The Nordic Open Call

The Nordic Art Association’s Residency in Stockholm


Sara Rossling

“‘Care’ is also a social capacity and activity involving the nurturing of all that is necessary for the welfare and flourishing of life. Above all, to put care centre stage means recognizing and embracing our interdependencies.” [1]
The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence, 2020

After World War II, the Nordic Art Association was founded as a cooperation between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden; the autonomies of the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland; and the Sámi People, as a means of creating a unified representative voice for Nordic art. It aimed to rebuild networks and create bridges between artists in the Nordic countries. Over time, the situation and perspectives changed, and the nordic branches slowly drifted apart, some falling off entirely. Yet, the association’s name has remained, and the collaboration that cultivated a ‘nordicness’ has generated a distinct history and heritage.

Today, the Swedish section in Stockholm, NKF, is one of few remaining. On a new itinerary since the early 2000s, its main activity departs from an international residency located in the historic building Malongen, telling the story of the city and its urbanisation. Built as a textile factory in the second half of the 1600s, Malongen was originally accompanied by gardens and tobacco plantations. The former factory is now one of Stockholm’s oldest preserved industrial buildings, and in the hands of the city it has undergone restorations to be used as emergency housing, a hospital, and a primary school. Malongen is managed by the Municipality-run Stadsholmen, which specializes in houses with cultural-historical value, taking care of the building’s architecture and light yellow plastered facade. Since the 1960s, the premises of the U-shaped factory have served as artists’ studios, conveyed via the city’s general studio queue, and the former school janitor’s residence has become a guest studio apartment and a creative meeting place. As a domestic space, it resonates with the hands-on caring carried out within kinships, often depicted through the nuclear family. Society relies on such when cuts arise in the public infrastructure, which is why it is essential to keep these spaces accessible and imagine kinships beyond the traditional family. The two single beds in the studio apartment invite collective art practices and accompanying guests. Throughout decades, gestures of conservation and care circulate this site.

I enter this project by scrutinizing my curatorial practice and the organization I’ve been part of for two years. I have found that NKF lacks a statement for how we position the current residency in relation to the organization’s history and to the current times we are living in. As the initial art alliance in the north is gone, such a geographical frame is deceptive for NKF’s independent position and global reach. In parallel to this, there is a tendency towards self-righteous thinking amongst many residencies, ours included, which see themselves as sites of hospitality, though with little introspection on the conditions defining such hospitality. In this context, the Open Call protocol is a mirror of the residency’s openness, and who can be invited. At the same time, the protocol can be adjusted and the conditions of the residency rewritten, to reconsider the imposed roles of host and guest. As the material of a palimpsestic work process, the Open Call protocol is moved to the front, putting the historical narratives to the back and creating a space to express what is important to an international residency in Stockholm today.


[1] Care Collective, The (2020) The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence. London: Verso.