Beili Liu stands amid a snowy landscape

Art Professor Captures Beauty, Impermanence of the Artic as Fulbright Chair

  • Jan 17, 2023

When Studio Art Professor Beili Liu arrived in Svalbard, Norway, on April 18, 2022, she learned that this particular day’s sunset would be the season’s last. At that high northern latitude, there’s endless daylight between mid-April and November. So, Liu and her family headed out to watch as the final sunset illuminated the snowy landscape. 

Liu had arrived in Norway in January as the Fulbright Arctic Chair — part of a Fulbright Distinguished Chairs program that supports an American scholar with a grant to do research at any Norwegian institution of higher learning. Specializing in site-responsive installations and performances that unpack themes of migration, cultural memory and environmental issues, Liu is the first artist to receive the award. 

Fulbright’s support brought her to the heartland of Sámi culture in Kautokeino, Finnmark, to engage with the Sámi reindeer-herding communities and observe how their culture adapts to climate change. Liu spent four months in Norway conducting research for “Dreams of High North: Between Survival and Belonging,” a project examining the Arctic’s environmental and geopolitical transformations with an emphasis on labor and the Arctic Indigenous people’s lived experiences. 

“It’s extraordinary to experience the Arctic,” Liu said. “When I was writing about my research plan, I was thinking about the pristine beauty of this landscape that looks like the most pure and wonderful place. Yet it amplifies the biggest concern that we’re facing collectively across the globe. It’s not just an issue of the Arctic, but there, it’s almost like they’re raising the alarm bell ahead of us. But are we listening?” 

In January 2022, Liu received the prestigious $50,000 Pollock Prize for Creativity. She was also named a 2022 Andrew Carnegie fellow, receiving $200,000 to support “Dreams of High North.” Liu is only the third UT recipient of the award. 

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