“Sustainability” within the arts – Welcome to NORTEAS Seminar hosted by NTA

Norteas Network International Seminar

Feb 7, 2018 from 16.00 to 19.00

“Sustainability” within the arts is often discussed generally from universal, dominant cultural and institutional perspectives. In this meeting we will enter sustainability as something singular, as questions emerging from artists’ unique environments, subjectivities and practices. Specificity within discussions on sustainability is crucial: our practices are vulnerable because of unique histories, these three speakers will share their experiences, practices and challenges to provoke our thinking further. Each speaker will present 30 minutes with a short period after for questions and reflections. We will break into groups after this for one hour with brief sharing of common reflections at the end. The aim through the group discussions following the talks will be to reflect further on how we might name, frame and enter topics of sustainability as educators given the input of these speakers (they will not themselves address solutions or answers but present their challenges and practices.)

16.00 Short introduction by Steinunn Knútsdóttir and Karmenlara Ely

16.10 -18.00 Guest Speakers


In this encounter I will introduce the HO MOVEMENT, a collaborative action conceived by me and performed by many in the city of Rio de Janeiro on November 2016. During 7 days, 4.700 bricks, a group of collaborators, gallery visitors, staff members, 3 books and 1 truck, among many other things, moved each other based on 7 specific propositions; moved one another through varied spaces, tangible and affective matters, and performative dimensions. The action majorly occurred at the Centro Municipal de Arte Hélio Oiticica and surroundings (Municipal Art Center Hélio Oiticica, located in downtown Rio), and ended with the delivery of the bricks and the books for the construction of the Casa das Mulheres da Maré (Women’s House at Maré, located in one of the city’s major conglomerates of slums). This performance asks itself and asks us: what forces, matters and affects are transformed in what other kinds by means of the HO MOVEMENT? What are its technologies, poetics, politics, and alchemies? What is production in this system? What is being produced? What is being counter-produced? What values are being generated? Which ones are being trans-valuated? The HO MOVEMENT argues for an “ethics of the thing”.

Eleonora Fabião is an artist who performs actions. Since 2008 she performs in the streets. She is interested in the poetics and ethics of the strange, the encounter and the precarious. She works with diverse subjects: human and non-human, visible and invisible, light and heavy, aesthetic-political. She is a postgraduate professor in Performance Arts (coordinator of the research line Experiences of the Scene: Artistic Training) and the Theatre Direction Course, School of Communication, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. She holds a PhD in Performance Studies (New York University), a Master’s Degree in Performance Studies (New York University) and a Master’s Degree in Social History of Culture (PUC-RJ).


At Nunatta Isiginnaartitsinermik Ilinniarfia (The Greenlandic School of Acting) we are engaging in a context of loss. Where we are recovering our knowledge and values that are embodied in our cultural forms and practices such as the mask- & drum- dance. We apply those principals to the cultivation of contemporary performances forms. Therefore, we develop ways of memorizing, preserving and to pass down our performance. We recognize as well as resist western theatrical forms and it´s epistemologies, as we constantly strive to ground our work in our own methods and memory. The intention is to build bridges between our young generations and their political and historical grounds. We want to make them aware of their past, values, and knowledge and perceive it as a transformative method of exploring contemporary performances forms and addressing issues of their time.

Varste Mathæussen is Artistic Director/ Principal of the National Theatre School, Greenland and freelance artist. She was educated in acting at Tuukkaq Theatre in 1990-1993, Fjlatring, Danmark and specializes in Uaajeerneq/Grennlandic Maskdance and Greenlandic drum dance. Freelancer since 1993, Varste has toured extensively internationally as a performer and artist.


This talk will reference her solo performances based on autobiographical material and self- portraits. Apponen’s highly personal work deals with trauma, exhaustion and transformation, pain and language, weakness and resilience. As an unavoidable consequence and perspective of her transgendered and damaged body, her work has been formed by her physical restrictions and the constant confrontations with normative existences and structures. These limitations are incorporated as artistic potentialities, as in her choreography based on slowness, performance lecture dealing with excessive physical pain and a solo she directed of a visually impaired dancer.

Juli Apponen is an artist who works in several different configurations as performer, choreographer and director. She tours internationally with acclaimed performances such as Life is hard and then you die – part 3, a text-based performance reading. As well as the choreography Everything Remains in a duo collaboration JULI/JON. She studied at the Norwegian Theatre Academy.

18.00-19.00 Group discussions and plenum

Discussion groups will be formed by taking a number (like was done in Iceland last year) and gather for around 35 minutes discussion period. We hope the groups will come with comments or questions for us as educators, emerging from what was stimulated in listening to the speakers. These points could include values we want to affirm, alternative approaches to critique, or new vocabulary which can initiate further thinking on how a sustainable practice can be imagined “in context” using the experiences and examples of the invited speakers. The last part of the hour will be used to share highlights from the group discussions in plenum with each other. There is no intention to resolve the issues in a single discourse but to stimulate self-awareness and creative thinking. We might do this first with examples from current experience researching sustainability as a focus within the network, through open critical thinking and provocative ideas. We start in our talks from a challenge towards tendencies within sustainability discourses generally to forget the impact of context or singular experiences on defining the threats to our students and colleagues practices.

Questions for this discussion could be, for example: Is the key to educating sustainable artists today something that can only be addressed locally? Is it culturally specific? Is care for sustainability in the arts a set of values unique to each artistic practice and impossible to achieve when seeing them as cultural industries instead of peoples? If so, what then?


Juli Apponen Photo credit: Saara Autere