Amphibious Trilogies

Off to Arkhangelsk

For over a year and a half weeks we try to find out more about the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and see what travels into and through it. Despite fairly frequent coverage in national and international media – whether in terms of trade, security or environmental matters – it’s turned out to be less straightforward a ‘passage’ then we had hoped.

Tomorrow Amanda and I are off to Arkhangelsk in Russia, to be joined by Brynyar on the 21st of the month. This is one of our ways to experience and investigate artistically what an arctic passage may entail.

As a journey, as an experience, both physical and psychological. A conceptual and allegorical trope. We will visit this historical and strategic Arctic city to try to understand its past and future. It runs largely along one side of the vast Dvina river in the midst of its emerging delta leading into the White Sea. Frozen half the year, we will see flowing passage inland and to the waters of the Arctic.

Amanda and Brynyar want to take part in the Northern (Arctic) Federal University (NArFU) Arctic Floating University Expedition 2019. This year this international research platform makes the voyage from Archangelsk to Svalbard and back. It’ll take perhaps 25 days, with a mix of mostly scientists, students and researchers aboard the Professor Molchanov. This is an steel hulled, ice protected vessel that will accommodate 60 travellers and a crew of 20. It has lab and seminar facilities. The programme has run for five years and has hosted a diversity of applied sciences, less cultural or artistic connections such as we hope to forge.

Such voyages takes some organising and we’ve only learned recently that this year’s route has been changed. Amanda is a little disappointed. She and Brynyar will not see or land on the mix of islands in Russia, from the White Sea into the open Arctic waters. Visiting Svalbard and will be a novelty all the same, as it’s a large archipelago, a slight work island and passage will meet in diverge again.

We visited Longyearbyen in the depths of winter in January of this year. The vast mountains around the town and across the fiord with mostly invisible, occasionally looming shadows. On this excursion they will be lit by the midnight sun, visible in summer skies. And the floating university will dock there, after Barentsberg and its research centre, we presume, shifting understandings of sea, land and sovereignty in this remote but now globally known destination.

The abandoned mining town of Pyramiden is on the itinerary too. So too is the still operating coal mine of Barentsberg and it’s small wooden church and larger swimming pool, a human-made all year pond. A hotel now open for tourists, less the cold war outpost, more a strategic Arctic foothold in 21st-century climate times. Narratives and trajectories of the future untold. A visit to the international scientific research station at Ny Ålesund. Experiences, exposures, expressions form an artistic project embedded as it were in the needed scientistic discourses and data of the changing Arctic.

What of this artistry and its passages? The passage an allegorical device, a narrative accounting tool, immaterial artistic messages for moving actions for climate emergencies. The travellers for Amphibious Trilogies have a set of themes, problematics, curiously framed concepts and questions, an a number of tasks to try to perform. These digital texts will give details of some of those engagements, on the water, through time and with many new companions, most technical experts, and when landing on the very different venues of the archipelago. Passage and islands connecting, a series of long spaces of open seas and short landfalls.

We wait to see what will play out. How we can use the choreographic in the world, in contexts that are transversed. to accentuate the workings and potential roles of movement, in an artistic voice, on board with experts measuring, probing and observing the conditions and changing contexts of the Arctic.

Our amphibious notions will be on the move. Our persona OCTOPA will be on a boat, land in distant venues, slither back to the continental scale. Experimentally launched we will be in a few days.


Click & Drag: Rotate the view.
Right Click & Drag: Pan the view.