Spot the Miner

Do Clothes Really Make the (Wo)man?


  • Svetlana Sokolova UiT The Arctic University of Norway



Russian, Svalbard, coal mining


Coal mining is an industry that is associated with hard physical labor and harsh mental conditions. Modern artistic projects involving portraits of miners evolve as artists' responses to political and economic changes in the mining industry, which is currently in decline, and place a major focus on miner communities, rather than individual miners. This article presents an overview of relevant selected artistic projects, and supplements them with a small mini-gallery sketched by the author. The mini-gallery viewers have been invited to test their perception of miners based on a series of charcoal portraits representing men and women dressed in mining workwear and everyday clothes. Who in this mini-gallery is a miner, what serves as the basis for the respondents' guesswork, and, overall, how different is today’s perception of miners from those of the past centuries? Three main factors are outlined as potentially relevant for identifying miners: mining workwear, gender, and facial expression. The readers can compare their intuitive reactions with the results from an online experiment, which was presented in Norwegian, Russian, and English and collected 136 responses. Although the presence of mining workwear and male gender still carry a strong association with miners, the results reveal certain differences across Norway, Russia, and the United States. The article is interdisciplinary and combines aspects of art history, social studies and psychology with an artistic project.


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How to Cite

Sokolova, Svetlana. 2022. “Spot the Miner: Do Clothes Really Make the (Wo)man?”. Poljarnyj vestnik 25 (1):86-107.



Articles (peer reviewed)