As part of Sweden’s Luleå Biennial, Garland facilitated a pilot knowledge exchange to develop a reciprocal platform for global knowledge sharing.
The Luleå Biennial is a deliberately grounded festival. Many of the artists and projects connect with local histories, such as the weaving boards collected over decades by Doris Wiklund. Exposing this work to the public raises questions about its ownership, especially in the Norrbotten region.
Norrbotten occupies an area in northern Sweden next to the Finnish border and includes part of Sápmi (Lapland), the land of the Sami peoples. In the past, many metropolitans have travelled to Norrbotten to collect knowledge. In the early nineteenth century, Carl Linnaeus travelled through the region to develop his taxonomic system for plants. His journal Lachesis lapponica, or a tour in Lapland (1811) is a meticulous record not only of the region’s plant life but also the culture and crafts of the “Lapps” as the Sami were then called. Linnaeus approached the people of the north in the same way he engaged with its fauna and flora: as passive objects of scientific extraction.
This took a more violent form late with the survey of Sámi in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that involved skull measurements. The film Sami Blood evokes the trauma and humiliation suffered during the scientific process.
This seemed then an appropriate context for developing a more reciprocal exchange, reflecting a circular knowledge where information is gathered in a way that promotes the conditions that allow cultures to flourish.
So as one of the activities of the Learning Room in the Luleå Biennial, we staged a pilot knowledge exchange with four holders of craft knowledge:
The initial process was to allow pairs to barter knowledge. Each keeper provided a menu of five items of craft knowledge. When selecting an item from their partner, the partner could help request one as “payment”.
The knowledge keepers were:
We began by acknowledging the sources of knowledge. As well as respecting the interests of the present knowledge keeper, there is sometimes consideration of the interests of the person who might have provided that knowledge initially, such as a teacher, parent or ancestor.
The exchanges were:
- Making stone spheres = Solar dyeing
- Screen printing on textiles = Leather sewing
- Making mineral pigments = Bundle dyeing
- Japanese Shinto craft and design = Sewing in reindeer fur
- Tin thread embroidery = Different ways of preparing a fabric before natural dyeing
- Transformative repair = Exhibition and conference models to discuss cultural identity and cultural inheritance
From the initial exchange, the following initial principles were proposed:
Rights of the knowledge keeper
Before knowledge is offered, there should be an opportunity to state conditions. These can include:
- not to be passed on to anyone else;
- not to be shared on a public platform like YouTube;
- unlimited use
Responsibilities of the knowledge keeper
While respecting the keeper’s rights, there is also a responsibility to spread the knowledge. This could be in the spirit of a gift economy, where the generosity of the source is carried on by its current bearer. There is also the desire for a particular craft technique that it can flourish through widespread and diverse practice.
To develop this further, it is proposed to have future events involving knowledge exchange.
Every person has so much knowledge to share, they just lack the opportunity to present it.
We have so much to learn from each other. But hierarchies of specialisation can inhibit open exchange.
The elements could include:
- Anyone can register for the event, agreeing to respect the conditions specified by knowledge donors
- This can include makers, scholars and users: it is up to the exchange to determine the general value of their knowledge
- Each participant needs to provide up to five items of knowledge
- The knowledge can include: material technique, story, concept, information skill, tips for life
- It begins with one person selected randomly who is invited to request an item from another participant
- The donor begins by stipulating any conditions
- After explaining the technique, the donor then can request an item from another participant
- This continues until the hour is up.
- The exchange is conducted online and is not recorded
It is proposed to try out this model using the Garland platform in February 2023.
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