København er en by i Nordatlanten

NA kort

(Fra Inuk Silis-Høegh Danmarkskortet, 2004)

Golden Days 2017 forvandler igen i år København til et fantastisk virvar af arrangementer, som denne gang har det overordnede tema: København. Det tema åbner en række helt umiddelbare spørgsmål: hvad, hvem og hvor er København?

Som de fleste ved ligger København i Danmark på Sjælland – men mange af os ved også at København findes på mindre åbentlyse steder som i musikken, i litteraturen og selv i de københavnere, som ikke længere bor i byen. I forbindelse med årets Golden Days vil jeg, sammen med Nordatlantens Brygge, gerne invitere til en samtale om hvordan København også er blevet en by i Nordatlanten. Byen har i århundreder været centrum for administration, handel og uddannelse og derfor også et vigtigt sted i mange islændinge, grønlændere og færingers liv.

Nordatlanten er en del af København og København er en by i Nordatlanten. De to litteratur- og kulturhistorikere Kirsten Thisted og Bergur Rønne Moberg samt filmskaberen Otto Rosing fortæller om forbindelserne før og nu og den kunst som behandler dem ved arrangementet på Nordatlantens Brygge d. 16 september kl 15.



Arrangementet er et baseret på forskningsprojektet Denmark and the New North Atlantic.


Ólöf Nordal and the Archives: the agency of a house and embodiment of research

Skærmbillede 2016-05-17 kl. 10.38.53.png

A number of North Atlantic artists have dealt with the narrative and structuring work that archives do. One of the best known examples is that of Danish-Greenlandic artist Pia Arke who has inspired and challenged viewers and scholars with her sophisticated and deeply engaged investigations of power, emotion, bodies, history and identity in the personal and official archives.


More recently Icelandic artist Ólöf Nordal has opened similar questions in her dealing with archives reflecting the fascination of anthropometrics, ethnographic theories and racial classification in the work Musée Islandique. Plaster casts of body parts, meticulous measurements and hair samples are photographed and shown together with film clips that give the audience an insight into the long and persistent fascination with “the Nordic people” with cases from the 1850s to the second half of the 20th century.

Ólöf Nordal: Museé Islandique


The ideas reflected in these historic cases also offer questions for our own time: what are the inherent narratives of current ideas such as “Nordic exceptionalism”, genetic research, the persistent notions of “race”, self-exoticizing branding campaigns etc.

Furthermore, Nordal’s photographs of Icelandic Anthropologist Dr. Jens Pálsson’s collection of hair, fingerprints, skull measurements etc., also point to the ever-changing and political nature of scientific methodology and theory.

November-January 2015 the exhibition was shown at the old imperial warehouse in Copenhagen – currently the North Atlantic culture house: Bryggen seminar and exhibition. In collaboration with the culture house I organized a seminar with invited speakers from Denmark and Iceland. Among the speakers were two Icelandic researchers: Gisli Pálsson and Æsa Sigurjónsdóttir, who have worked with and written about Ólöf Nordal’s exhibition when it was shown in Iceland. Pálsson, who is an anthropologist himself, talked about the racial theories that the anthropometric survey projects have been based on. Sigurjónsdóttir addressed the potential of the artistic approaches used by Nordal in her investigation.


Inevitably the old warehouse itself became a participant in the reflections on the relational aspects of collective identity, the embodied experience of being the object (subject) of ethnographic research, emotions that stick to the processes of minoritization and majoritization and to the questions of who write, narrate and organize history? The house continues to be an agent in the continued negotions of identities in the former Danish commonwealth. These questions are dealt with from a number of angles and within various scholarly fields in the joint research project Denmark and the New North Atlantic.


DECLARE INDEPENDENCE! – seminar on present and past relations in the Danish Empire

New aliances and narratives on the former Danish colonies and dependencies in the West Nordic region are taking shape, but how does the shared past influence
the current relations, cultures and policies in Greenland, Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Denmark?


Inspired by David Scott’s theory (2004) on the longing for total revolution that becomes an imperative in post-colonial discourse “Denmark and the New North Atlantic” hosts an international seminar at the University of Copenhagen November 5-6.

Empirialism and modernity, the geo-political momentum, marginal positions, gender stereotypes and nationalist narratives on purity and hybridity have shaped the relations in the former Danish empire. This will be discussed along with themes such as ultra minor literatures, archives in the Arctic, imagined geographies and processes of minoritization and majoritization.


The program is as follows and the seminar is open to the public and free of charge:

DECLARE INDEPENDENCE – narratives and memories in an imagined region 

WHEN: 5-6 November 9-17 and 9-16 
WHERE: University of Copenhagen, Karen Blixens Vej 4, room 15A.0.13

9-10 Welcome and presentation of the project “Denmark and the New North Atlantic”.

Re-directing the post-colonial.

10-11 Keynote Silke Reeploeg: The North Atlantic Rim as Cultural Space

11-11.30 coffee

11.30-12.30 panel 1, The Making of a Region

Kristinn Schram: Arctic Strategies in the West Nordic region

Ketil Zachariassen: Norwegian Arctic Strategy – Where have all the Sami gone?

Discussant: Silke Reeploeg

12.30-13.30 lunch

13.30-14.30 panel 2, Imagined Geographies

Bergur Rønne Moberg: The Blue North Atlantic

Adam Grydehøj: Island Cultures

Discussant: Martyn Bone

14.30-15.30 panel 3, Purity and Hybridity

Ann- Sofie Gremaud: Powered by Nature. Nation and Authenticity.

Birgit Kleist: Ethnicity, purity and hybridity,

Discussant: Marianne Lien

15.30-16.00 coffee

1600-1700 Keynote: Gudmundur Hálfdanarson: The Spectre of Empire. From Commonwealth to Nation States in the North Atlantic.

6. nov.

0900-1000 Keynote 3: Marianne Lien: Performing Nature. Dividing and Uniting the Nation.

1000-1100 Panel 4 Gender and Bodies:

Ólafur Rastrick: Disciplining the National Body,

Kristin Loftsdottir: Gender Stereotypes in National Narratives

Discussant: Malan Marnersdottir

11-11.30 coffee

11.30-12.30 panel 5: Performing and Representing Heritage

Anne Mette Jørgensen: Visualizing Industrialization as Part of Greenlandic Cultural Heritage

Ólafur Rastrick: The allure of Numbers. Eugenic Archives and Collective Identity

Discussant: Mette Sandbye 

12.30-13.30 lunch

13.30-14.30 panel 6, Memory and Archives

Inge Seiding: Networks, Archives, Institutions. Creating the Region.

Sumarlidi Ísleifsson: Encountering the Neighbour. Greenland in Icelandic representations – and vice versa

Discussant: Kirsten Thisted

14.30-15 coffee

15.00-16.00 Round table discussion: Constitutions and reconciliation

Kirsten Thisted, Ketil Zachariassen, Malan Marnersdottir, Sumarlidi Ísleifsson.

Moderator: Ebbe Volqvardsen


Geographies of Crisis in Icelandic Photography

Article in Danish in the Scandinavian journal for visual culture Ekfrase.

Skærmbillede 2015-01-22 kl. 20.31.11 From: Aðflutt Landslag, Pétur Thomsen

In an article in the latest issue of Ekfrase I analyse photographic representations of changing landscapes in contemporary Iceland. Using media-specific attributes of photography, the images become laboratories of the time and space of vanishing and remodelled places.

The various artworks included deal with places that disappear, evolve or seem abandoned, and most of them relate directly or indirectly to narratives found in official visual culture and statements, and thus renegotiate the spatio-temporality of place-making. Ingvar Högni Ragnarsson’s series Waiting deals critically with the temporality of changing urban spaces where progress and development is paused and resisted.

Skærmbillede 2015-01-22 kl. 20.25.55

Baggar (from Waiting, http://www.ihragnarsson.com)

In Pétur Thomsen’s series photo series Aðflutt Landslag one detects an ambivalence towards the aesthetics and ethics of the intervention into the Icelandic highland by the construction work following the ever-growing energy industry. Thomsen’s images dwell on the obvious beauty of the ruptures, diggings and open layers of soil in an unsentimental but highly aestheticized way.

Skærmbillede 2015-01-22 kl. 20.30.25Pétur Thomsen (from Aðflutt Landslaghttp://www.peturthomsen.is/imported-landscape/)

The overlapping crises of economy, environment and self-image in Iceland have fostered critical representations of the past, present and future of the human-environment relationship, an investigation into the basic narratives of collective values, as well as of the physical traces of recent developments. Thus, utilitarian environmental policies and shallow ecology are treated critically by a number of Icelandic artists (Ósk Vilhjálmsdóttir, Rúrí, Ólöf Nordal, Goddur, Hlynur Helgason and others), as is the question of which values and forces are tied to the glocality of intimate surroundings and remote landscapes.


Power and Purity: Nature as Resource in a Troubled Society

Volume 5 of Environmental Humanities is now available online and with it my article “Power and Purity: Nature as Resource in a Troubled Society” on artistic, political and industrial discourses on pure and polluted nature in Iceland in light of the overlapping political, environmental and economic crises.


eh cover

To access the article: http:/environmentalhumanities.org

In the article I analyze artworks that question ideas about purity from the aluminum and branding industries as well as ideas about a binary relation between human culture and nature. Notions such as “nature-terrorism” and “dangerous purity” are also treated in the article.

Environmental Humanities is an international, open-access journal that aims to invigorate current interdisciplinary research on the environment. It is published by the University of New South Wales twice every year. In response to a growing interest around the world in the many questions that arise in this era of rapid environmental and social change, the journal publishes outstanding scholarship that draws humanities disciplines into conversation with each other, and with the natural and social sciences. The fifth volume is the largest volume ever including seven papers in the main section, two provocation pieces, a special section on representing the Anthropocene, and the first instalment of the new Living Lexicon for the Environmental Humanities.



Great Auk, Ólöf Nordal (1998)

What is “Nordatlanten”? New article in Tidsskriftet Grønland

Omslag Grønland nr. 2 2011

In an article in the latest issue of the journal Tidsskriftet Grønland associate professor Kirsten Thisted and I address some of the questions that arise when the term Nordatlanten is used. In countries outside of Denmark and the West Nordic region the term does not refer to the former Danish dependencies in the north in particular. What institutions and platforms participate in the making of the term? We also take a closer look at the strategic uses of the region-building that is inherent in the use of the term Nordatlanten.

We have had access to the archives of the North Atlantic House in Copenhagen and thus been able to take a closer look at the earliest drawings and letters that document the changing visions behind the area on the Copenhagen dock. The journal’s cover image is a part of the new visual profile of the North Atlantic house where the Greenlandic, Faroese and Icelandic flags are sampled in a number of variations – a play with the symbol par excellence of sovereignty and well defined borders.


The article opens up some of the key perspectives of the book that the scholars affiliated with our joint research project are currently working on – both the historical relations in the region and current ways of restructuring and reinterpreting these relations.

The article is available at the nora.fo homepage.

A new anthology in press: the post-colonial North Atlantic

German researchers Lill-Ann Körber and Ebbe Volquardsen are the editors of a brand new anthology with contributions from a number of European researchers approaching post-colonial questions connected to the history of the North Atlantic societies: Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland.


Among the contributors are a number of people from our project Denmark and the New North Atlantic who are posing questions on whether post-colonial issues are such a big deal after all, the fight over natural resources, whether Iceland is a post-colonial or rather a crypto-colonial society, and what countries are perceived as being inside and outside of Europe?

The cover of the anthology shows a still from Icelandic singer and activist Björk’s video “Declare Independence” from the album Volta (2007). The fact that Björk is wearing the Faroese and Greenlandic flags on her sleeve underlines the clear political message of the lyrics: “Declare independence / Don’t let them do that to you / Damned colonists.” This unmistakable attitude towards the Danish realm, its history and the current relations between the North Atlantic countries and Denmark is not always perceived to be quite as straightforward in today’s scholarly field. As soon as the relevance of post-colonial theory was suggested in the study of these relations and societies doubt as to its relevance and adequacy was also introduced. Some of the leading scholars in the field (Guðmundur Hálfdanarson, Kirsten Thisted, Birgit Kleist Pedersen, Kristín Loftsdóttir and many more) take on this discussion, provide answers and pose new questions that help unveil some of the most pressing and interesting issues in the region.

My own article also deals with the above question and discusses ideas about Iceland as centre and periphery and thus post-colonial as well as crypto-colonial aspects.




Private photo from the theater performance Fantastar 2014.


The table of contents:



Pre-order until September 10th 2014 (email with shipping address to: bbzs@rz.hu-berlin.de) and receive the book for the discounted price of 37,50€ including postage (later: 49,50€).