FRI KUNST: A conversation with Katarina Skår Lisa

Katarina Skår Lisa med blå drakt

Katarina Skår Lisa is a dancer, choreographer and teacher – Norwegian, and with Sámi roots. During Oslo Internasjonale Teaterfestival 2020, she presented her work Gift of Stone – an expanded choreographic examination of physical boundaries, of histories, experiences and spirituality of this massive part of Sapmi; the region of the Sámi people.

What does artistic freedom mean to you?

To me, artistic freedom is related to freedom of ‘speech’ within both the body, mind and heart, and it refers to the possibility to express from an honest centre towards oneself and all sentient beings. This may mean the freedom to express whom we are and from the culture and land which we are related to, or it may refer to those concepts and ideas we connect with.

To me, artistic freedom is based on accept and compassion for the individual expressions and those who are expressing urges from a core of either social, political, spiritual, cultural or personal needs or beliefs. These artistic expressions may be triggering, confusing, boring, important, necessary, demanding, opening, moving, beautiful, and so much more to those who witness the growth or presentation of the artwork. They may trigger many emotions and feelings within us. Can we handle these expressions without projecting our fears or worries towards the expressions or the artists that are presenting certain issues?

I think artistic freedom should concern the respect for all sentient beings as often as possible. Within this saying, I mean that artists should have the space to ask questions and to be generous about challenging perspectives, views and activities within our society – space to dare putting sensitive and sensible themes on the agenda.

Why do you think artistic freedom is important?

To me, the importance of artistic freedom tells something about how the artists or the artistic expressions are reflecting multiplicities and differences in societies. We need artistic freedom to go beyond the surfaces of issues of all kinds. There are no ‘one way’ of things. I see that artists, through their expressions, can be important figures of telling new stories – and these stories create new imaginations and possible futures.

Artistic freedom is important for abling the artists to approach sensitive topics and to take their space, but it should also give the possibility to ‘retreat’, if needed.

How is artistic freedom put at risk?

I think artistic freedom is put at risk when freedom in general is limited. What is freedom, eventually, for each person, each culture, each land and country? These possible differences of perspectives make it complicated to give one overall answer to this question. Personally, I am worried that artistic freedom can be limited as seen in other countries. In Norway, there have been several worrying cases of this during recent time; cases where artistic productions have been threatened in medias for its unsuitable political contents, and where cultural heritage buildings are decided to be demolished without the people’s consent. There are also cases of big corporations paying disrespect to the nature and the culture of Sámi people; where land- and culture based practises are threatened by big building corporations in vulnerable nature areas, which are also important grazing lands for reindeer and other wild animals. Sámi artists become important storytellers in some of these cases, bringing up important issues through their artistic expressions.

I do have a belief that a collective ‘dugnad’ spirit will protect artistic freedom, through sharing art as both a need and a tool to navigate through our lives.

What are the possible actions to protect artistic freedom?

We should continue working for the freedom of speech being available for each and everyone of us, and to ensure that the voices of the people are heard – including the marginal voices, as well as the voices of the unseen and the unheard.

I do believe that it may be a good quality to work inwards with our own capacity of care, compassion and ways of listening. We should build spaces for inclusive attitudes towards expressions of all kinds of life. I also wish to raise the possible importance of collaborations or co-creative sharings about strengthening the artistic freedom.

((((I dream of a more generous attitude towards expressions and differences. Also, I dream of a more caring approach towards and with our micro and macro surroundings.))))