As part of our re-designed 2020 summer session, the Nordic Summer University invites artists and researchers from all fields to take part in our artistic research circle. We are a migratory, non-hierarchical group of international participants. We welcome participants from all geographical, artistic, cultural and academic contexts and backgrounds, both outside and within universities and other institutions. The circle aims to share ways artistic research can explore, experiment with, critique, create and perform heterotopias, which are spaces, temporalities and practices that disrupt the continuity and the norms of ordinary reality. We hope not only to engage with heterotopic concepts, but to be a heterotopic space.

Each event should produce a trace which can be shared with the larger community: NSU’s artistic research circle our eight other multi-disciplinary study circles, and the wider members of the oldest nomadic Nordic university of its kind (read more about the history of NSU here!).

Grants are available for creating the event and its trace. Traces can be made individually or together with other participants. (See more below)

What is a trace?

Traces could be: online workshops; local meetings; an online panel discussion of papers; a reading or performance; a shared of meal or walk together (considering the appropriate manner of physical interaction that is possible in the time and place where you are situated); presenting a piece of art, or another creative shared activity. You can also apply with more traditional forms of conference presentation, but we encourage you to choose a format that still allows a trace of your presentation: a workshop, experiment, exercise, or interactive dialogue; something that allows sharing.

The trace of your event with NSU needs to be:

●  produced by a single individual or group of participants.
●  sharable and open to all during the Summer Session time frame
●  fitting to NSU’s overall goals, aims and vision.
●  related to the circle’s theme – which you can read more about here
●  created with its main language English or a Scandinavian or Baltic language. ●  those who ultimately make the trace must be a member of NSU (this requires paying a small membership fee & participating in the democratic forum of NSU
●  the team or individual creating a trace needs to provide some promotion material considered as an INVITATION to the trace, before the Summer Session in July: picture & 200-500 words.
●  those who make a trace need to provide a brief report of the trace to their coordinator (the form will be provided by Board, including amount of participants, goals, etc) after the trace has been produced.

What is this year’s theme of the Circle?

Pleasure and Playfulness

After departing from Elsewhere, passing through Absences and Silences and arriving at Disorientations, this summer we wanted to ask about new beginnings through pleasure and playfulness. 

The global crisis intervened in our plans. But perhaps in these circumstances of increasing anxiety and isolation the topic is more necessary than ever.

At a time when all our habitual and familiar ways of communicating, interacting, moving, living and being are put into question, we want to find new forms of encounter and togetherness. 

We still see pleasure and playfulness as heterotopic states and modes of being and as forms of purposeful activity that can generate new knowledges. All our linear notions of time, space, embodiment and subjectivity are challenged at the moment. In what ways can we maintain our spaces as sites of pleasure and playfulness?

We are interested in pleasure and playfulness as strategies and processes not just of research but living in general. We’re interested in way that they give us access to knowledges and practices unapproachable by “serious” means. 

We want to embrace their lightness and follow the paths they open up towards multiplicity, plurality, indeterminacy and surprise. We are interested in their capacity to enable a response to disruptions of familiar categories and unsettlements of habitual practices and thoughts. We would like to explore their possibility as refusal and resistance, and their potential as liberation. 

We want to know how we can play with weighty and serious things, especially in times of crisis. We’d like to perform and improvise, and ask about performance and improvisation as activities using pleasure and play. 

We also want to provoke discussion about how we understand pleasure and playfulness, from whose perspective, according to whose experiences – and who is excluded. Whose pleasure matters and who is allowed to play? What kinds of exploitations and displacements are often behind our enjoyments and sites of pleasure? In what ways can pleasure and playfulness be forms of violence as well as knowledge and joy?

What is the format?

We encourage work in progress, incompleteness and unfinished work, partial and fragmented efforts, lost or missing elements, especially when they reflect on forms and uses of pleasure and engage in playful subversions. 

Our plan was to invite proposals taking departures from issues such as the following. We are still interested in pursuing these points and lines of thought, but with specific relevance to our current situation. What new meanings, significances, resonances, potentialities and powers can pleasure and playfulness take in times of crisis?

– pleasure and playfulness as methods and strategies of artistic research 

– the meaning of play and playfulness within artistic practice and research

– the role of pleasure in knowledge and practice

– the body and its relationship to pleasure and playfulness

– non-hierarchical and non-competitive forms of playfulness and play

– playfulness as a way of embodying plural selves and inhabiting multiple worlds

– pleasure and playfulness in performance and improvisation

– the role of pleasure and playfulness in challenging socio-political hierarchies

– feminist, decolonial and queer theories and approaches to pleasure and playfulness 

Our summer symposium will not be able to take place as a large physical meeting, but will instead happen in distant and dispersed formats of encounter, sharing and connection reflecting on and making use of pleasure and playfulness. This will take the form of small local or online gatherings, which produce traces that can be shared with a wider community. The aim is to enable new forms of sharing and find new possibilities to be a community.

Trace = event + documentation

Each trace will take the form of an event (in-person or online) that consists of a collective activity or multiple short contributions, documented by participants in a suitable way. 

How do I apply?

The deadline to submit proposals is 31 May.  

To apply, please submit the following via the online form


1. A written proposal of no more than 350 words. 

This should include a title, a description of your proposed contribution or gathering, and its format.


2. A short bio in three sentences.

Offering grants to create traces

The Nordic Summer University is making funding available to produce the traces.We have a budget of approximately 5,000 Euros which will be divided between traces. The exact amounts will depend on the number of applicants and the types of proposals we receive. We would like to use the funds to enable as many participants to contribute as possible and will distribute them accordingly. The funding is intended to cover costs for events or as grants for people who are not securely employed and are in precarious financial situations.

As always, NSU is particularly interested in supporting people who are at the outskirts of the Nordic region – the Baltic and West-Nordic communities as well as those with special needs. So please do inform us if your application of a trace grant falls under the regional support or if the pandemic has had particular financial consequences to you. There is only a limited amount of grants available per circle, the deadline to apply is May 30th, 2020. When you are offered a grant to produce a trace, you will need to respond by email to accept the grant, otherwise it will be offered to the next person on the list.

I still need inspiration…

To celebrate 70 years of NSU’s activism and scholarship, in 2019 we embarked upon a series of arts-research projects which reflected the history of NSU and wider expressions of ‘Nordic’ values. From print-making to sound art, to VR installations and performances, our ten artists have been using every artistic-research-method under the sun! CLICK HERE to see how they’ve been putting it all together.

You can also follow the Artistic Research circle here on Facebook.


You can always visit our FAQ page.