The Beautiful Melancholy of Digital Nordic Art

A new exhibit showcase Scandinavian hyperkinetic design.

The simple elegance of Nordic design seems linked to its dramatic landscape. It is easy to see how a region of stark climates, which alternate between sunless winters and blinding summer nights, sharp polar cliffs and endless meadows, would influence the designs of say, a sleek Ikea or Eero Saarinen chair, or bold Marimekko pattern. In addition to a deep love of nature, other distinctly Nordic traits that have seeped into its visual culture are an entrenched commitment to social issues, fierce individualism, and yes, even the famous “melancholy” of Scandinavia, which has influenced artists over the years ranging from Edward Munch to Lars Von Trier. Voyage to the Virtual, a new exhibit opening in January at Scandinavia House, the Nordic Center in America, explores these themes as well as the ways local artists have approached digital mediums from a distinctly Scandinavian perspective. While selfies, products of ironic digital collectives, and other ultra-on-trend creations have been the most recognizable faces of the new media genre, these artists have chosen to focus their practice on social issues such as global warming, the isolation of modern man, and the ways humanity deals with inner space, subjectivity, and intimacy.

“Nordic visual art is interesting in particular because we often [seek] slowness and contemplation,” says curator Tanya Toft, “which contrasts a contemporary urban condition of accelerated speed, fast-paced attention and perceptual modes of superfluous scanning. These artworks provide spaces of deep reflection.”

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