Dark Ecology Arrives in the Borderlands

The Dark Ecology team scouting locations, (from left to right) Anette Wolfsberger, Hilde Methi, Arie Altena and Guro Vrålstad .

Four days of artwork, public discussions, workshops and concerts in Nikel, Kirkenes and Zapolyarny. The arts project Dark Ecology aims to open the discussion about artificial environments - the how and why of modern human landscapes.


Not far from the Pasvik River the triple smoke stacks of the smelting plant at Nikel rise from the tundra, their red and white painted columns piercing the horizon as plumes of steam and smoke rise into the air. Meanwhile, the growing, man­made hills of Bjørnevatn are continually fed with waste stone from open cut operations of the iron mine there. These man­made landscapes are conspicuous, offering a stark counterpoint to the natural beauty of the arctic landscape. The arts project Dark Ecology aims to open the discussion about these artificial environments ­ the how and why of modern human landscapes.

Kirkenes curator Hilde Methi, producer Guro Vrålstad and Sonic Acts curators Anette Wolfsberger and Arie Altena this week launched the preliminary program for Dark Ecology. The program will be run this autumn with a four day schedule of lectures, presentations of new artwork, guided walks, public discussions, workshops and concerts. The festival will present events in Nikel, Zapolyarny and Kirkenes from the 9th to 12th of October.

“Exploring issues around industrial ecology is important to the whole world, not just the north” explains Arie. “We came here because all the issues that are important to global warming are really important and obvious here ­ this is all really happening here, it is very apparent when we have nature amongst pollution.”

View of Nikel with Pasvik River in background.

The Dark Ecology program will be informed by local knowledge and locals interacting with artists and researchers. “The guided walks will be asking for local perspectives on the environment, the transfer of information is an important element in the project, we are also creating an online public platform” says Arie.

The creative team behind the project does not look pessimistically toward the future. Arie goes on to explain that the key note lecture by the American philosopher Timothy Morton will reflect this. “For [Timothy] the issue is not to make apocalyptic thoughts but to take responsibility and find out where to go from here, its about inhabiting the change and doing so in a positive way.”

Opening discussions around this theme of social responsibility is the driving force behind the project and the organisers are keen to explore a range of ideas about ecology and what it means in our society. For Hilde Methi the borderlands of the north offer a unique venue to begin this dialog ­ “In the big cities industry is often hidden from view and people don’t recognise what artificial ecology is required to sustain our modern lifestyle, here it is obvious.”

The visa free border zone between Norway and Russia is also an important social backdrop for the project, Hilde explains that creating contemporary art in the area is vital and that the zone should not simply be thought of as an economic construct ­ “art should definitely have a place in the border zone, we have to activate contemporary art and have a clear idea and vision for it.”

The program is now available online through the Sonic Acts website and the Dark Ecology Facebook page.