Unpacking the Legacy of an Indigenous Uprising in Norway

Hyperallergic, May 26, 2018

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"Within the circular arrangement of artworks that makes up the current exhibition at the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA), under the staircase, a wool curtain in the colors of the Sámi flag opens to a cozy, dark space with reindeer hide laid out on the floor. The space is meant to evoke a lavvu, a temporary dwelling used by the Sámi (indigenous people of Northern Europe), it reminds me of the Native American tipi. Inside plays Don’t Fuck with Me (2018), a collaborative short film by Mai-Lis Eira and Elle Márjá Eira, commissioned by OCA for its group exhibition Let the River Flow. The Sovereign Will and the Making of a New Worldliness, curated by Katya García-Antón, with Antonio Cataldo.

Don’t Fuck With Me is made up of two short films — one by each of the artists —shown back to back. Set to an electronic soundtrack, Elle Márjá Eira’s film utilizes slow motion breakdowns and jump cuts to depict individuals pulling on traditional clothing then coming together to march through the streets of Oslo. They raise a banner atop a lavvu and stare down the camera with arms folded. It’s a stirring few minutes of film that makes a powerful impact even if you don’t know the history behind it — though you should. It’s a recreation of events in Oslo in 1979 when seven young Sámi people erected lavvus in front of the parliament building and staged a hunger strike. Thirty years later, OCA’s exhibition examines the events and legacy of this action. The poise of Elle Márjá Eira’s protagonists contrasts with Mai-Lis Eira’s film, to suggest the struggle continues, and there is unfinished business."

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