Umvelt is centred around three interdisciplinary workshops in Bergen, Stockholm and Copenhagen. It brings together young artists and academics from four Nordic countries who will engage in exercises, discussions and artistic production. The process will reflect on the following three problems:
- How do the languages that we use shape our understanding of the world?
- What can we learn from comparing similarities and differences between the participants’ languages?
- Human beings are the only known species that use written and spoken language, but what can we learn from the “language-less” communication between animals and the world that surrounds them?
The work of Estonian-born biologist Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944) gives the group excellent tools to approach these questions. His work focuses on how living beings perceive their environment. According to him, every organism experiences life in ways that are species-specific and that he called “self-in-world” or “Umwelt.” All living and sensing creatures, communicate with their surrounding world in different ways, based on how their bodies function, what they desire and how they understand their world.
In the workshops artists from dance, music, visual arts and academics from four different Nordic countries work together. Each individual person’s Umwelt is different both because of their different backgrounds, because they have different fields of interests, but also because they speak different languages. The fact that Nordic languages are both similar and fundamentally different, offers a perfect starting point for the work and gives participants a platform to learn from each other. Together they will engage in discussions and performance-exercises that reflect on differences and overlaps in the Nordic languages, cultures and how they inform each person’s Umwelt. The core of the project lies in the group moving between the personal experiences and Uexküll’s reflections.
Based on the experiences of the workshops, the participants will develop their own performances. Uexküll’s examples about interaction of different species offer important inspiration for performance practices. The project’s process focuses on communication, co-habitation and symbiosis rather than “becoming an animal,” since this will help to investigate the project’s core questions. Working artistically, gives the participants of the project the possibility to reflect what kind of language artistic expressions constitutes. How is it connected to other languages – both human and animal? The workshops will include readings, discussions and various performance exercises continuously moving between theory and practice and taking examples from Nordic art history (visual art, dance, music, film and literature). It gives young artists and academics the possibility to try new and challenging expressions – but also to develop new practices, collaborations as well as to develop new forms of exchanges between Nordic countries.
The project is organised by Curatorial Mutiny and Vision Forum is a partner in the project. It is is supported by Volt/19 at Nordic Culture Point.