Two film collaborators Klara Björk and Jyoti Mistry, have been awarded the Sune Jonsson Center for Documentary Photography residence 2020. Working over several trips during the autumn, they will embark on a longer project in Västerbotten County. The work is initiated from archival research and site visits which addresses family ties, family history and colonial structures but finds expression in artistic forms.
The jury’s explanatory statement notes:
By turning to, and using, older documentary photography and archival material, Klara Björk and Jyoti Mistry address issues of family ties, family history and colonial structures in a way that feels urgent. With the archive as a starting point, the filmmakers explore memories that need to be recaptured, stories that no one has heard or seen, and show the stories that have been left out throughout history.
The jury is looking forward to seeing Klara Björk’s and Jyoti Mistry’s search for new forms of storytelling and an aesthetic that captures a multi-layered story, a past that, through personal connections and through artistic research methods, meets the museum’s archives and its collections. The jury eagerly awaits the duos’ combination of archival material with their own newly created material in this wutheringproject that tries to reveal the story within/inside and thereby create its own new story – right now, right here. A story that to the fullest describes our contemporary time, when history is always something we all have to relate to in one way or another.
Archival excavations: Searching Sámi Stories
In the project, which is located in Västerbotten County, in the middle of Sápmi, Klara Björk and Jyoti Mistry re-examine the history of the geographical location and the politics that have shaped it. Using decolonial strategies, they look at how knowledge is constructed; how power, historical and political conditions shape knowledge that has been “normalized” through colonial history. By revealing how history is written from the perspective of colonial power and its relation to elided experiences, new and more complex historical stories emerge.
The project stems from Klara Björk’s personal family tree and major political events in the region. What has happened and is happening in Västerbotten is a micro perspective of the larger Swedish colonial project that exploited and continuous to exploit Sápmi. For Jyoti Mistry, archives are a place to explore how alternative stories and marginal peoples in history can be made visible.
Björk and Mistry have begun a collaboration with Aejlies, the Sami cultural and resource center in Dearna / Tärnaby, which forms part of the residence period.
What expectations and hopes do you have at the residence?
– Getting this opportunity for concentrated work at the Västerbotten Museum and access to the archive gives us a fantastic foundation from which to develop our creative projects. Our hope is that this is the beginning of longer-term collaboration in Västerbotten to engage its residents in different ways. The intention is to make visible individual and collective stories from locally specific perspectives to understand the wider context of the histories and experiences of the people and the politics that have shaped the current situation, says Klara Björk.
What is the main driver of your work?
– One of the driving forces behind this project is to investigate and challenge dominant narratives about Swedish-ness. Today we live with the consequences of colonial historiographies and even though we cannot change past events, we can address those elided experiences and highlight histories that have not been acknowledged and which offer new perspectives of the past. These new stories better capture the multi-layered and entangled stories of people who have otherwise not been seen or heard.
Klara Björk is proprefect and program manager for the Master’s program in Film at HDK-Valand at the University of Gothenburg. Klara Björk is also a producer and partner in the production company Filmkreatörerna and has a numerous production behind her, both as producer and director, of documentaries, short films and installations.
Jyoti Mistry is a filmmaker and professor of film at HDK-Valand at the University of Gothenburg. Jyoti Mistry has made critically acclaimed films in several genres and she has written extensively on race, gender and artistic research practices. Her practice includes memory work through archive and its connection to broader political issues.