New Nordic Exceptionalism: Jeuno JE Kim and Ewa Einhorn’s 'The United Nations of Norden' and Other Realist Utopias

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At the 2009 Nordic Culture Forum summit in Berlin that centered on the profiling and branding of the Nordic region in a globalized world, one presenter stood out from the crowd. The lobbyist Annika Sigurdardottir delivered a speech that called for the establishment of “The United Nations of Norden”: A Nordic union that would gather the nations and restore Norden’s role as the “moral superpower of the world.” Sigurdardottir’s presentation generated such a heated debate that the organizers had to intervene and reveal that the speech was a performance made by the artists Jeuno JE Kim and Ewa Einhorn. This article takes Kim and Einhorn’s intervention as a starting point for a critical discussion of the history and politics of Nordic image-building. The article suggests that the reason Kim and Einhorn’s speech passed as a serious proposal was due to its meticulous mimicking of two discursive formations that have been central to the debates on the branding of Nordicity over the last decades: on the one hand, the discourse of “Nordic exceptionalism,” that since the 1960s has been central to the promotion of a Nordic political, socio-economic, and internationalist “third way” model, and, on the other hand, the discourse on the “New Nordic,” that emerged out of the New Nordic Food-movement in the early 2000s, and which has given art and culture a privileged role in the international re-fashioning of the Nordic brand. Through an analysis of Kim and Einhorn’s United Nations of Norden (UNN)-performance, the article examines the historical development and ideological underpinnings of the image of Nordic unity at play in the discourses of Nordic exceptionalism and the New Nordic. By focusing on how the UNN-project puts pressure on the role of utopian imaginaries in the construction of Nordic self-images, the article describes the emergence of a discursive framework of New Nordic Exceptionalism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Aesthetics & Culture
Issue number1
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - performance art, new nordic, new nordic exceptionalism, nordic exceptionalism, nordic art, branding, branding Norden, Nordic colonialism, Nordic cultural collaborations, contemporary art, Nordism, Scandinavianism, Culture jamming

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