Arctic Artist Books & Samizdat

Project Spotlight: An Arctic network project in the field of writing and publishing.

Circumpolar Collaboration Creating Technology
People browse through books set out on various tables at the Arctic Art Book Fair, held in the swimming pool area at Alfheim Svømhall.

The Pigeon-Gram Collective, Arctic Art Newspaper and Arctic Art Book Fair projects were developed as a part of a larger project – Arctic Artist Books & Samizdat – owned by Troms and Finnmark County Council, and run in collaboration with a network of organizations in the northern regions of Norway, Russia, Sweden, Finland and Greenland (North Norwegian Art Centre, Kunstkvarteret Lofoten, Atelier NOUA, MONDO Books (NOR); Murmansk Artist Organization, St Petersburg Art Residency, Karelian art residence (AiR Karelia), CSI Arkhangelsk (RUS); ArtNorth (SE), Nuuk Art Museum (GL); and Kaltio (FIN)).

Note: These events were organized prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See Barents Secretariat’s statement on the invasion and cross-border cooperation here.

People browse through books set out on various tables at the Arctic Art Book Fair, held in the swimming pool area at Alfheim Svømhall.


Through artist-in-residence programs, study trips, workshops and seminars the project Arctic Artist Books & Samizdat aims to contribute to the development of competence and production within art criticism, art books and the self-publishing field. An important goal for the project is the establishment of a nomadic art book festival—the Arctic Art Book Fair, which will be a sustainable meeting place and exhibition arena for the professional community and local audiences in the Barents region and the Arctic.

The project is supported by BarentsKult and Nordic Culture Fund.

The Arctic Art Book Fair in Alfheim Svømhall at night time. The book fair logo is projected on a screen in the centre of the pool space, and the area is bathed in turquoise light.

The Pigeon-Gram Collective

The Pigeon-Gram Collective is a group of writers based in the Arctic. In a time of heavy restrictions on social interaction and international travel due to the pandemic, they met online to exchange texts, opinions and experiences. Each participant was asked to write a text that started out from their immediate surroundings and moved on to a broader view of their local context via an object – a work of art, a building, a text, etc. To counter a situation that made physical meetings impossible, the participants also sent each other postcards.

Editors/Concept: Tekstbyrået (Nina M. Schjønsby & Halvor Haugen)

Writers: Amanda Hakoköngäs (Tornio/ FIN), Anna Näumann (Tromsø/NOR), Astrid Fadnes (Tromsø | Kirkenes/NOR), Elise Sønderland (Bodø/NOR), Emma Niemi (Petrozavodsk, RUS), Lena Ylipää (Lainio/SE), Mariya Dorofeyeva (Arkhangelsk/RUS), Olga Demidenko (Syvtyvkar/RUS), Silvia Colombo (Luleå/SE), Stine Lundberg Hansen (Vordingborg, DK)

Download the Pigeon-Gram Collective E-Magazine here.

Arctic Art Newspaper

In the summer of 2020, the partners behind the network project announced an open call for contributions to the Arctic Art Newspaper project. 28 of 112 applications were selected by a larger group of representatives from the partner organizations in the autumn of 2020, and three contributions by direct invitation. The editorial team: Marion Bouvier (Tromsø), Paavo J. Heinonen (Oulu), and Anastasia Patsey (St. Petersburg) got to work and met online throughout 2021, working closely with Arkhangelsk-based designers Victor Tiapkov and Nadezhda Staritsyna.

The publication wants to promote contemporary art that reflects the diversity of artistic practices in the Arctic region in this moment in history. There is no special theme or concept the publication addresses. The curatorial concept for the publication is developed around the publication itself and distribution, not the artistic common theme for the submitted art works and texts. The publication will be available both as a printed and an online publication. 

The publication will be launched during the seminar and a network meeting in Kirkenes, June 9–10, 2022, organized in collaboration with Pikene på Broen.

Download the first issue of the Arctic Art Newspaper here.


Books on a table at the Arctic Art Book Fair in Alfheim Svømhall at night time.

Arctic Art Book Fair

The Arctic Art Book Fair is a multi-day celebration that highlights the production of printed matter throughout the circumpolar region through individual art practices, publishing studios and independent presses. AABF is organized by Mondo Books (Tromsø, Norway) and is the first art book fair to our knowledge that brings together producers from all over the circumpolar North; Alaska, Northern Canada, Greenland, Northern Scandinavia and Russia. The fair, which will be hosted by a different Arctic country in the upcoming years, hopes to provide a sustainable meeting place and exhibition venue for Arctic artistic communities and local audiences. It is also committed to Arctic content, with a focus on Indigenous perspectives, under-represented voices and cross-border collaborations. 

The first edition was held in Alfheim Svømhall in Tromsø 2020 and it brought together over 70 local, national and international publishers, and had an extensive public program of presentations, panels and readings. It also featured a retrospective of handmade books from the past 40 years by the artist Hans Ragnar Mathisen. Mathisen is a painter, illustrator and graphic artist known for his pioneering work in Sámi cartography since 1975. He has had exhibitions since 1970 in Sápmi, Scandinavia and abroad, most recently he was part of Documenta 14 in Athens, Greece. He was one of the initiators of the foundation of the Sámi Artists’ Group in 1974, and has taken part in both the Sámi community and traveled extensively among the world’s Indigenous peoples. This was the first time his bookworks and book practice were shown so extensively. The first edition was kindly supported by Norsk Kulturråd, Troms og Finnmark Fylkeskommune, Barentskult, Sparebank i Nord Norge, Tromsø Kunstforening and Small Projects gallery.

Please stay tuned for the next edition of the AABF, which will be held in Nuuk Greenland in 2023.

Find more information regarding the AABF on the website and on Instagram.

A hand with nails painted blue holds programs for the Arctic Art Book Fair in pastel shades of pink, blue, yellow, and lavender.



Mondo Books

Mondo is an independent, artist-run initiative that focuses on art publications, fanzines and printed matter, mainly from young and newly established artists from the circumpolar North. Mondo distributes materials from artists such as Animals, IMA READ, MONARCH, Torpedo Press, BBOOKS, Lubok Verlag, amongst many others. Alongside book distribution, Mondo also hosts events, readings, performances and spatial installations. Mondo plays an important role in both the local scene as well as on the national level, since it is the only independent art book platform and distributor in the Northern region of Norway and Sápmi.


Watch a webinar with Dmitry Kozlov, Josephine von Zitzewitz and Tanya Busse about the Soviet dissident phenomenon «samizdat» (self-publishing). The webinar was held March 18, 2021.



Samizdat—the effectively illegal production and circulation of texts outside official channels—was a major cultural phenomenon in the later decades of the Soviet Union where the state held a monopoly on textual production. At the centre of samizdat culture was the reader: readers created demand for samizdat texts, readers manufactured new copies using typewriters, and readers circulated texts to new readers. But the ordinary samizdat reader left few if any records behind. During this webinar, Josephine von Zitzewitz introduced samizdat as a reading culture and presented innovative methods for collecting and interpreting information from and about the elusive “ordinary samizdat reader.” Dmitry Kozlov showed how uncensored feminist magazines of the late 1970s and the early 1980s simultaneously challenged and succeeded the tradition of Leningrad samizdat. The conversation was moderated by Tanya Busse, visual artist and co-director of Mondo Books, an independent book platform that mediates artists´s publications through exhibitions, book fairs, workshops, launches and other events, such as the Arctic Art Book Fair. 

Credit: This video was originally published by the Barents Secretariat on June 15, 2022. COURTESY BARENTS SECRETARIAT. 

This story is part of the Barents Secretariat Spotlight. View more content from the Spotlight here.


The Norwegian Barents Secretariat strongly condemns Russia’s unprecedented military aggression against Ukraine.

The Barents Cooperation was established as a peace project in 1993, after 45 years of cold war. The foundation of the Barents Cooperation has always been people-to-people contact. The goal of the Barents cooperation is to remove cultural barriers and to build bridges across borders. During almost 30 years, we have gone from closed borders to close ties between the people in the Barents Region. The cooperation between people from all areas of society like schools, municipalities, NGOs and cultural institutions, the so-called people-to people-perspective, is an important keystone. Through meetings between people in the region we build down barriers and increase our mutual understanding.

Unfortunately, people-to-people cross-border cooperation in the north has long been constrained due to the increasingly authoritarian regime in Russia. The situation for civil society is now extremely difficult, and the uncertainty arising from Russia’s military attacks makes effective cross-border cooperation even more challenging. Unfortunately, the impacts of this will be felt at the local level, particularly by people living in the north.

In our spotlight the Norwegian Barents Secretariat will focus on the positive and successful cooperation between artists and cultural institutions that normally takes place across the Norwegian-Russian border.

While the Norwegian Barents Secretariat stands behind the Norwegian government’s demand that Russia immediately ceases its military operations and seeks a peaceful solution, we will continue to support people-to-people cooperation and contact. In the current situation we have suspended contact and cooperation with official Russian entities, but encourage contact and cooperation with independent Russian artists and organisations.