© Photo: Michael Miller

Biennials & festivals

Cod’s country: the 2019 Lofoten International Art Festival in pictures

Biennial in northern Norway takes the “intertidal zone” as its theme, with artists rustling up cod fish dinners and recording the sounds of the sea

The Lofoten International Art Festival (Liaf) takes place every two years on the Lofoten archipelago, just off the coast of northern Norway. The islands rise up out up of the Norwegian Sea in spectacular fashion and have for centuries been home to the country’s cod fishing industry, described in the 19th century by the country’s parliament as “Norway’s most important gold mine” (this was, of course, before the country struck black gold in the North Sea at the end of the 1960s). The cod industry continues to be one of the main industries in the area and has been joined in the past few decades by a significant growth in nature tourism.

Liaf’s two main exhibition venues this year are the Former Lofotposten Building and the North Norwegian Art Centre, both of which are in Lofoten’s largest town Svolvær. However, this edition has also placed a particular emphasis on artists’ residencies and workshops in different communities around the islands, with the first one beginning back in July 2018. Around 30 artists have taken part in Liaf 2019 and below are some of the highlights from the exhibition, residencies and workshops.

The main funding for Liaf comes from the Arts Council Norway.

Lofoten International Art Festival, Svolvær, Lofoten, until 29 September

• For more on Liaf, see Work of art advertised on Airbnb lets visitors stay for free in the Arctic Circle—but there’s a twist

The loose theme for Liaf 2019 is the “intertidal zone”, the area that is covered by water at high tide and exposed during low tide. The Oslo-based artist Signe Lidén placed a 28m-long hemp canvas, kitted out with several microphones, onto the foreshore near the village of Ramberg to record underwater sounds when it was almost fully submerged at high tide and the sound of the winds and gulls at low tide.
Signe Lidén's Tidal Sense (2019) (© Photo: Dan Mariner)

The loose theme for Liaf 2019 is the “intertidal zone”, the area that is covered by water at high tide and exposed during low tide. The Oslo-based artist Signe Lidén placed a 28m-long hemp canvas, kitted out with several microphones, onto the foreshore near the village of Ramberg to record underwater sounds when it was almost fully submerged at high tide and the sound of the winds and gulls at low tide.

Signe Lidén's Tidal Sense (2019) recording sounds in intertidal zone near the village of Ramberg
Signe Lidén's Tidal Sense (2019) recording sounds in intertidal zone near the village of Ramberg (© Photo: Signe Lidén)

“[The intertidal zone is] often such a visual thing, but Lidén wanted to get a sense of listening closely [to it],” says Neal Cahoon, who has curated this year’s festival along with Hilde Methi, Karolin Tampere and Torill Østby Haaland.

Signe Lidén's Tidal Sense (2019) on show in the Lofotposten building, which once housed the local newspaper. The sculpture has now been converted into a speaker membrane, playing the recordings that were collected earlier.
Signe Lidén's Tidal Sense (2019) (© Photo: Kjell Ove Storvik/Liaf)

Signe Lidén’s Tidal Sense (2019), on show in the Former Lofotposten Building, where it has now been converted into a speaker membrane, playing the recordings that were collected earlier.

The Portuguese duo João Pedro Vale and Nuno Alexandre Ferreira spent three months on the island of NAME,  Semiotics of the Cod performance lecture
João Pedro Vale and Nuno Alexandre Ferreira'a Semiotics of the Cod performance lecture (© Photo: Kjell Ove Storvik/Liaf)

The Portuguese duo João Pedro Vale and Nuno Alexandre Ferreira conducted their performance lecture during the opening week of Liaf. The lecture is part of their work Semiotics of the Cod (2019), which also includes an installation and a publication. It is the result of a three-month residency on the nearby island of Skrova, where the artists explored the history of the salted cod (bacalhau) trade between Norway and Portugal. The “turning point of [their residency] was a lecture performance where they cooked Bacalhau à Braz” for the tiny village where they were staying, Cahoon says. It proved a hit as they were only expecting a dozen people to turn up but instead around 50 did.

Katerina Sedá's Something for Something (2019)
Katerina Sedá's Something for Something (2019) (© Photo: Kjell Ove Storvik/Liaf)

Although Vale and Ferreira’s work was focused on salted cod, in this region the fish is dried without salt to produce stockfish, which is primarily exported to Italy, says the co-curator Torill Østby Haaland. The wooden structures used to dry the fish can be seen in the distance, while on the left is Something for Something (2019) by the Czech artist Kateřina Šedá.

Katerina Sedá's Something for Something (2019)
Katerina Sedá's Something for Something (2019) (© Photo: Kjell Ove Storvik/Liaf)

Šedá’s Something for Something (2019) is a “social action” work where the artist advertised a free stay in her caravan on Airbnb in exchange for “a contribution to the local community of Svolvær in the form of a good deed”. A post box has been set up for locals to leave suggestions on ways that visitors can contribute, from “making food, baking cakes [to] cleaning an old man’s apartment”, Haaland says.

The collective Futurefarmers (the San Francisco-based Amy Franceschini and Ghent-based Lode Vranken) constructed an outdoor windmill and printing press as part of their Wind Theater (2018-19) work.
(© Photo: Dan Mariner)

The collective Futurefarmers (the San Francisco-based Amy Franceschini and Ghent-based Lode Vranken) constructed an outdoor windmill and printing press as part of their Wind Theater (2018-19) work.

Futurefarmers’ portable windmill backpack is taken for a walk. It is one of the props for Wind Theater (2018-19) and is now in show at the Former Lofotposten Building.
(© Photo: Futurefarmers)

Futurefarmers’ portable windmill backpack is taken for a walk. It is one of the props for Wind Theater (2018-19) and is now in show at the Former Lofotposten Building.

Futurefarmers’ Amy Franceschini led one of three research workshops in preparation for the Kelp Congress, a three-day long event exploring the “artistic and cultural dimensions related to kelp and other macroalgae”. Based in a seaside house in Digermulen, here she is pictured taking part in the practice run for a performance alongside Alexander Rishaug and Janice McEwen.
(© Photo: Michael Miller)

Futurefarmers’ Amy Franceschini led one of three research workshops in preparation for the Kelp Congress, a three-day long event exploring the “artistic and cultural dimensions related to kelp and other macroalgae”. Based in a seaside house in Digermulen, here she is pictured taking part in the practice run for a performance alongside Alexander Rishaug and Janice McEwen.

Among the participants in the workshop were the Australian curator and producer Danni Zuvela and the British artist Julia Parks, who collected items from the foreshore to create miniature “stages” for films.
(© Photo: Michael Miller)

Among the participants in the workshop were the Australian curator and producer Danni Zuvela and the British artist Julia Parks, who collected items from the foreshore to create miniature “stages” for films.

Among the participants in the workshop were the Australian curator and producer Danni Zuvela and the British artist Julia Parks, who collected items from the foreshore to create miniature “stages” for films.
(© Photo: José da Silva)

Some of the “stages” made inside seashells by Zuvela and Parks, which were then filmed using a macro lens.

Another research workshop ahead of the Kelp Congress was led by Sarah Blissett, with the participating artists taking a beach walk in Gimsoy.
(© Photo: Michael Miller)

Another research workshop ahead of the Kelp Congress was led by Sarah Blissett, with the participating artists taking a beach walk and foraging in Gimsoy.

Another research workshop ahead of the Kelp Congress was led by Sarah Blissett, with the participating artists taking a beach walk in Gimsøy.
(© Photo: Michael Miller)

One of the participating artists foraging along the foreshore in Gimsøy.

Gimsøy Church photographed on the way to the beach foraging trip.
Gimsøy Church in Lofoten

Gimsøy Church photographed on the way to the beach foraging trip.