Berlin North. Contemporary Artists from the Nordic Countries in Berlin
Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin


Since the fall of the wall in November 1989 Berlin has witnessed a growing number of artists moving to the city from both within Germany and abroad. In a continuous state of transition, the city has proved to be an attractive location for artists who either stop by temporarily or actually settle down. Among the many artists who have lived and worked in Berlin in the past years, there is a huge amount of artists from the Nordic countries – from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. They come to Berlin as students, as DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) scholars and the International Artist in Residence Programme of Künstlerhaus Bethanien or as regular visitors, and they become, to a greater or lesser degree, part of the city´s artists community.

For the exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof, 26 positions were chosen from a multitude of interesting artists from the Nordic countries who have spent time in Berlin within the past fifteen years. These 26 positions shaped the imaginary platform “Berlin North” in various ways. Choosing from the many artists who are in different ways connected to the city was difficult, and not all those invited accepted the invitation to take part in the exhibition. These days, the assignment to a regional scene, even in the form of an imaginary platform in a foreign place, is viewed skeptically by many artists – the more successful this kind of branding becomes, the greater the skepticism.

In light of this problem, the exhibition focuses on the phenomenon of Berlin’s attractivity as a production site for artists from the North. In order to avoid a “Nordic best of” show, four main themes of global interest were conceived for the exhibition: “Transformation of Space”, “Reconstruction of Nature”, “Social Situations” and “Narratives”. In all four parts of the exhibition, the focus is on the diversity of artistic approaches within a thematic field – from painting to photography and video installations, from sculpture and sound installations to spatial mises en scène.

Artists in the exhibition: Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Bigert & Bergström, A K Dolven, Dag Erik Elgin, Annika Eriksson, GrönlundNisunen, Jens Haaning, Henrik Håkansson, Annika von Hausswolff, Knut Henrik Henriksen, Laura Horelli, The Icelandic Love Corporation, Frans Jacobi, Robert Lucander, Lars Nilsson, Lars Bent Petersen, Lars Ø. Ramberg, Egill Sæbjörnsson & Sigurður Guðjónsson / Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir / Elín Hansdóttir / Sara Riel, Ann-Sofi Sidén, Sparwasser HQ / Lise Nellemann, Jan Svenungsson, Sissel Tolaas, Mette Tronvoll, Ósk Vilhjálmsdóttir, Gitte Villesen, Johan Zetterquist

The exhibition has been made possible by the Embassies of the Nordic Countries in Berlin, Hauptstadtkulturfonds, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and by the generous support of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Danish Arts, FRAME, IASPIS, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Iceland, Moderna Museet International Programme, Stockholm, the Nordic Cultural Fund, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Finnish Ministry of Education.

Exhibited work by Bigert & Bergström: "Nauseum," 2004. Photo on vinyl foil, glass, cables, steel pipes, light-bulbs, 140 x 140 x 90 cm. Photo: Charlie Drevstam
"Nauseum," close-up. Photo: Charlie Drevstam
"Nauseum," close-up. Photo: Charlie Drevstam


In November 1893, the Biological Museum at Djurgården (Stockholm) was inaugurated. It was the brainchild of the Swedish taxidermist Gustav Kolthoff, who developed the museum together with the well-known natural painter Bruno Liljefors and architect Agi Lindgren. It was one of the first 360-degree panoramas to be constructed in the world where animals were placed in their natural surroundings. At the time, the word ecology did not exist, and the method of showing the animals without any direct notes and explanation met with criticism from colleagues who labeled Kolthoff’s scenes “unscientific.” Yet the museum became one of the most popular attractions at the Stockholm’s International Exhibition in 1897.
Today, the building has very few visitors. Its interiors are dusty and embedded in a historical haze that, amplified by the dusty air, creates the nauseous feeling of being inside a time machine. In a way, it stands as a mausoleum for museums.

The five spherical photos in the work Nauseum are shot from awkward positions in the panoramas that the museum’s visitor cannot occupy. The images become vantage points from which the stuffed animals view their own conserved surroundings. Here one detects the “behind” and “beyond” that were never meant to be seen. As the viewer circles around the photos, the vista continuously changes and the room is experienced from several different points simultaneously.

Bigert & Bergström, 2004