through distance? To hand-print the leaves of a book, and have them sent-off to the next collaborator – ink barely dry – to pick up the story. Or sparking a chain of conversations which transform into letters which spread from country to country, a mix of languages heard from different vantage points.
Maybe ’Nordic-ness’ is never found but simply displaced onto the next generation, more fiction than fact? Children have always had a significant place at NSU’s summer sessions, allowing adult researchers with child-caring responsibility to be free to immerse in the debate, learning and cultural sharing. Such decisions were powered by the long association of NSU with feminist theory and gender equality: the 1973 study circle “The specific character of women’s oppression under capitalism” (Kvindesituation & kvindebevægelse under kapitalismen) was the very first such investigation of the subject by a University in the Nordics.
Join a journey through the past and future of ’Nordic-ness’, meeting texts, art pieces and new friends, guided by the Nordic Summer University!
Translation by Eret Talviste