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Legacies of Contamination

Summer school in Nuuk, Greenland
Legacies of Contamination
As the Greenlandic ice cap melts, natural resources on the island become increasingly accessible to mining, drilling and damming. Simultaneously, the melting ice reveals old NATO base camps. Toxic waste from camps flow into melted water. This double whammy will give rise to profound changes: economies topple, populations migrate, local identities transform.

This intensive course combines research, discussions, and fieldwork by bringing together students from Aalto University and University of Iceland and researchers, artists, community organizers, politicians, and activists in Greenland.
We seek to foment discussion between various interest groups in the Arctic region about environmental politics, economy and social and ecological transformations. The class lectures will be open to the public in Greenland and online.

Students engage with transdisciplinary research in microbiology, geology, anthropology, and art. They are introduced to and collect evidence and narratives that reflect the uncertainty of today’s Arctic region with its shifting geopolitics. At the end, students have an understanding of the complex social, environmental and biological realities of the Arctic. The course comprises seminar and field workshops in Nuuk and its environs. Students will carry out field research exploring the social and biological transformations in process.

• learn about the challenges of global warming in the Arctic through the field site (Greenland).
• learn the basics of carrying out interdisciplinary fieldwork
• get understanding of the role and nature of citizen science projects and how they relate to their own activities.
• have an understanding of the complex social and biological realities that result from environmental contamination sustained over time: legacy of contamination.
• prepare independent works of art/paper reflecting those realities and presenting them to wider audiences.

Legacy of Contamination is designed to create a dynamic transdisciplinary “classroom in the field” dealing with pressing social and ecological challenges in the Arctic frontier by participating with existing communities in creating data and knowledge with interdisciplinary methodology. The course brings together anthropology, art, natural science, and community members to address acute environmental problems, but also seeing the problems in a wider social context and develop new ways of reflecting upon it through art and presenting it to wider audiences.

Preparatory sessions: discussions with students, artists, researchers, community organizers, and activists in Finland, Iceland and Greenland over Skype and meeting in person at the Radical Relevances conference (25. – 27.4 2018). Skype conversations take place in January – March 2018, exact dates to be announced. 

The workshop is carried out in Greenland in two parts: 1) preparatory part will be in NAPA in Nuuk and consists of lectures, discussions and exchanges and 2) fieldwork will be carried out in Nuuk and surroundings.

The main learning methods will be ethnographic fieldwork, including observation, field notes (writing and drawing), collecting visual data and quantitative data as well as taking interviews with local stakeholders, sampling biological materials (and later growing and analyzing them) and developing independent work based on them.

Friday 8.6
Arrival in Nuuk

Saturday 9.6
Introduction to NAPA, University of Greenland, and National Museum of Greenland.
Lecture: Class methods, aims and goals and expected results (Pia Lindman)

Sunday 10.6
Morning: Workshop

Workshop of artistic strategies for exploring a site: (Pia Lindman)

Lectures and discussions (open to public):
Opportunities and challenges in the Arctic
Tinna Grétarsdóttir and Sigurjón B Hafsteinsson, University of Iceland
Challenges facing Greenland
Mikkel Myrup, National Museum of Greenland

Monday 11.6.
Workshop of artistic strategies for exploring a site (open to public)
Pia Lindman
Local artist talk: Inuk Silis Hoeg.
Discussions and presentations of the students work planned

Tuesday 12.6
Lectures (open to public)
Introduction to Greenland lectures (preliminary speakers):
Hjalmar Dahl, representative of Greenland in Inuit Circumpolar Council
Miilla Lennert, social scientist, University of Greenland
Gitte Tróndheim, anthropologist. University of Greenland

Wednesday 13.6.
Nuuk – fieldwork
Field research in Nuuk environs explores the social and biological transformations in process. Students engage with interdisciplinary research in microbiology, geology, anthropology and art.

Citizen science workshop 1 Field trips and research in the field (documentation, diaries, samples)

Thursday 14.6.
Field research in Nuuk environs explores the social and biological transformations in process. Students engage with interdisciplinary research in microbiology, geology, anthropology and art.

Citizen science workshop 2: Field trips and research in the field (documentation, diaries, samples)

Friday 15.6.
Reports of field work and planning the continuation of the research and production of final projects. Planning continued collaboration for a period as long as 12 months.

Saturday 16.6. Students depart

Students will produce documentation and reports on their field work. Based on these reports, students will prepare presentations for the final public meeting in Greenland, and later illustrated written reports to be circulated within the participating organizations and presented in relevant seminars such as Þjóðarspegill, Researches in Social sciences at the University of Iceland. Students will also prepare documentation of their independent projects and share their results digitally in an online course platform (MOOC), set up at Aalto University, and other relevant websites.

Any collected bio samples will be further explored by sequencing (metagenomics) and cultivation (Biophilia Laboratory, Aalto University), work that may be included in the documentation described above.

APPLICATION DEADLINE 31.10.2017 for students at Aalto University:

TAI-E3107 Research as Artistic Practice: Legacies of contamination 

Application to course: email a motivation letter to Pia Lindman ( no later than 31.10.17. Please state in this letter your plans to explore one or more of the following issues: melting ice caps, extraction industry, biodiversity, pollution, social and ethnic identity in the age of global transformations. In addition, please state your previous participation or your commitment to participate in the course “Environment.Now?”

Students who have taken the course “Environment.Now?” in earlier years, or will take it in spring 2018, will have priority.

TAI-E3125 (M01) Environment. Now? The Trouble with Interdisciplinary

Legacies of Contamination Collaborators and Co-Teachers: Mats Bjerde Director of NAPA, Nuuk, Greenland ( Tinna Grétarsdóttir, Curator OH-Project (, Iceland, Sigurjón B Hafsteinsson, Professor of Social Sciences, University of Iceland (, Pia Lindman, Professor of Environmental Art, Aalto ARTS, Finland (, and Mikkel Myrup, Curator, National Museum of Greenland and Head of Avataq (, Society for Nature and Environment, Greenland. Legacies of Contamination is funded in part by Nordplus.


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