Artica Svalbard 2021
I was sitting at home in the north during the pandemic, planning local projects, when Katarina called me. She wanted to ask if I would like to travel. She explained that we were so fortunate to be nominated by OCA- Office for Contemporary Art to be at an artist's residence somewhere. Before she told me where, I had to take a deep breath. I wondered where but was afraid of the disappointment of not being able to go, because it was too far away, because the world was uncertain. It was far ahead of time, but who could look ahead at this time, we had been cheated by the pandemic before. Leaving home sounded scary. Almost like hoping for some normality, leaving home and go far away would mean that the world had to be somewhat back to normal. When Katarina revealed where we were going, I became curious. Looked on the map. Svalbard. It is far away and close at the same time. I had always wanted to go there. The next moment we googled restaurants in Longyearbyen and started daydreaming about what we could experience there.
Our time on Svalbard went very fast, and when we arrived in early August, and until we left five weeks later, the season had already begun to change. We were there in the transition from midnight sun to spectacular sunset, frost on the ground and fresh snow in the mountains.
It was in the Artica studio Katarina, and I would experience how printing is supposed to be done with the right equipment. When we got started in the studio, we rolled ink on our cutted linoframes, went to the small press, folded away filt cloth no. 3, no. 2 and no. 1, placed the frame, then the paper to print on, then a thin paper for protecting the filt cloth no, 1, and then we stood on each our side of the press, laid down filt cloth No. 1, No. 2 and finally No. 3. Then we rolled the press over our frames, ink, paper and cloth. It took several times to find the right pressure on the press. Then lifted felt cloth no. 3, no. 2 and then no. 1. Carefully removed the thin paper, and with great anticipation lifted the printing paper to reveal the quality of the motif. How much ink had we used? Was it evenly distributed? Was there enough pressure? Finally, we got a rhythm, which reminded me of a scene in an old movie. Some little mice and birds that make an astonishing dress when a stepdaughter dreams of going to a royal ball. The clip I was thinking of was Cinderella (1950), when mice and birds make her dress, that’s how it felt when we were both in the workshop. Here is the clip in case you don't remember: https://youtu.be/8EyJ-ebSOrI
During our time in Svalbard we arranged, together with Artica, a creative lino printing workshop. I also spent some time in front of the sewing machine I borrowed from one of our friends in Longyearbyen (thank you dear Melissa) and made a dress for Katarina to wear. We visited several destinations, like the Longyear glacier, Bjørndalen and Platåfjellet. During these trips we filmed and took photographs, and it was especially great documented thanks to photographer Tom Warner, who brought all the knowledge and equipment to make these explorations in the arctic landscape last forever.
It is nearly impossible to embrace all our experiences of this trip in words. Arriving by airplane to Spitsbergen, looking out of the window, an extreme scenery came to sight. It was clear to us that here, we visit as guests, no matter how long we intend to stay. In the city and the hiking areas around, the memories, remains of and current human activity would distract us from the reality of where we were. But when leaving the settlement, armed with weapons or on a boat, the reality of the arctic would embrace itself in front of us. From unexpected sightings of polar bears, feeling the cold wind from the glacier, watching the sunset for the first time that year, looking out of the airplane window seeing this never-ending landscape, turning rocks in search for fossils ... I know I can speak for us both, when I say that this experience humbled us as human beings, and made us aware of that this majestic, massive landscape and home of so many beings, are one of the most vulnerable we have ever been lucky enough to set foot in.
Office for Contemporary Art Norway: OCA
︎︎︎A nice little film about Svalbard, by BBC