Experiencing Diversity and Alterity through Urbanizing Mongolia




DA Dissertation,Aalto University, Department of Art            


Nomadic Science Fiction is a research project that started from having a cup of coffee with a friend and the two of us agreeing we really should do a project. But what would be interesting to do, really? How far could one go, physically and mentally, as an artist? Our quite quick answer to this was to go to Mongolia as a group of artists and researchers and create something without boundaries between professions and places. Something like this was the plan. It took two years to set it up, but we did. Some years later still it became my doctoral research project. In order to combine artistic practice, curating and research I have organised exhibition exchange projects and artistic/research residencies between Mongolian and Western artists, architects and authors for seven years.

As I understand it now this research has been trying out difference and diversity as well as the experience of change, change of location and position, change of identity.
There is the question of professions – artist, curator, researcher, editor – and there is the question of identity, cultural and social. Thus what I have set out to experience and to understand is what kind of a research tool can organizing international exhibition exchange project be? What kind of roles, positions, and combinations of these are involved and what kind of experiences they provide? As I chose this Mongolia project as the site of my research I, of course, also ask questions and tell stories about Mongolia, but my research is not as such into Mongolia, but into the experiences this project has formed in its participants. Mongolia is a perspective, a vanishing point that all these diverse activities and thoughts are somehow directed to or through. As European and Mongolian cultures are very different in many ways the method that this research uses is something that I suppose could be called alterity study.

Besides the experiences and reflections on self, other, community and environment in the ‘exchanged’ locations this project has produced works of art – and exhibitions and publications thereof – thus producing its own ‘field material’. Through this material, produced both in the exhibitions and publications of the project as well as this final thesis based on all of the phases of the project, I wish to establish the potential power in undefined cultural work. Meaning it is as important to an individual not to be limited to one single role or mode of action in professional life as it is important for any individual to have diverse experience and understanding of the surrounding world and one’s own standing in it in order to sense what things really are through their relations.

These past seven-eight years have definitely changed me and I have also seen how others have changed along with the project proceeding from year to year both as persons and as artists. What has changed is the core experience and understanding of oneself in the world and in relation to everything around one, as well as, at least for me, the very experience of self – not to mention ideas and understanding of art and its way to represent. Overall I could say that my experience has been that it is relatively easy to adapt to daily life even if things were difficult to accept sometimes, but what comes to the ‘way art should be made and displayed’ our ideas are pretty stern, regional and always very contemporary. Just as it is said that at the core of all interpretation and eventually of the self, there is a void, so I have also, somehow, experienced Mongolia disappear the closer I come.


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