Frontiers in Retreat: Edge Effects Exhibition Series 2017

While borders draw divisive lines, frontiers are transition and contact zones. Diversity is always richest in areas where different ecosystems meet: This is the edge effect. An encounter never leaves one unaffected.  

In the five-year international collaboration project Frontiers in Retreat (2013–2018), seven residency sites at the edges of Europe have been approached using various artistic and multidisciplinary methods. These remote sites are seen as frontiers where entanglements between human and other life forms become tangible. They allow insight into the entwined processes of ecological, social, and economic change – in their local manifestations and across a planetary scale.

The project has mapped out artistic practices that respond to ecological concerns, and explored the diverse ways in which ecology can be perceived and approached. In total 25 artists have been invited to conduct research and produce new work in response to particular ecosystems. Their research has ranged across fjords, forests, islands, villages, towns, cities, and mountains in Iceland, Finland, Scotland, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, and Spain. Throughout the project, the participating artists and organisations have challenged the initial premises of the project – productively, towards increased diversity. Rather than a fixed set of theories, concepts, and methods, there are multiple voices and views, positions and practices: the edge effect, indeed.

In 2017, Frontiers in Retreat organises the exhibition series Edge Effects. Its seven satellite exhibitions weave together the geographically dispersed processes and key discourses developed during the past four years. Besides reflecting the differences and resonances between the particular Frontiers sites, these discussions migrate into a new context via a group exhibition at Art Sonje Center in Seoul.

Through creating a platform for shared inquiry, Frontiers in Retreat has brought seven geographically dispersed sites closer to each other on the world map. Instead of conventional cartography, the process has resembled a kind of deep mapping: while engaging with the unique characteristics of each site, the participants have also learned about the complex co-dependencies and forces shaping habitats, human and non-human life trajectories, and migration patterns globally.

In the ethos of Frontiers in Retreat, the 2017–2018 Edge Effects events pose critical questions about the constitution of frontiers and boundaries. Another focus is the search for a new paradigm beyond the fossil-fuelled modes of living that are inevitably coming to an end. These focal points are being kept in mind while acknowledging that art should not be instrumentalised for the purposes of finding simplistic solutions. Instead, it can reveal conflicts within our values, formulate questions that challenge the status quo, and create a space for discussion and debate. As the Frontiers project continues as an open platform that branches out to new contexts, further edge effects can be expected.

Jenni Nurmenniemi
Curator, Frontiers in Retreat; HIAP – Helsinki International Artist Programme
Taru Elfving
Curator, Project initiator and curatorial advisor


June–August 2017: Mustarinda, Hyrynsalmi, Finland
June–September 2017: Skaftfell – Center for Visual Art, Seyðisfjörður, Iceland
July–September 2017: Interdisciplinary Art Group SERDE, Aizpute, Latvia
July 2017– : Centre d’Art i Natura CAN, Online exhibition
July 2017: SSW – Scottish Sculpture Workshop & CCA Glasgow, Scotland
November 2017: KC GRAD, Serbia
November–December 2017: HIAP – Helsinki International Artist Programme, Art Sonje Center, in collaboration with Gallery Factory, Seoul, South Korea
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February 2018: Jutempus, Zooetics Symposium, MIT Art, Culture & Technology, Cambridge, USA

The artists and more detailed exhibition programme will be announced during spring–summer 2017.

The concept for the Edge Effect exhibition series has been developed by curators Jenni Nurmenniemi (HIAP, Frontiers in Retreat) and Taru Elfving. Each of the eight project partners in Frontiers in Retreat curates and organises their own satellite exhibition within the Edge Effects framework, focussing on artists, questions and methods of their choice.