The Arctic, and for obvious reasons, Greenland in particular, are hotter than the air inside a celebrity chef. Just within the last few months there has been a travelling exhibition at DAC (Danish Architecture Centre) based on the Danish pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2012, Possible Greenland and Louisiana’s main exhibition for the 2012-13 winter, Arktis. Nordatlantens Brygge, which apart from the award-winning restaurant NOMA also houses the official representation of the North Atlantic countries, has an exhibition (information in Danish only) on the demolition of what was for decades considered Nuuk’s primary eyesore, P17, a 200-meter-long, 5-storey block of flats, which housed 1 percent of Greenland’s population. To top it off an Opera Ensemble staged a play about Jens Munk, the Danish Arctic explorer, who went searching for the Northwest Passage, but got stuck in the ice—John Franklin style—and saw his men cave in to scurvy one by one, until only three were left. They still managed to finally get the ship back to Norway, where the sheriff had Munk thrown into jail for wasting the king’s men and ship. The king had him released from jail.
So, what is the fuss all about? Various things undoubtedly. The focus on the Arctic as a spectacular site for watching climate change in action is definitely one major international reason. The Arctic is one of the last frontiers—although these lasts have been last since at least Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and possibly says more about a prevalent form of male anxiety. The resource boom potential in the Arctic, the exciting possibilities of another military race—a really Cold War—cruise tourism and other aspects of the neoliberal global disorder inside which we live would be other central aspects. And then, of course, the Danish interests, equally spanning from military considerations—how to continue life in the protective shadow of the US, political influence through sovereignty over Greenland, and the overriding importance of preserving the Danish imperial power as the one exception to the rule: The one power that held colonies for the sake of the colonial subjects. The question is whether the focus on Greenland and the Arctic in the list of exhibitions/events listed above challenge these predominant neoliberal discourses or the nationalist, imperial nostalgia driven narratives. More blogs on the various exhibitions will follow.