The Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) announced today that for the 59th Venice Biennalein the Nordic Pavilion will be transformed into the Sámi Pavilion, marking the first time that Sámi are recognized as a nation in a pavilion bearing their name. The three artists who will be featured in 2022 are Pauliina Feodoroff, Máret Ánne Sara and Anders Sunna, each hailing from a distinct region of Sápmi (the Sámi homeland)—which covers the Scandinavian Peninsula and parts of the Kola Peninsula—into Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia.
While Sámi artists have been showcased at the Biennale previously—in 2019 Outi Pieski created an installation as part of the Miracle Workers Collective exhibition for the Finnish Pavilion—this marks the first time that Sámi artists are presented exclusively in a national pavilion at the Biennale. The announcement also follows closely on the heels of broader Indigenous representation at the Biennale in recent years—Inuit filmmaking collective Isuma took centre stage at the 58th Biennale when curators installed their film One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk at the Canada Pavilion, and Indigenous artists from New Zealand and Australia, as well as other circumpolar Indigenous artists have been featured at the Biennale in its last few iterations.
The selected artists, whose practices centre on explorations and assertions of Sámi self-determination, were chosen in part because their work underlines issues experienced by many contemporary Sámi and Indigenous peoples worldwide, including deforestation and land and water governance. “The global pandemic, the impact of climate change and worldwide calls for decolonisation are leading us all to focus on alternative possibilities for our future and that of our planet,” said Katya Garcia-Antón, Director of OCA and lead commissioner of the Nordic Pavilion in a statement. “At this pivotal moment, it is vital to consider Indigenous ways of relating to the environment and to each other.”
Pauliina Feodoroff is a Skolt Sámi artist from Keväjäu´rr in the Finnish part of Sápmi and Suõ´nnjel, in the Russian part. Feodoroff’s practice investigates the role of modernisation and government policies in destroying the collective models of existence and land governance that underpin Sámi society.
Máret Ánne Sara is a Northern Sámi artist from Guovdageaidnu in the Norwegian part of Sápmi who is known for experimenting with varied materials, approaches and collective art actions. Sara is perhaps best known internationally for her piece Pile o’ Sápmi (2017), an installation of reindeer skulls and legal documents presented as part of documenta 14.
Anders Sunna is a Northern Sámi artist from a reindeer herding family in Kieksiäisvaara, in the Swedish part of Sápmi. His politically charged artworks narrate the history of the violence and oppression against the Sámi people and his family’s reindeer herding. He was featured in the National Gallery of Canada’s Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel (2019).
The pavilion will be curated by García-Antón, Sámi scholar Liisa-Rávná Finbog and Sámi nature guardian Beaska Niillas, assisted by OCA Project Officers Liv Brissach and Raisa Porsanger.
The curatorial team will be advised by Wiradjuri interdisciplinary artist Brook Andrew—who was the Artistic director of NIRIN, the 2020 Sydney Biennale—and Anishinaabe curator, artist and educator Wanda Nanibush, who helmed aabaakwad, the multi-day program of Indigenous events which opened the festival last winter.