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Eglinger, Hanna (2016): Nomadic, ecstatic, magic: Arctic primitivism in Scandinavia around 1900. In: Acta Borealia, Vol. 33, No. 2: pp. 189-214
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Abstract

The aim of this article is to delineate the term Arctic primitivism in an aesthetic context and, by means of three examples from Scandinavian artists whose works were also the subject of ethnological discussions, to give an illuminating impression of Scandinavian Arctic primitivism around 1900. First some conceptual considerations about the combination of Arctic and primitivistic discourse will be presented. Then three examples for the primal conditions of an aesthetic conception of Arctic primitivism will be discussed: the nomadic, the ecstatic, and the magical. They serve as counter principles to modern categories such as spatial fixedness, linear chronology, and rational thought. Emilie Demant Hatt's visual art stands for the nomadic principle;the Swedish cartoonist Ossian Elgstrom deals with ecstatic states;and the poems of Danish eskimologist William Thalbitzer show his fascination with indigenous magical incantations as an alternative to rational thought. All examples illustrate the artists' interest in an authentic and uncorrupted culture, which they reflect on with awareness of inauthenticity and second-hand acquisition. The effects of duplication, simultaneity, and secundarity arising from the three principles drive a reflective discourse on media through which awareness of the crisis of modernity is sublimated, revealed, or made the subject of artistic exploration.