Highlighting one artist featured in Nordic Impressions: Art from Åland, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, 1821–2018.
A Danish artist from Greenland, Pia Arke (b. 1958, Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland; d. 2007, Copenhagen) described her artistic practice as “ethno-aesthetics.” Arctic Hysteria (1996) shows Arke moving naked and animal-like on hands and knees across the enlargement of a black-and-white photograph of Nuugaarsuk, the region in Greenland where she grew up in the 1960s. During the silent video, she rips apart the entire photograph.
The title of the work refers to Greenland’s colonialist past and the phenomenon of pibloktoq, later known as “arctic hysteria,” the supposedly irrational behavior by Inhuit (Greenlandic Inuit) women first reported by the American explorer Robert E. Peary in 1892. It was compared to Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer’s diagnosis of female hysteria and most commonly ascribed to the lack of sun and the long arctic nights but may also have been confused with shamanistic rituals of the Inhuit people.
Arctic Hysteria is on view at the Phillips through January 13 in Nordic Impressions.