Rethinking Archives, Decolonizing Perspectives



Archive images from the photobook MÄNK'ÁČEN.
Sergio Valenzuela Escobedo, MÄNK'ÁČEN (2022)

NOUA welcomes you to the seminar Rethinking Archives, Decolonizing Perspectives. With three internationally acclaimed speakers, the seminar will deal with the role of history told through art exhibitions, with a particular focus on the use of archive material in contemporary photography projects. The seminar is a follow-up to the exhibition Occupying Photography presented at NOUA in the summer of 2022.

A number of exhibitions and art biennales will be the subject of a discussion, and further around the current presentation of archives in public collections and museums. How do the exhibitions contribute to prolonging a perception of the colonised, and where should we take the debate around institutional de-colonisation next? How can contemporary artists contribute to change these practices and raise the debate to an easily accessible format for the public?


The seminar continues questions that NOUA has worked on through previous seminars and publications:
- What happens during the transformation from public and institutional archive material to an exhibition reshaped by artists?
- How does the presentation of archival images affect the collective understanding of history?


Doors open 30 minutes before the start. The audience will have possibility to discover the acclaimed photobook 'MÄNK'ÁČEN' by Sergio Valenzuela Escobedo.



1. Lecture: Anticolonial Strategies to Archival Practice
Kl. 18.30 - 19.10
Speaker: Sunil Shah (UK)

In his lecture, Sunil Shah considers the use of anticolonial perspectives in the approach to working in the contexts of archives, art production, presentation and critique. Using Documenta 11 (2002) as his case study, he uses ideas that emerge from black and anticolonial studies scholarship in an archival practice to explore images and raise critical questions about which exhibition stories are remembered and from whose perspective. Who tells the stories? How are they told? Who is included? What is left out? How can they be seen through a postcolonial or decolonized lens? What do they mean for art history?


2. Lecture and introduction about the project 'Occupying Photography' 
19.15 - 19.45
Speaker: Sergio Valenzuela-Escobedo (CH/FR)

In his lecture Sergio Valenzuela-Escobedo will address issues surrounding the camera's journey to documenting astronomical phenomenon in the 19th century : an astrolabe, an exotic plant, a telescope, a sacred totem, a sinking camera, first nations necklaces, scientists observing Venus in passing in front of the sun, a photographer under a veil and a village "at the end of the world".

Valenzuela Escobedo's exhibition 'Occupying Photography' on display at NOUA exhibition space in the summer of 2022, led to the  publication of a photo book in the same autumn. The exhibition and the book will be the starting point for his lecture. The project shows clear similarities between expeditions made in South America and the Nordic region. In Norway we see, among other things, the scientist Sophus Tromholt documentation of the Sami population on his journey to Finnmark to document the northern lights.


10 minute break


3. Panel conversation
19.55 - 20.30 (doors are closing at 21.00)
Participants: Sergio Valenzuela Escobedo (CH/FR), Sunil Shah (UK)
Moderator : Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger (FI)

The panel conversation continues the conversation around interdisciplinary approaches related to the use of archives. The conversation will expand on the talks including both western and extra western poetic and critical point of view in order to respond and create an intercultural discussion about the work with archives. Amid the explosion of digital content, what is an archive today and what can artists do? The discussion looks to push the discussion further about the infinite possibilities of working with archives and its expansion through photography. The panel discussion will further consider the effects of art in cultural storytelling and the artist's role in creating new archives with new insights.

There will be opportunities for the audience to ask questions.




Sergio Valenzuela-Escobedo, born in 1983, is a research artist and works as an independent curator. He also completed a PhD at the Ecole nationale supérieure de la photographie d’Arles (ENSP) in 2021. Since 2005, he has designed and curated art exhibitions in Chile and Europe, including Mapuche: Journey to Lafkenche Land at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation at the Rencontres d’Arles and on tour for the past five years under his permanent supervision, and Geometric Forests. Struggles in Mapuche Territory at the Rencontres d’Arles 2022.

Sunil Shah is an artist, writer and researcher based in Oxford, UK. His research interests include Documenta 11, contemporary art histories, the postcoloniality in art practice, the politics of representation and archival practices. He is Associate Editor of American Suburb X and a contributor to FOAM Magazine. He is also Associate Lecturer in Photography and Exhibition Studies at the University of the Arts, London. He has curated several exhibitions and has had solo exhibitions of his work at the New Art Exchange in Nottingham, UK and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, UK.                            


Professor of Exhibition Studies and Spatiality/Praxis-studies Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger has worked as a curator, author, researcher and teacher both in Finland and abroad; since 2009, she has held the post of Chief Curator at The Finnish Museum of Photography. She has extensive experience in exhibition projects, curating practices and the international exhibition scene of the contemporary arts. Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger is interested in art practices and display in both physical and digital environments. She holds a PhDin Art History from the University of Helsinki.

16. Mars 2023

18.30 - 20.30 

Stormen bibliotek, Litteratursalen

Sunil Shah (UK)
Sergio Valenzuela Escobedo (CH/FR)
Anna-Kaisa Ranstenberger (FI)

The seminar is held in English.


The Seminar is supported by the Fritt Ord Foundation and Institut français de Norvège