Pia Arke (b. 1958, Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland; d. 2007, Copenhagen, Denmark) was a visual and performance artist, writer and photographer whose practice explored the ethnic, cultural and political relationships between Denmark and Greenland, reexamining the impact of their shared colonial history on indigeneity and identity. “I make the history of colonialism part of my history in the only way I know, namely by taking it personally,” Arke wrote in 2003. Acknowledged as one of the most important postcolonial critics from the Nordic region, her work has been widely exhibited in exhibitions and institutions across the globe.
Arctic Hysteria, 1996
Arctic Hysteria is a video performance by Pia Arke from 1996 showing the Kalaallit artist as she crawls naked over a giant black and white picture of Nuugaarsuk Point, a spit of land at the terminus of a C-shaped bay in Greenland. The artist lived there in the late 1960s. In the film, Arke strokes the artificial landscape, rolls across it, and sniffs it like an animal. Then she tears the map to pieces, gathers the curled shards of paper, and lets them fall across her shoulders and thighs. The title of the work is a reference to the term Piblokto, also known as arctic hysteria. Most common during long arctic nights, and first documented by explorers, it is a phenomenon experienced by the Inuit, usually women, who perform irrational or dangerous acts which they then forget.
Photo: Installation photo of Pia Arke’s Arctic Hysteria. Photographed by Momentum.