New Phillips Collection Exhibit Proves Nordic Art Isn’t Just Snowy Landscapes
In the video installation Arctic Hysteria, now on view at the Phillips Collection, Pia Arke, a Danish artist from Greenland, crawls naked across the floor, sniffing and pawing at the black-and-white photograph underneath her. She slithers across mountains and icebergs, the landscape of her Greenlandic hometown, Nuugaarsuk, with her arms outstretched.
She begins to tear the photograph beneath her; first with curiosity, then with fervent excitement. The strips curl onto themselves until they resemble long blocks of ice piled up around her.
“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,” exhibition wall text for Arctic Hysteria states. “It was compared to Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer’s diagnosis of female hysteria and most commonly ascribed to the lack of sun and long arctic nights but may also have been confused with shamanistic rituals of the Inhuit people.”
Arke’s video is one of the works challenging perceptions of Nordic culture in the new Phillips Collection exhibition Nordic Impressions: Art from Åland, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Featuring video, photography, painting, print, and mixed-media sculpture from 53 artists, the survey exhibition covers 200 years of Nordic art.