Jessie Kleemann was born in 1959 in Upernavik, Greenland. She is a performance artist, painter, installation artist and poet who now lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.
She trained as a printmaker in Nuuk at the former Grafisk Værksted now known as the Art School in Nuuk and, prior to that, trained as an actor at the Tuukkaq Theatre in Denmark. She has created video works, sculptures, installations and live performances, and acted in traditional theatre productions in Greenland. Between 1984 and 1991 she was the head of the Art School in Nuuk. Alongside her artworks, including performances that she has created and performed, she has worked with the international performance group The Wolf in the Winter and taught creative writing in Greenland and other Nordic countries.
Her latest book of poetry titled Arkhticós Dolorôs came out in 2021, and this year she has had two major exhibitions titled Running Time at the SMK, the National Gallery of Denmark; and Lá.Læ. Likkja.Magna in the Rønnebæksholm, Kunsthal for contemporary art.
Artist statement, for the performance video Arkhticós Dolorôs (Artic Pain)
I was doing a performance on top of the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, known as the Blue Lake, near Ilulissat on 19 June 2019. The workshop I was invited to was “At the Moraine – envisioning the concerns of the ice ” organised by Amanda Boetzkes and Jeff Diamanti.
In my own practice of performance art, I utilise whatever my body needs to express both a directed emotion coming from it’s own memories, as well as something from mythology. The things that I need to explore through these layers of different movements, poetry or themes, such as the Sassuma Arnaa, seal blubber, or sea weed, can then appear in the work through several repetitions until they show something “new” or lose their inherent meaning.
I ask what it should do to me and the space, what relevance do the myths have, and are we are able to let it speak? In the case of the performance at the glacier, the elements itself have their own voice; the wind, the immense artic light, the melting ice, and the oozing cryoconite from the depths of the ice moraine. What is the reality of the melting of our Arctic, Issittup aakkiartornera, as the ice sheet melts? We face human migrations fleeing war, and famine from the subarctic regions, and yet we still don’t know how to let it speak to us.
Arkhticós Dolorôs means that we’re all in it, it is my pain, it is the Arctic in pain, we are the pain, the great polar bear is in pain right now.
Meet Jessie Kleemann at the Nordic pavilion
DECEMBER 1-6, 13:00-13:30 (UTC+4)
Daily screenings of the video performance Arkhticós Dolorôs (Artic Pain)
DECEMBER 6, 18:15–19:00 (UTC+4)
Listen to Jessie Kleemann at the event "No Transformation without Imagination-The power of art and culture for the green transition".
This event will be streamed live online so that people can take part, even if they’re not in Dubai themselves.
Images from the performance at the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, Ilulissat, June 2019.
Video and photos: Chelsea A. Reid and Tyler Levesque