Bjørn Venø's Work in Progress Project Statement

After a first visit/residency, Bjørn Venø shares with us his experience and thoughts.

The meaning of words can vary depending on one's world view and many other factors. Therefore it is important to place relevant words within a context, such as shamanism, to understand the perspective that one is trying to convey. I discovered shamanism organically and intuitively over several years, not specifically seeking it out. It was not until recently that I had an opportunity to further my interest. I was offered a residency at Northern Sustainable Futures with support from Swedish Lapland AiR and given the online picture archive at Norrbottens Museum as a starting point. There I discovered a broach with a carving that had been inspired by the Sami Drum, which became the starting point.
Plato’s cave theory divides reality into the world of shadows, which is the world that we live in, and the world of light, a higher world which is the origin of the shadows we see. In Plato’s story, there is one person who leaves the world of shadows and discovers the higher world. The person sees it as their civic duty to return home and explain that there is more to reality. Unfortunately, when they return to the world of shadows their eyes are no longer accustomed to the dark, so they stumble around like an idiot. The people can but conclude that it is not safe to leave. It is with this philosophy that I understand Shamanism.

Unlike the person in Plato’s story, the Shaman can maintain a foot in both worlds and convey the knowledge discovered there. Unfortunately I feel that many do not see the Shaman from that perspective, instead, they are perceived within the context of religion. Which distorts the Shaman, within that framework of thought the Shaman becomes a priest dictating what truth is, instead of showing you the path towards truth. The distinction relates to power and control. If one claims to know the ultimate truth you have power over people, versus creating the means for each individual to find their way towards truth.
The Sami Shaman, Njåd is lost to time, as the church did everything it could to destroy Sami culture. Though it may be that there is Sami who has held on to the knowledge or reconnected with it. What I know about the Njåd is from books I read in Luleå, unfortunately, the major source of this knowledge is gathered by priests who perceived the Njåd as a devil worshiper. I am not Sami nor a Shaman, but I feel that my path has brought me to Norrbotten, Sweden because there is something to be learned. I work organically with intuition, by not demanding knowledge. Rather I am open to what is willing to reveal itself. The Njåd could access other worlds by using the drum, joik or holly spaces, but there might have been other methods,
such as dance. From what I have read narcotics was not a method used by the Njåd. Within the academic community, no one knows how the Njåd drummed, joiked or danced. For me this is not an issue as it is not my intention to copy or assimilate knowledge into my practice, instead, I seek to be inspired. My main focus of theoretic study whilst in Sweden has been the Njåds drum, that has imagery reflecting the world view of the maker drawn on to the skin with red dye from tree bark. What caught my eye was the drums that had the sun in the centre and 4 light rays dividing reality into separate plains. I saw a red thread back to a drawing I did 20 years ago and with that, I experienced a sense of connection.

I see the artist as a relative of the shaman. A person who enters the other world in hopes to find knowledge or perspectives that can be brought back to benefit humanity. I saw this world for the first time when I was three, sitting in the back seat of our car, driving through the Norwegian landscape where I grew up. I had a profound connection that lasted only briefly, which was torn away as our car crashed into an oncoming lorry. Since then I have experienced a pull towards the unknown.
My base during this investigation has been Moskosel Creative Lab, situated in an old school. It is a contrast to the research, but for me, it has provided a platform from where I have been able to be playful. Using the space and objects that I found as tools to connect with a different perspective. I aim to place energy into places and objects through the actions that I do. Energy that I hope others can connect with and be inspired to enter a journey of their own.

Thank you to all who have made this stay possible and for the good conversations.