Interview with Marija Griniuk, the new director at The Sami Centre for Contemporary Art.

Marija Griniuk took over as director of The Sami Centre for Contemporary Art, Sámi Dáiddaguovddáš (SDG), in Karasjok, earlier this year. She replaces her predecessor, Kristoffer Dolmen after his four-year term ended. Se Kunst Magasin had a chat with her about her new position, and her ideas on both continuing to build and forging new directions for one of the major power centres for Sami art in the world.


Text: Anna Kristiansen
Photo: Tue Brisson Mosich
Publisert desember 2022 | Se Kunst Magasin

Art in future perspective

Marija Griniuk (b. 1984) is from Lithuania, with a Ukrainian background. Her vast practice as an artist and researcher has taken her to various places in recent years. Griniuk has worked in Rovaniemi, Finland, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Stockholm, Sweden, in many different scientific and art-related positions. Now she has moved with her family to the northern parts of Sápmi, undertaking her four-year term at SDG that began at the end of July this year.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

My background is as an artist and researcher. I have my education from Det Jyske Kunstakademi in Denmark (2016), and an MFA from Konstfack in Sweden (2020) and doing my P.hD. at the University of Lapland in Finland (2019 -). I have also, besides these two focus points, been involved in curatorial projects, mostly from an artist-run culture. For the last four years, I have been an active participant in the “Supermarket-events” in Stockholm – where a high focus point was artist curating. (NOTE 1)

So, my interest has been divided between my artistic production, my curatorial practice, and my research. Stepping into a role as a leader at SDG is very exciting, and for me a very challenging moment, as now I am working in the institutional context instead of the artist-run context. It’s very interesting.

I have been working on my Ph.D. by developing my research during the past three years at the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi. I defended my Ph.D. thesis in November 2022. Being based in the Arctic North is extremely exciting for me, to be connected to Arctic art and design, and learn about Sami art. My research is focused on the development of a new methodology to document performance art, so there has never been a direct connection to Sami art as such because my perspective is more about the documentation of a performance by adding layers of measurements through biometric data. It doesn’t matter where the artist is based; they can still use this methodology.

While being connected to Rovaniemi, I was always present in the discussions about the ethical ways of curating Sami art, the multi-disciplinary way of being a creative individual as the Sami artist is usually practicing, because there are various ways of expression.

I feel like this moment in time is so special for Sami art, especially with the Sámi Pavilion in Venice, and Documenta 14 in Kassel 2017. Since the attention is very high from the professional audience and institution, I wonder what will be next.

What are your plans and visions for Sámi Dáiddaguovddáš during your period as director of the institution?

The institution has its roots and tradition of being the venue for the community of artists in the Sámi area – this is the main role and focus of the institution, and has always been. That is one of the main focuses that certainly will be parallel with exploring other ways of setting up discussions on national and global levels, and my hope for SDG is that the artistic production presented here will have many ways besides the tradition of the institution.

It is also exciting to see what can be discussed and seen on a global scale when involving Indigenous artists and curators from, for example, New Zealand. I do believe that many issues are something that we cannot disconnect from and locate only in our area. It is interesting to see how we can be united; for instance; how can we see these parallels of problems which artists address through their aesthetic ways? Also, to see how curators can present such historical and politically loaded art works to different audiences, and how audiences can get the most out of such artworks because, for sure, besides being the aesthetic outcome, the examples of artworks which are loaded narratives and with history also has an educational role. Is it consciously decided by artists, or is it happening as the layers of the audience meet the artwork?

This educational context is from my field perspective seen as something we cannot avoid because the artwork communicates out there, and the artwork is the active voice in the exhibition room.

So, this aspect of curatorial practice, what curators are doing here, what curators are doing in various venues working with different representations of different Indigenous artists… That’s going in the direction of one of my visions for SDG, where SDG can contribute to new knowledge production. This is very important. After all, I do believe art can do a lot and art can be not only the needed point of the audience but also the basis to develop new methods and new visions to encourage new generations of curators to think in innovative ways because knowledge is cyclic.

SDG would benefit a lot from contributing to the cycle, which is the old thought process of understanding how we as curators work, how artists work, and what art can be in that future perspective.

These two focuses are important. Of course, SDG is very open to the local community, young people, and experimentation. I want to explore how we can communicate art in different ways so that the connection between artwork and viewer is coherent. There are many ways of communication, like when children come into the venue, it’s one way of having a dialog, with students from art academies, from locals to professionals. We will be exploring these different strategies for being interesting and exciting for our visitors. That is the third hope for this institution.

So, in short, SDG aims to both keep with tradition and contribute to new knowledge production, while having coherence in communication with various audiences.

What exhibitions are on the agenda for 2023, and are you already working on the programming?

This is a good question. For me, the first months of work were very much focused on having dialogs with venues and institutions, not only in Norway but also across borders. Cooperation and possibilities with Sweden and Finland. When I stepped into the institution, the program for 2023-2024 was already planned. So, my collaboration with Kunstnerisk råd will be towards the programming for 2025. It is too early to say the concrete ideas for 2025. Collaborative work with other members of Kunstnerisk råd will be at the forefront, but interesting discussions are happening with different institutions as well.

The program for 2023 begins with a collaborative project with Riddo Duottar Museat and the Sámi Parliament’s purchasing committee. This exhibition will be focused on the newest additions to the collection from 2020-2022. This is an exciting project to start the year, and we are looking forward to approaching the artists and producing educational material where the audience can learn more about the artists, and their thoughts on the work presented. Our role in this project will be mostly focused on communication and on the production of material for audiences to explore and investigate what the artists are doing.

The next project during the spring and summer will be solo exhibitions of several different artists based in Sweden, and Norway. I must say the upcoming year will be a very nice mix of solo productions and group exhibitions. It will be dynamic in many ways. Most of the productions are from Sami artists, but we will also be having some works from artists that are not originating directly from the Sami area but are active in the north, and who are working with themes that are connected to the present artistic work. For example, artists that are based in the region are connected to Sápmi somehow but are not Sami. It’s important to show that there are many different voices in this region. 

The upcoming exhibitions in April-June 2023 are by artists Lena Stenberg and Jet Pascua.


NOTE 1: Referring to SUPERMARKET – Stockholm Independent Art Fair. The goal of SUPERMARKET, the international artist-run art fair, is to provide a showcase for artists' initiatives from all over the world and to create opportunities for new networks in the Swedish as well as the international art scene. The exhibitors are generally not-for-profit exhibition spaces. In addition to the exhibition, the event includes a seminar program, a performance art stage, and a networking meeting program. Griniuk has contributed, among others, to the Talk and Performance program.

Enkeltutgave av Se Kunst Magasin kan kjøpes på nett hos

Enkeltutgave 105 kr. Betalingsalternativer: