Barents Profile: Luba Kuzovnikova - “Building bridges across borders and genres”

The annual culture festival Barents Spektakel in Kirkenes keeps growing every year taking the logistics of small Kirkenes to its very limits. Presenting a varied mix of cross-cutting contemporary art and sometimes with controversial partners – such as from North Korea , Barents Spektakel creates debate and gets extensive media coverage. Out of curiosity for the philosophy of Pikene på Broen and who they are, BarentSaga invited Luba Kuzovnikova, Art Director of Pikene på Broen to be our Barents Profile in this issue.

Pikene på Broen is a company of art curators and producers – what is it more exactly that you do?

-  We invite artists, researchers, opinion-makers, politicians and the public to Border-Crossing Exercises which means that we create meeting places hoping to build bridges across national border and across various genres of contemporary art. »Taking the world to the Barents and the Barents into the world» describes our motto quite well. Our main project in Kirkenes is the annual festival Barents Spektakel, other events are Barents Art Triennale, Transborder Cafes, BAR International artists-in-residency program and additional cooperation projects.

What are the most important contributions of Pikene på Broen?

-  We work with brave and daring artists who are not afraid of coming forward and making statements. This is a challenge for everyone involved – for borders, politics and business as well as for a wider public and us as organizers, but we believe that telling new stories and making inquisitive interpretations may have positive consequences for future decision-making. We work with arts and culture that is locally rooted, but at the same time address currant issues of global relevance hoping to reach also a wider audience. As a region of borders the Barents Region is a source of inspiration in for example dialogues on cooperation. We have seen a growing interest in what we do from other places, so maybe we can also be inspiration for others outside the Barents Region. 

The Norwegian writer Morten Strøksnæs has labeled Pikene på Broen The Barents Liberation Army. How do you feel about that?

-  At first we argued with Morten against it because we are not a political alliance on a mission to tear down national borders, as Barents Liberation Army may sound like. We just happen to enjoy living here. And by presenting art cutting across culture and politics, we challenge the contemporary global view of the North showing that we also live in a creative region attractive for people to settle down in. In other words, by living up in the North and working with the Barents contexts we in a way liberate the Barents Region from the traditional perception that is dominated by natural resources and heavy industry. So we started actually liking the concept of Barents Liberation Army. But wait til Barents Spektakel 2013 – the BLA will come into force!

Dare to Share was the theme of the Barents Spektakel 2012 – could you elaborate a little on the thoughts behind this theme?

- I think a few of the words in my opening speech of Barents Spektaktel 2012 illuminate the thoughts behind Dare to Share:

“We share the borderland. We decide on the rules of sharing land, water, air and follow certain codes of behavior.

As time goes by, we challenge the rules and codes.

We agree and disagree, we come to a compromise...

We share.

We share square kilometers.

But how do we share values, knowledge, ideas, experiences?

Do we dare to share something new?

Do we dare to share cultures that are so much different from ours?

How much are we ready to give up to be able to share?

What do we gain when we dare to share?”

Is there, or is there not a Barents identity is an often debated issue. Do you feel that you have a Barents identity?

-  Yes, I definitely do. I grew up in Severodvinsk by the White Sea. Later with my friends I started the Center for Contemporary Art ArtHangar on the Solovetsky Islands. And now having the Barents Region as my “playground”, I feel like a Barents resident. I believe that the Barents Region provides common strong denominators for people in this area although the Barents Region as such is a political construction established as late as in 1993. The border areas make us all relate to each other in one way or another creating a common identity to which I feel Pikene is contributing a lot. I think that this sense of identity will continue to grow.

You seem to be very creative – don’t you ever wish that you were the artist instead of the curator?

- To my mind, to be creative is an obligation of any thinking person. To be an artist is a heavy responsibility to make people think. So I am perfectly all right to stand by and behind the artists.


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 Luba-Kuzovnikova_Photo-Jaax.jpg
Luba Kuzovnikova, Photo Sven Jaax.

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Me/WE – Barents Spektakel 2012. Photo Trude Petersen.


The name Pikene på Broen is borrowed from the painting by one of the famous Norwegian painters Edvard Munch and translates the Girls on the Bridge / Девушки на Mосту.

Don’t miss Barents Spektakel 2013!  The Barents Spektakel 2013 takes place in Kirkenes 06.02. – 10.02.2013.  For more information on Pikene på Broen and coming events.