Inger Emilie Solheim

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CIMAM 2021 grantee Inger Emilie Solheim, Artist, Writer, Curator, Tromsø, Norway.

3 contemporary art curators residing in Norway were awarded to take part in CIMAM 2020 StayHome Curatorial Online Residency and to attend the CIMAM 2021 Annual Conference in Poland (November 5 – 7, 2021).

This unprecedented curatorial residency project, funded by OCA – Office for Contemporary Art Norway, in an exclusively online format to adapt and add value to the CIMAM Travel Grant Program, given the new virtual scenario to which the COVID-19 pandemic led us.

The call for applications was addressed to young contemporary art museum directors, and curators working institutionally or independently residing in Norway, with priority to professionals from Sámi or from diaspora backgrounds.

The grant aimed to support their curatorial and research development and to make successful candidates more widely networked and empowered by the mentoring of CIMAM board members. In this process, the mentor Saskia Bos, Art historian and curator, Amsterdam, Netherlands, was very professional and knowledgeable and taught the granntee wise things in a structured way.

More information related to the grantee and her written report is provided below.

About Inger Emilie Solheim

Being from a half sami background, I feel encourage to apply. My ancestors are from Indre Billefjord, a coastal sami village in Finnmark. Throughout the 1900 they were victims of "norweginisation", and our sami language has been lost.

I’ve had several roles in the art scene in Northern Norway since I moved back to the North in 2010; artist, leader of artist group/curator, board member of Alta Kunstforening, freelance journalist/writer about art, art student and worker at Alta and Tromsø Kunstforening.

“I curate exhibitions in a relatively remote subarctic area of Northern Norway populated by Norwegians, Samis and Kvens, and continously exploring the northern, non-urban, mixed-origin identity”.

Being a part of Alta Kunstforenings team from 2011, first as board leader, then secretary, later as responsible for website and social media, and currently as curator and board leader, has been a great way to learn a lot about organising shows and running a gallery. I wish to be able to show the public in Finnmark and Alta, professional contemporary art. The remoteness and sparse population reflect on the art scene in Finnmark which is small and arbitrary.

The last few years I’ve been curating shows in Alta, remotely, from my current town Tromsø, and I feel that I contribute connecting the two cities, putting the larger art scene in Tromsø in contact with the Alta audience. I don’t see the need for bringing artists northwards from further south in Norway; there is a large art milieu in the north that has a lot to convey about living in the north, working in the north, and that should be given the opportunity to show their work in galleries in the north. Alta and Finnmark is just a short trip away from the young and energetic art scene of Tromsø.

The people of Northern Norway are warm, the artists are generous and the scene is welcoming and small. It’s a remote, arctic and unique location, and it’s vital that we recognise these values both socially and in the art scene, finding our own uniqueness, recognising our strengths.

CIMAM 2020 StayHome Curatorial Online. Written report by Inger Emilie Solheim

When I was lucky to be picked out for the StayHome Curatorial Online Residency arranged by CIMAM and OCA, I felt a certain responsibility to be more aware of and to reflect more on my identity.

The criticism that OCA received for "favourising" applicants with minority backgrounds spurred an interest in me to research decolonization on a more serious level than I had previously done.

As a Norwegianised Sami and part Norwegian, I am engaged in working and collaborating in the north, preferably in Finnmark in the north of Norway. I am concerned with political unfairness, environmental issues, and focusing on the periphery rather than the center.

Approximately at the same time as the residency, I was offered to write a text about decolonization from a northern perspective for a magazine. It was a nice coincidence. Norwegianisation of the Samis and Kvens is something that I have heard a lot about since I was a kid. But, as one could expect, after studying it a bit more I felt a renewed shock of the magnitude of the process. This subject was not a focus in the conversations that I had with my mentor, though, but I feel compelled to mention it because of the process it spurred in me.

My art practice is divided between creating my own art, writing texts, and contributing to the art community in my hometown Alta by curating for the local art association.

My mentor was a highly experienced, professional curator who helped me in the development of my curatorial projects. She gave me feedback on two shows that are going to be held in Alta Kunstforening in 2021. Both the art and artist are so-called "short traveled", avoiding travel by plane, making a relatively small environmental impact. The exhibitions are site-specific, based on the local moss and the sunlight of Alta. We discussed the materiality and the methods, reflecting on the underlying concept and how the material and concept work together. My mentor, Saskia Bos, had astute observations, expressing herself with a self-assurance that I believe came from many years of experience.

My mentor also gave me very good feedback on the concept for my upcoming show in Iceland, a duo-exhibition, and an environmentally themed performance. The input was very helpful and imaginative, and she provided valuable advice on how to develop the expression. My mentor was all in all very helpful and professional, putting her finger on the important points.