Project concept

Memories of the North is an exhibition of ongoing investigations into the theme of Nordic cultural identity, souvenirs and nation branding. The first venue of the exhibition tour was Galleri S12 in Bergen, Norway in April 2008.

How well do our existing national symbols, souvenirs and cultural icons, represent our diverse contemporary societies? What does it mean to travel and what is a souvenir? How can we craft alternatives to those currently offered by the travel and souvenir industries? The assembled artists are engaged in a long term investigation of these questions, that continues as the exhibition travels to new venues in the Nordic countries.

In February 2007 the Swedish art/craft/design-collective S-U-B invited four other artist groups from Denmark, Finland and Norway to a meeting in Stockholm, a seminar in Rovaniemi and a two week artist residency at Nordnorsk Kunstnersenter in Lofoten ("Souvenirs"), to provide a foundation for the participants and a starting point for research. Three individual artists have also been invited to join the project that currently hosts 16 artists.

The initial concept was to invite socially-engaged artists and artist collectives to use their diverse practices to explore the project themes of Nordic cultural identity, souvenirs, tourism and nation branding. Most of the artists have responded to this request by creating participatory projects that engage local communities in a search for ways to create ”truer” representations of people and places. These projects question, acknowledge and re-create symbols and stories by inviting the public to engage in different forms of aesthetic dialogue: workshops, participatory interventions, performances and an exhibition that displays the results of these activities. The project grows as the participants engage other artists and local communities along the way.


Moving Places, Moving Objects
With the souvenir-plate and souvenir aesthetics as a point of departure, the Bergen based art group Temp, are investigating and collecting memories and stories. Souvenir aesthetics are traditionally idealised, coarse, and generalised, far from any connection with the place of origin or the ‘authentic experience’. Connected to travelling this idea of ‘another place’ is an important part of building (national) identity.The plates are a mixture of manipulated readymade souvenirs and personal memory plates. At the meeting-point of these categories, we hope to show the local/global and private/public qualities of the souvenir and how we bring our own reflections with us when we travel.As a backdrop for the project, Temp has created a wall painting/wallpaper. The beach and the palm trees are as much a part of Norwegian contemporary identity as fjords and farms. They are also symbols of the Norwegian invented place: ‘Syden’ (’The South’), which is an idealised and generalized name for a beach holiday somewhere south. Every Norwegian will know exactly what and where you mean when you use this expression. So, is this a more real, authentic representation of our national identity than an object made in China, in slightly off colors, depicting people in national costumes saying ‘Memory from Norway’?Moving places Moving objects is exploring this landscape of the private and public identity through objects we invent as meaningful: the souvenir. And the souvenir works, doesn’t it?

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