Amphibious Trilogies

Why islands?

In Amphibious Trilogies island is used to refer to the range of concepts: a physical small body of land surrounded by water; a landmark in the ocean; a landing site for migrating beings, tidal rhythms and patterns, currents, island chains and distant horizons.

In all of these senses island is situated on a range of contexts and activities. Each of these is placed within the wider frame of an extended choreography and a choreographic extension of the ebbs and flows in, and around the world.

Just as islands are bounded and separated, they are also connected by water. Whether a paradise, a refuge or prison, to get to an island means crossing the threshold between land and sea. Above all, Island is a space for, and about linkages, waypoints and passage rites.

Yet, islands may also be about movements of thought, the mind in motion. These travel along and through physical and embodied experiences of island life, community and distant horizons.

But that’s not all. Here as in other aspect of islands, we include the notion of amphibiousness.

We experiment with these varied senses of island by challenging ourselves to work within changes of place, state, sense and motion.

Our amphibious selves also undergo changes in a dynamics of physical and imaginative movement, limbic and littorial.

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Welcome

Welcome to the world of Amphibious Trilogies, an artistic research project centered on islands, ponds and passages. In times of rapid climate change, what may happen if we think, move and do amphibiously?

This site is designed kinetically, a little planet that contains project posts and media, a terrella of sorts, quirky, glitchy, ever moving and evolving.

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Bon voyage!

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Lecture on NSR

Day 18 on the Arctic Floating University
Tuesday 9 July 2019

I am so privileged to share my room with Barbara Schennerlein, an historian dedicated to uncover the early pioneers of the otherwise unknown Arctic regions. Her camera is her main tool. Her mind is always working. She starts her lecture like this.

Barbara has accompanied the Russian government program. Beginning in 2012, it was a large-scale cleaning of abandoned polar stations. The intention was to glean and capture artefacts of polar research and the traces of human activities therein, before they were erased. Collaborating with Antje Kakuschke, this work resulted in a photographic exhibition “Phantasma Arktika”. Her intention on this expedition is to document and expand her knowledge of the Northern Sea Route administration, historically, and a part of the North East Passage, from the Arctic to Asia.

Many explores have failed, again and again. The knowledge of failure is essential for future explorations. Conditions of The Arctic are not well suited to people. They often become land and ice bounded. Many have lost their lives. Thus Baraba’s first lecture poses an alternative, The Exploration  Of The Arctic From The Air, leading up to the Arctic journey of the “Graf Zeppelin” in 1931. Here, the burden of of life in camps, sledges and boats are eradicated. Likewise, an airship does not intrude on Arctic landscapes. That is, if an airship does not blow up and/or crashes into the landscape.

In 1926 the airship Norge, Amundsen-Ellsworth Transpolar Flight failed. Shortly after in 1928 was the Airship Italy, a disaster.

The Graf Zeppelin Arctic expedition carried a team of scientists from Germany, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Sweden on an exploration of the Arctic, making meteorological observations, measuring variations in the earth’s magnetic field in the latitudes near the North Pole. They also made a photographic survey of unmapped regions using a panoramic camera that automatically took several pictures per minute.  The journey was the first possibility to really explore the Arctic regions from the air, says Barbara. I think; seabirds do it, satellite imaginary does it too.

If I remember rightly, Barbara (her pace is rapid) has told us about Henrich von Stephan, a German statesman. Born in Stolp, Pomerania in 1831, he became an Postmaster General. He was an advocate of the Universal Postal System. But that’s not all. He envisaged a universal postal system that could fly in the sky, like Zeppelins (not to be mentioned is Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin). 

Svalbard is a hub for international scientific research on The Arctic. All countries have one or more agendas. Ny Ålesund is one of these. It hosts the airship mast, built in 1926 during Amundsen-Ellsworth north pole expedition with the airship Norge, serving also the “Graf Zeppelin” in 1931.

A disappointment for me is when we were on Ny Ålesund. No time to take to see the airship mast some metres away from the landing site. If only I were on the ball I might had registered my interest of this mast. I thought it as a given thing. Concerning Barabra, I think she had similar thoughts. The dilemma, a curling curve, is about encountering versus pre-programmed activities. But also is an issue of communication, whether scientific or artistic research, between the organisers and other participants.

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North Eastern Passage #15

Day 15 on Prof. Molchanov
Saturday 6 July 2019

Got up. Ate breakfast. Went to the lectures. The waves have subdued a bit and it has started to rain. After the lectures, I interview Barbara about the Northern Sea Route. She says that the two most important things to mention about the Northern Sea Route, which by the way is only a part of the North Eastern Passage, is the long history of people wanting to travel it, all the polar researchers that worked along it, providing us with scientific facts about the region, but that never got mentioned in history books, and the second most important thing is that the desire for traveling along this line has up until now always been driven by economic interests. I recorded the interview and transcribed it immediately. I will give it for Barbara to read tomorrow. During the interview there was a sighting of both dolphins and killer whales. I missed both. Afterwards, Amanda and I work a bit on the stop-motion film. One film arriving at Svalbard, and one film of the storm. We skipped the quiz at the bar and instead we went out on the deck where I drew the lifeboat. It was just so nice to sit in the late evening sun. Christina came and interviewed us for her school project. Little by little more and more people joined us, someone brought out music and drinks, and soon it was a small party. There were many sightings of schools of dolphins. Went to bed around 1:00.

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Barentsburg alive

DAY 13 on the Arctic Floating University Expedition
Thursday 4 July 2019
Visas, sunshine, dogs, foxes, connection to climate change

The snow on the mountain has melted away since I have been here just five days ago. The sun is shining on Barentsburg today. Visas for reentry to Arkhangelsk are collected in the consular’s mansion. This is the first time without guided tours and presentations since the first landing on Spitsbergen (Barentsburg). A mood change. A sense of freedom.

Brynjar is waiting for the Barentsburg’s Red Bear Pub & Brewery to open. And by the way, the local brew uses pure glacier water. He is drawing in his sketch book. I take a walk northwestwards, away from the centre of the town.

Gambling on climate change. Optimism in the air. Several buildings along the shore are being restored, such as this cow shed.

A brick mason tells me that there’s a big demand for storage on Barentsburg right now. Like others living in the Russian settlement he anticipates an increase in tourism in the future. The brick house will expand the storage capacity for mainly imported goods, but also for export, such as coal and local beer.

On the edge of the settlement an elderly husky dog seeks refuge from the heat of the afternoon sun. Now a pensioner, unable to pull tourists on sledges across the snow and ice, he guards the gate of the husky farm. His name is Canute!

A family leaves their bikes before heading down to the shore.

A family of arctic foxes have a similar idea.

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Barentsburg again #13

Day 13 on Prof. Molchanov
Thursday 4 July 2019

Got up (barely). Ate breakfast. At 09:00 a scientist from Barentsburg was supposed to come to give a power point presentation on the boat. There is no place to present the work there, so they bring it here. But the scientist comes late, and instead Amanda and I do tai chi on the top deck. When the scientist finally come she says that she is only an engineer and cannot answer any questions about the other research going on here. So, the landing also starts late. Once in B-burg, Amanda and I walk straight to the local brewery, but it is closed, so we go to the handicraft shop. There Amanda buys two gifts and gets one for free. A whale, a sea horse and a babooshka with coal in its bag for me. Afterwards we go to the canteen. The coffee is more expensive than last time and doesn´t taste as good. At the local shop I buy three Russian note books and some cards. I go back to the brewery and have a beer with Natalia. She speaks excellent Norwegian, and we get along very well. Amanda joins us eventually, and we all head back for the boat around 15:00. Before leaving, we film the archipelago in the distance by using the waterproof case from KHiO. Back on the ship I fall asleep for 1 ½ hour before dinner. In the evening I draw Amanda on the top deck. At night we drink wine and speak with Daniel and the swiss researcher kids. They say there will be a storm hitting tomorrow. I carefully store everything safely and close the window tight. Nite.

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Longyearbyen #12

Day 12 on Prof. Molchanov
Wednesday 4 July 2019

Got up. Ate breakfast. Went to Longyearbyen. Amanda and I hurried to the center of town in order to have time for a coffee and internet before the presentations at the University in Svalbard (UniS). It was quite unsuccessful. We walked in the wrong direction, grabbed a coffee at the bakery and didn´t even have time to check the internet properly before we ran to the UniS. Still, we ended up getting there too early. The others were 40 minutes late. In this waiting period, Amanda got to know the Norwegian delegation at UniS, I fixed my phone and had finally access to internet. When the others arrived, the presentations could start. After the people at UniS had shared their power point presentation, the crew from the Russian research team shared theirs powerpoint presentation. And then, after the usual ceremony of exchanging gifts was over, Amanda and I took off from the university and went up to Funken for lunch. Got to rant a bit about the other people on the boat. Got to share work. Got to give ourselves some mind space to think about our options. We called Andrew just to say hello and to let him know that we made it safely half way. On our way back down from the mountain we bought some wine and some batteries for the Game camera. After I sent my postcards it was time to leave for the boat. Back on board the showers and toilets were broken. Hopefully they will manage to have them fixed soon. Sailed on to Barentsburg. PS: had a small gathering in our cabin at night: Daniel, Anja, Amelie, Amanda and I. It got late.

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Revisiting Longyearbyen

DAY 12 on the Arctic Floating University Expedition
Wednesday 3 July 2019

I have only been on Spitsbergen once before. That was in January 2019, when the Amphibious Trilogies team took part in the Darkness Conference in Longyearbyen. Two days before, several people were evacuated when avalanches caused a risk to the town. It was very dark then and it is very greyish now. It’s raining. Dribbling. Longyearbyen looks rather dreary compared to the dark season when the landscape is covered by snow and ice. When the twenty four hours of darkness is illuminated by the orbiting moon, stars and the Aurora Borealis, reflecting faint dark-blueish light, making majestic silhouettes of the surrounding mountains. In contrast, the electric lights within the town shine brightly. Take some steps away from the light, the scope of vision decreases exponentially. It is like a planet of itself, a little terrella surrounded as it is, a black void now to be discovered in the future.

It’s 09.39 (vessel time 07.39): Brynjar and I land on Longyearbyen. It’s raining. Dribbling. Uncovered. Exposed. Shoddy.

Without waiting for the other participants to come to the shore, we head off to a cafe to get a good cup coffee. On the route we encounter a fast flowing river. It wasn’t there in January when snow covered the terrain. How to cross it? The river is shallow. Can we make it with our shoes? A reindeer grazing on vegetation mocks us.

It’s 11.25. Despite the long walk over a bridge to the cafe, we are on time for the presentation at University in Svalbard (UIS). Our fellow voyagers are nowhere to be seen. What’s happened? That’s the question for us and our friendly hosts. We speak with them about Amphibious Trilogies, islands, ponds, and passages.

13.00hrs later, they come in dribbles and drops. Cold, wet and hungry. There was a problem with the RIB in choppy water. As good citizens of the good ship Professor M. most of them have been waiting for each other on the harbour. As in Ny-Ålesund, the presentation is cut to a minimal.

more science less art: permafrost, melting, plankton, biological mass, on earth, sun penetrates, sea ice, thin, strength, water, disturbing flora, cryosphere, arctic basins, quaternary, periglacial, geomorphological, glacially, land, speeding up, under the water.

Since being on the Floating Arctic University and in Ny-Ålesund most of these keywords have been scrutinised through lectures, practical science and presentation.

I take a photograph outside UIS. You can see the vessel, Prof. M anchored some metres or fathoms beyond.

At last we are given free time. Wanting to take some time in luxury and privacy, Brynjar and I head up to a hotel we know, the venue of the Darkness Conference. The food is good. The atmosphere is calming. The mainly Swedish staff are welcoming. We think about taking a flight home. But hey! We’ve been in similar situations throughout Amphibious Trilogies when psychological aspects raises its head and becomes overwhelming. We debrief ourselves. We strengthen us. We move our minds in a positive vein. We decide that we will complete the expedition.

19.00 (vessel time ): We meet up on the harbour at the designated time, and wait for the only RIB to take us on our homeward journey. We are hungry. Tomorrow, if the sea is willing, we will be in Barentsburg to collect new visa applications and passports that we need to enable us to enter Russian territory once again on the mainland.

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Pyramiden #11

Day 11 on Prof. Molchanov
Tuesday 2 July 2019

Got up. Pancakes for breakfast. Managed to speak with Amanda after. Went to check on Game Camera, but the imagery is too beautiful to interrupt the time-lapse. Mountains. Snowy peaks. Afterwards I found out that the batteries were dead and we haven´t got any pictures since Ny Ålesund. It started to rain, but there is sunlight in the distance. Filmed Alexander, the anchorman, dropping it on the front deck. Half-way through the landing the waves got too big, and only half of the team made it to Pyramiden. We were greeted there by people with guns. We got on a bus that took us from the port to the entrance of the city. We walked through with a cautious eye looking for polar bears in the surroundings. Inside the festsal it looked run-down but beautiful in an Ostalgic way. We saw the main street, the cinema, the gym, the swimming pool and the post office/café. There the card terminal didn´t work, and they only accepted Norwegian kroner, so I ended up paying coffee and beer for everyone. Got a little popular. Upon the return in the afternoon, the waves had calmed a little and some of the researchers who hadn´t been able to go in earlier, got to go to Pyramiden and take samples. Tomorrow we are going to Longyearbyen. Wifi and good coffee. Here we come! 😉

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Paused

DAY 11 on the Arctic Floating University Expedition
Tuesday 2 July 2019, part 2
melting, evaporating, deep time, slow motion

Before leaving the Billjeford our captain gave us a rare treat. Instead of heading out of the fjord towards Longyearbyen, we had an opportunity to see a glacier as close up as the ship could manage in these conditions. In the distance, the mountains, with covers of snow and clouds above them. In this landscape, it seems that only the sea is moving. So captivating.

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