The Culture Bar: Voices of the North - Peak Performance: Art in Context
The Culture Bar: Voices of the North — Peak Performance: Art in Context
Voices of the North
We are delighted to share with you our new podcast mini-series ‘Voices of the North’ made in collaboration with Talent Norway. In this series we will introduce you to some of the finest talents and rising stars of the North and bring you the voices of cultural and artistic leaders of Scandinavia.
In our first episode we explore ‘Peak Performance: Art in Context’. In today’s society, the arts are constantly being tested and challenged. Many art forms are affected by local restrictions and government regulations, and performers may be limited or even prohibited from practising and performing. Others may seek alternative ways of sharing and expressing their art. How can the art sector respond and react to these and others societal challenges? What can society do to help artists through these challenging times? And what can we do on a communal level? How can we help artists achieve their best and facilitate an environment that promotes peak performance? And what can an individual artist do to get through these challenging times while still being able to stimulate their performance and creativity?
To help us answer these important questions we are joined by three special guests:
- Jarle Aambo (Norwegian sports official, CEO of Igloo Innovation and the Norwegian High Performance Cluster)
- Tom Henning Øvrebø (clinical psychologist, research fellow at the Norwegian School of Sport Science and former UEFA Elite referee)
- Audhild Dahlstrøm (Head of Knowledge and Initiatives at SpareBank 1 Nord-Norge and board member of Talent Norway)
Hosted by HarrisonParrott’s Karoline Melstveit.
Voices of the North is a part of the agreement and collaboration between Talent Norge and SpareBank 1 Nord-Norge, Samfunnsløftet. Together they ensure that exceptional talents have access to artistic support programs where they live.
A special thank you to Robert Cochrane as the composer of the theme tune music, and Merlyn Thomas our editor.
Voices of the North — Peak Performance: Art in Context Transcription
Karoline Melstveit 00:04
Welcome to voices of the North, a mini podcast series for The Culture Bar, made in collaboration with Talent Norway. Together, we will introduce you to some of the finest talents and rising stars of the North, and bring you the voices of cultural and artistic leaders of Scandinavia. Hi, and welcome to the first episode of our new podcast miniseries called voices of the North. I’m Karoline from HarrisonParrott, and I’ll be your host today. Today, our topic will be peak performance, art and context. In today’s society, the arts are constantly being tested and challenged. Many art forms are affected by local restrictions and government regulations, and performers may be limited or even prohibited from practising and performing. Others may seek alternative ways of sharing and expressing their art. How can the arts sector respond and react to these and other societal challenges? What can the society do to help artists through these challenging times? And what can we do on a communal level? How can we help artists achieve their best and facilitate an environment that promotes peak performance? And what can an individual artist do to get through these challenging times while still being able to stimulate their performance and creativity? To reflect on these questions, I have three wonderful guests with me here today. Audhild Dahlstrøm, head of knowledge and initiatives at Sparebank1 Nord-Norge, and board member of Talent Norway. In addition to being based in Northern Norway, Audhild lived and worked in the UK for years and have broad experience in analytics and strategy, including work in the arts and culture sector, both in Norway and Great Britain. We also have Tom Henning Øvrebø with us here today.Tom Henning is a research fellow at the Norwegian School of sports science, where he’s focussing on mental health for top athletes. He is a clinical psychologist, and has also served as an international football referee for 17 years, which included many Champions League games, and hundreds of matches of the Norwegian «Eliteserien». Our third guest Jarle Aambov, also has a background in the top level sport sector. He’s currently the CEO of Igloo Innovation, and the Norwegian high performance cluster, and has spent several years as both coach and director for projects related to the Norwegian Olympic summit, with focus on Alpine sports and the annual performance and achievement seminars. Welcome, everyone. I’m so happy to have you here with me today.
Jarle Aambov 02:32
Hi, how are you?
Audhild Dahlstrøm 02:33
Tom Henning Øvrebø 02:34
Karoline Melstveit 02:35
I would like to start the discussion by reflecting a bit on the challenges artists are currently facing. 2020 has been a challenging year for many of us. But being in a field where one must constantly achieve and perform to the best of one’s ability may make the situation even more stressful. How does living with accelerated levels of stress and fear affect one’s ability to perform? Tom Henning, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Tom Henning Øvrebø 03:02
I think it’s an interesting question because I think a lot of different people on different performance arenas experience these things at the present moment, and I like a quote from a guy named William Porter and apparently, he’s the NBA director of mental health in the NBA. And he said that the COVID-19 is like an equal opportunity virus. So so so I like that statement, it can of course be be seen in a negative way, but it can also be looked upon on a positive way. But I think that as, as the current situation is that a lot of people not only in the art business, but also outside of the arts and outside of elite sports are facing challenging times. And these times will of course, also influence on the mental health, on the motivation of people, on the creativity. So so a lot of people get influenced by in a negative way. And it doesn’t matter if you are an art person or if you’re working on on a on a fabric or whatever you do, you can always be influenced by this virus. So, I think that a lot of people experienced a fear these days, because a fear for the, for the future, a fear for exposure to the, to the virus, maybe also fear for the economical situation they are in. And of course this can be very difficult for some, some people and some people also developed more mental issues or mental problems concerning this. So, I think we have to acknowledge in a way that a lot of people struggle in these times. But at the same time, we have to find out how can we, how can we manage and how can we cope and how can we still work and be creative?
Karoline Melstveit 04:57
Absolutely, absolutely. It may be hard for people to know what to look forward to, a lot of artists or athletes, they usually have a goal or something to practice towards, like a competition or a concert or an exhibition. Now there might not really be a specific event one can look forward to, what can an artist do to keep on going and have something to yeah, have something to work towards?
Tom Henning Øvrebø 05:32
Well, from my point of view, these kind of goals are, of course, one of the things that really drives us to work hard. But I think also, it’s important to, to look at your own values, what is important for me? How can I be an artist or a performer during the current circumstances? And maybe these days, your values should be emphasised more than your, your goals. And also to try to live more in the moment because you don’t know what happens next week, you don’t know what happens in two weeks, you don’t know what happens in in two months, to try to be more grounded in a way and to be more present in the moment and to try to figure out or reflect upon, how can I during these circumstances still be creative? How can I still work towards my value as a, as an artist or as an elite athlete? What can I do on a daily basis? Despite the difficult situation we are now facing?
Karoline Melstveit 06:38
Absolutely. How can the community help artists in this unprecedented time, are there any specific key elements they could help with for sustaining or creating an environment that promotes top achievement, even in these troubled times?
Jarle Aambov 06:55
I agree with Tom Henning that when time is unstable or predictable, it seems that the needle going back to your values is very important. And in our project, where we work with with performers, for all parts of the society, we see that they, the best people, the best artists have something in common. And that is to really see opportunities in in resistance or in when when when things get unsure. They have a kind of trigger when when things not is going in the direction that they used to. So resistance is, is one of the indicator we see that a lot of performers use, from different parts, of different parts of the society. So stick to the values and see what’s, what’s really important. Why did you, why do you do what you are in, in a way. But I also said that, I think also there could be something in changing the the question, what can this society do for you instead? What can I do for society? In that way, also, maybe you find meaning or you find something that really can, can can do for others. And in that way you also do something for yourself.
Karoline Melstveit 08:27
I think that’s a really valid point you’re raising there. Because at the moment, we’re not just facing the COVID-19 challenges, we have challenges in regards to climate change, we have challenges in regards to changing economies, and health costs. So increasing infrastructure needs, needs financing, and the whole adaption to the climate changes, which is you know, not just influencing us as people but also in the economy and businesses. So I think creative people are in much bigger demand now, going into these, these new times than maybe in the last 10 years. I think that artists and and people who work with innovation, new ideas, thoughts are really in a situation where we need them, and we need them to, to help us find new solutions. And also, you know, find out what are our values as human beings in meeting all of these challenges. So I think that’s a lovely point you’re raising there. Art isn’t something that’s just floating on top, and you can use them in good times, but actually art is the grassroots is the texture, the very texture of us as human beings and our society. So, and also from an economic perspective, arts is hugely important. It’s a very good point to raise. This is amazing. Yes, absolutely. One could, in many ways, I guess, say that creativity and innovation goes hand in hand. So for maybe smaller communities, for example, up in North, do you think strengthening and helping artists could also lead to innovation in other fields such as energy development, education, tourism, finance, and healthcare, for example? Yeah, and it’s not so much about helping artists, okay, because artists, artists are in their own right, you know, career people. But what I think is important is to emphasise the need human beings and growing societies have for for the arts, because the art is a component in economic growth, is a component in regional development, it’s a very important social aspect of the world, which can lead to new ideas and new solutions. And I’m not saying that artists should solve all the problems in the world, but arts and culture is an integral part of looking at challenges in a different way. Which, again, can foster new ideas and lead to, to a society meeting problems in a different way, be more robust in their meeting with challenges.
Tom Henning Øvrebø 11:37
And I think that an important aspect of this comment is that when people are in different kind of crisis, and obviously this big, huge global crisis, we all want to survive, we all want to live and, and, and sometimes this crisis can also force us to find new ways to, to do work and new ways to be creative. And we don’t know what the future brings, for instance, on research, and that has nothing to do with COVID. But some search shows that 60% of the schoolchildren that started in first grade in, in the in the schooling in the states now, they will start with works (professions) you have not even heard of yet. So so so we don’t know what the future will bring us, and I think that also when we have difficult times, like no new ways of being creative, new ways of managing your, your workload will also be pushed forward. And people will also find new ways to solve things. So I think that even the fact that COVID is a big problem for the global community, I also think that people will find new ways to, to, to cope, and I think that is a good thing.
Jarle Aambov 12:57
I think from from sport and our perspective, we also now can see in a way, the advantage of having working within a very holistic perspective for quite a long time. So being an artist in this time is is much also about to, to reflect and go back to your values, but also find where where you are. And in the holistic way is to your family, to friends, to emphasise things like your health, and all the way what you eat, sleep and these kind of things. So this has been an important part of developing top athletes for quite a long time. And it seems to me that some of the parts of society still have work to do to, to bring up this this topic. And I think also this time we are in now is is the time for for bringing up the the holistic perspective or, or what, what we are doing.
Tom Henning Øvrebø 14:07
And I think that if I just could comment on that, because I find it quite interesting, the more holistic perspective which is now also very much included in an elite sport. And to to also acknowledge that on an individual level, it’s quite normal to have a lack of motivation, to maybe feel a little bit in the blues or even depressed, to maybe have some sleeping difficulties or some sleeping problems or to mess up your circadian rhythm. So there are some some things also, at the individual level, I think it’s important just to accept that this is common. This is not like a clinical case. For me and for, for a lot of people it’s common now to struggle a little bit and to accept that but then try as best to get some kind of structure, get some goals maybe you can have during the day, maybe you can grasp some, grasp some new things you can learn whatever it is, but to try to have some structure, or maybe also to lean on some colleagues, I don’t know all the artists communities, but maybe a lot of people are, at least some are not used to cooperating with others, maybe they, in these times, a little bit more should try to, to meet up on Zoom or Teams or whatever it is just to reflect upon different difficulties and challenges they are facing. So also to use each other in this challenging time, I think it’s important to support each other.
Jarle Aambov 15:44
Yeah, I fully agree about that. And as for sport input you have normally a culture, it’s a part of a team and, and as an artist, you might not have that kind of structure. But then it’s more the question how to find your coach, to find your colleague or find your that you can discuss these kind of things and reflect together to be aware of what what this is really about. And as Tom Henning says, to, to, to share the things in that way, make it easier to carry and cope with.
Karoline Melstveit 16:26
May I ask now that we’re in a time that a lot of artists are using digital means to reach their audience, that might actually open up some new doors. Many artists have earlier moved to big cities, because there are more opportunities and more contacts at such places. Right now, when things are mostly digital, you may not really be that dependent on your local fan bases and local resources. Could this be an opportunity for smaller communities, perhaps in the north, not to help necessarily, but attract artists and help facilitate their yeah, establishment and growth in our community?
Audhild Dahlstrøm 17:11
I think of course, the way we’ve been thrown into digital tools in the last few months have been a great success for many of us, and it’s opened up, you know, it’s sounds ridiculous to say it, but it’s actually opened up quite new ways of working. We had the tools, but we preferred to meet too, it’s interesting to see Bloomberg was writing an article in May, where the headlines: contemporary art needs big gatherings and gossip to survive. So of course, you know, there’s something very sociable and something very physical about arts and culture, which it should be, you know, and and it’s a very important aspect of it. So I think there’s never, there’s never a plain answer yes or no to, to your question. I think there’s a, there’s an issue of looking at how you can dynamically move in between different medias, how you can utilise different tools in different ways. But neither is the answer. It is a social and it is a complex, emotional and textured sector, the arts and culture and and that’s why it adds value. So so I think I hope, I really do hope that we’ll find vaccination for, for the Coronavirus so that we can meet in big groups, so that we can have big gatherings and arts and culture can survive and thrive. Because we need the physical space in which we share.
Karoline Melstveit 18:50
Absolutely. When things are better when we’re more back to normal, do you think people will be eager to go back into concert halls? Or do you think people will need to be eased back into it?
Audhild Dahlstrøm 19:03
I think that, you know, getting back to the normal, it’s a different kind of normal. I think it will change the economy, it will change society. So we change the way we look at what’s a big gathering. It will change the way we look at what’s central, what’s not central, what’s the region, where’s the centre, where are you in the district, it will change a lot of the preconceived ideas that we have about this. So of course, there’ll be a level of anxiety through meetings, meeting big groups, but I think that socially, we’re so, we’re so connected, and there’s so much possibility in the social aspect that I think you know, once we do get back to some kind of new normal, I think we will still, we will still meet. Absolutely, yeah.
Jarle Aambov 19:55
I also think it’s interesting question — what is normal? We are talking about going back to normal, for making a new normal, but isn’t normal, something that we have done for a while, that means that we are now creating something new, a new normal. And we are learning every day how to do this? And there’s also this question about the bigger audience or small audience. And I think we now see more and more also the value of, of small groups, the intensity or intimacy of small groups and small audience, I think that is one of the very interesting things for the future, we have been a lot of focus on quantity and big and, of course, for some things, it’s, it’s needed and is also very valuable to have big, big group of people together. But maybe the small group, also, we have a new new setting for the future.
Tom Henning Øvrebø 20:59
I’d just like to comment on that, because I had a discussion with an English colleague yesterday, and, and he was, he was reflecting on some tendency they saw in British sport, or, for instance, in Premier League in football, at the Premier League now when no spectators were there that there had been an increased number of goals, for instance, so even discussing does this mean that actually elite athletes perform better when there’s no spectators there. And you can also then relate this to this comment from, from reality, which I found very interesting, because it could be that maybe some artists and others, when they then start to perform for smaller groups start to be more creative to perform better, instead of the performance anxiety, maybe you can have some times when you perform for 8000, 10,000, 15,000 people. So in that respect, maybe also it could be could be an advantage, if we try to look for something positive in this difficult situation that the performing before in front of small groups could also influence your performance in a positive way.
Audhild Dahlstrøm 22:10
Yeah, and that brings us back to the question of your values, right? What are your values? Is the values in performing in front of thousands of people, or is is your value to deliver something of very high quality, to no matter how many people are listening, you know, it’s the quality and a depth of what you’re presenting, that actually matters. So, then you’re back to values and this human social texture.
Tom Henning Øvrebø 22:42
And I think that is very important, as I mentioned, there are a lot you can see now, that I think, especially elite sport, and also I think also art is very goal oriented, as we mentioned earlier and it will continue to be that but I think that we also emphasise the more value driven performances. And for me, I have done that also before COVID but I think that I see attendance you know, that more people try to look for their own values. So I think that can be also a good thing that there may be see the value of that. And and then maybe they will ultimately continue to do that after COVID-19 when there are more normalised and I think that is positive not only for performers, but also for our daily life, that we live our life that is more value based and goal oriented. So in that respect, I think it’s positive.
Jarle Aambov 23:41
See in our project across the society, we see that there might be a slight difference also between artists and Art Excellence Artists, because we can see that the the, of the high level artists, they are much more process driven than maybe some of their the others, so of course they are working towards goals and their vision. But as long as you’re focused on the process you may have it’s not easier, but it’s better in a way to work these days where you you focus on your role or your skills or the tasks that you are struggling with. And not depending too much of having all the concerts or or matches or competitions. So, but that but this time you also maybe have to stick with this and work with this and and be more focus and reflect about your, your what what is important for you when you are struggling to develop yourself as an artist.
Karoline Melstveit 24:55
Right if young artists are unsure on how to really decide or find their values, would you have any tips or tricks you could share?
Tom Henning Øvrebø 25:06
Well, I could like to comment on that, because I think it’s all about what kind of person or what kind of artist you want to be, what do you want your life to be about? And if you manage to answer to this quite difficult existential questions, I think you can then get closer to your values. For instance, I want to be a psychologist that, at least I would like to be empathic and, and respectful in my approach to my clients. And that’s important values for me. And I think also young artists can come find important values by by by reflecting upon what is important for me, what how do I want to live my life? How do I want to be perceived as an artist and by doing that, I think you can then try to draw up some of your important values. And these values can can guide you through life, because one thing is a goal. And a goal has like a finishing point where you can reflect upon did I reach the goal? What did I do right? What did I do wrong? So and then you have to find a new goal, but the values that is more like your compass throughout life, so if you find out those values, I think it will be easier also to survive in a way. We’re facing difficult times like now.
Jarle Aambov 26:38
And connected to that type in that diversity is very powerful and making lots of energy. So if you are able to go a little bit out of your own setting or your own frame in these troubled days this and and find the energy and find your passion through other people that are struggling with different things. I think this is also an arena that you can develop and, and yeah, get this energy to take the next step.
Karoline Melstveit 27:11
This has been a very inspirational talk. And thank you so much to Yala Odell and Tom Henning for joining us today and to our sound editor, Merlin Thomas, and thank you for listening to Voices of the North. If you would like to know more about Talent Norway and their projects, please visit http://www.talentnorge.no/TN-arena.