Data Free Zone is investigating the blind spots of contemporary cartography in Sápmi and Norrbotten.
How do maps affect our view of a given region and whose realities are being represented in contemporary cartography? The project Data Free Zone SWE/SÁPMI_1, developed by the artistic duo iida-ssi on behalf of Konstmuseet i Norr, investigates which stories were forgotten when the narrative about ‘Europe’s last wilderness’ came to life.
In the roughly 200 km long distance between lakes Gátterjávri and Ikkesjávrre in Norrbotten/Sápmi* we can find one of Europe’s largest areas that lack mobile coverage. Despite being an area of more than two million hectares and with a detailed historical orthography, the data-free zone in northern Sweden is often portrayed as a void – an exotic wilderness with rich natural resources waiting to be explored and prospected.
The artistic duo Iida Jonsson and Ssi Saarinen, iida-ssi, in collaboration with the Sámi researcher Victoria Harnesk from Jokkmokk, have approached what is often portrayed as a cartographic void in the north of Sweden. Through interviews, studies of private and public image collections, historical maps and texts, court proceedings, and donated GPS data, the project Data Free Zone SWE/SÁPMI_1 maps the data-free zone and creates a counter-cartography – a parallel and alternative representation.
‘The cartographic illustration of the area as an untouched wilderness supports a narrative that does not consider existing cultures or histories. By extracting, organising, and designing data in new ways, we want to open up to reshaping our collective view of reality and make room for stories that are forgotten or overlooked’, say the artists Iida Jonsson and Ssi Saarinen.
‘Data Free Zone SWE/SÁPMI_1 is an urgent project that, with a multidisciplinary perspective, carefully approaches questions of knowledge, power, and representation and their accessibility in relation to memories of trauma, inclusion, exclusion, colonial and de-colonial situations of production and acquisition. The project problematises makes the way representational systems are structured problematic – asking ethical and political questions about epistemological ownership, entitlement, access, and community. We’re looking forward to presenting the first phase of this artistic research project which we hope can create a safe space for debate, with individual and collective experience as its starting point’, says project curator Hampus Bergander, Konstmuseet i Norr.
Data Free Zone SWE/SÁPMI_1 opens on 22 November on a digital platform: https://datafreezone.info/ This is the first phase of the project. In the spring of 2023, the project will be further developed with the completion of the digital platform, an exhibition at Konstmuseet i Norr in Kiruna, and in the data-free zones in the form of printed maps.
*The Data Free Zone project covers a vast area within Norrbotten County, which is part of the geographical area, and the cultural and linguistic community that makes up Sápmi. In Konstmuseet i Norr’s policies, it was established in 2019 that the name Lapland should not be used for Sweden’s northernmost parts as it can be perceived as offensive.
iida-ssi is a collaborative duo formed by iida jonsson (she/they; b. 1997 Oslo) and ssi saarinen (they/them; b.1995 Turku), who has been working from the autonomous region of Åland since 2013. The artist duo’s work usually appears through artistic interventions – in which they investigate the cracks and ruptures that have the potential to affect our perceptual periphery.
Their artistic research practice is based on a variety of methods: photography, film, sculpture, cartography, field visits, workshops and interviews. iida-ssi often invites computer scientists, architects or historians to be part of the research process. Their research seeks to reflect and complexify the subjects they work on; suggests parallel truths and potential alternate timelines.
Jonsson and Saarinen hold a Master’s degree from the Dirty Art Department, Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam (2020–2022).
Victoria Harnesk (b. 1972 in Gällivare municipality) based in Porjus, is a Sámi researcher, lecturer, author, and copywriter. Harnesk focuses on creating intercultural encounters and communication through art and culture.
Victoria Harnesk has been involved in Sámi community development through chair positions in Vaisa Sameförening, Sameföreningen i Stockholm, and as a member of Svenska Samernas Riksförbund. Harnesk is a member of the Ájtte fjäll- och samemuseum in Jokkmokk and chairwoman of the board of the Samefolket magazine. As well as coordinator for Viermie K, the Sámi cultural policy network that works to strengthen the professional cultural life on the Swedish side of Sápmi.
Curator/producer Konstmuseet i Norr
+46 73 025 38 73