Celebrating its 30th anniversary, LIAF is the longest-running contemporary art biennial in Scandinavia. The 2022 edition of the nomadic festival will take place at the North Norwegian Art Centre in Svolvær, which has produced the festival since 2009, and at five different sites around the town of Kabelvåg. Kabelvåg is located between Svolvær and Henningsvær in the wondrous Lofoten islands. The curators selected it as a host for the biennial because it is the home of the Nordland Art and Film School, which offers excellence in moving image education, and also because it was the place where Dada artist Kurt Schwitters was confined during the Nazi occupation of Norway.
Instead of starting with a concept, LIAF 2022 – Fantasmagoriana originated with the sharing of an oral tale, which put forward an archaeology of the Arctic region as a landscape for ‘Gothic’ literature. Through its sharing, this narrative became a tactic for transmitting tacit knowledge, where information about natural, fictional, and political events could weave freely into new maps, which in turn evolved and adapted within the contexts in which the invited artists operate. Now, we want to share this story with you.
Fantasmagoriana is the title of an anthology of horror stories that birthed the two monsters of Western modernity: Dracula and Frankenstein. To know how this came about, however, it’s necessary to take a step back. It is 1815 and the Tambora volcano erupts in Indonesia. This event starts a chain reaction that causes a series of adverse natural events. Waves of cold and heavy rains sweep across Asia and Europe for many months, so much so that 1816 is remembered as the year without a summer. As a result of these weather conditions, a cholera epidemic spreads from South Asia to the Middle East. These two factors have unpredictable effects on the world economy. Famines occur in the following years in parts of China, especially in Yunnan. In an attempt to resist, the people living there convert many traditional crops to opium cultivation. This is perhaps how international drug dealing is born in the modern age.
Soon, cholera and the poor weather conditions come to affect Europe as well. For this very reason, a group of friends and writers decide to spend a time of isolation at Villa Diodati in the Swiss town of Cologny. The group includes Lord Byron and his physician John Polidori, Mary Shelley, her sister, and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. To kill time, the company thus gathered begins reading scary novels. Among them, Fantasmagoriana.
The reading of Fantasmagoriana prompts the comrades to set themselves a challenge: to frighten each other by creating their own horror stories. From that challenge two novels are born: John Polidori’s The Vampyre, which will inspire Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Fanstasmagoriana is, in short, proof that works of art are not objects, but living organisms capable of proliferating and mutating.