Amphibious Trilogies

The 8th Sister – An exercise into the depths of Freudian perception, 2005

The 8th Sister is a site specific underwater sculpture for viewing via echosounder. It’s target audiences were sea farers, fishers, local inhabitants and tourists. It is located under the sea on the arctic circle close to Husøy, Træna, 50 km off the coast of Helgeland, Norway.

See the project video here.

Artist statement

If you have to attend to the mere surface of the incident, the reality … the reality I tell you, it fades.

The 8th Sister is an art project that investigates the practical and contextual implications of creating an underwater sculpture in which its “true” form is manifested as an image on an ultrasound/echosounder display. Most people today are familiar with 3D, and comprehend 3D as representations in a two-dimensional form (on a screen) in computer games and as animations on TV and in films.

The 8th Sister poses questions with the general acceptance of this type of reality rendering in that the actual process transforms depth to surface – from 3D to a flat 2D.

The manifestation of the naked woman on an ultrasound screen can evoke deep speculations of the sculpture’s actual physical form, while offering a cheeky, humorous and mystic resonance of clumsy pin-up posters that have flavoured male dominated workplaces.

The sculpture derives its name from the local Nordic legend of the Seven Sisters mountain range of Helgeland, visible when weather permits from Træna. Eight sisters, bathing in the sea were hunted down by a horny horseman. Seven rushed to the shore, and as the legend would have it, were turned to stone, just in the nick of time! The eighth swam out to sea, and was never seen again.

She measured approximately 10 x 3 x 3 m. A commemorative stone plaque was placed at her feet. The process was documented by video, and followed up with video interviews gathering impressions and interpretations of the work from the people of Husøy.

The 8th Sister was constructed of 12.500 m of silver ribbon, cut up into varying lengths, each tied to 5000 one Kroner coins to anchor them down. Volunteers from Neptune Sports Diving Club placed bundles of ribbons and coins on the sea bed according to a chart based on the contours of a reclining naked woman.

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Credits
Initiated and produced by Motherboard/Per Platou and Amanda Steggell in collaboration with Annesofie Norn, Neptune Sports, Diving Club and the people of Husøy, Træna
Co-producer in Træna: Erlend Mogård-Larsen
Funded by: Arts Council Norway and Træna Municipality.

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Desert Walker – Extending

Desert Walker. The other side of ‘O’ is an experimental geography and a choreo-topographic workshop/performance event. It took place on July 2010, 3km beyond the village of Akhalkalaki, Georgia.

Touch the tip of one index finger to the other. Do the same with your thumbs. With these fingertips connected, open the space between them,
to form an O. Now separate your hands. What remains is the other side of O. This absence of boundary is the choreographed site for The Other Side of O.

Deborah Hay, 1998

This project seeks to commemorate a landscape of forgotten or obscure events . It takes the choreographic score of “Quad” (1981), Samuel Beckett’s experimental TV drama for four silent walkers, off the screen and places it in real space.

Exactly what is to be commemorated is decided through group discussions during the process of learning and performing the score. The participants are artists and cultural workers from Georgia and France.

Experimental geography workshop/performance event: July 2010, 3km beyond the village of Akhalkalaki, Georgia (You will not find the site on Google Maps)

In preparing the site we look to the north, south, east and west, and above and below us searching for the visible and hidden networks and infrastructures that control movement; that make up a site that is already choreographed – even before one has arrived. We discuss what narratives of space and place occur when imposing an alien choreography on top of an existing one. The chosen site is a mysterious cement platform deep in the countryside of the Kaspi region. Close to the site lies the remains of a zeolite factory from the Soviet period. Perhaps the two were once connected but nobody we met could remember. 1500 migrant workers from Mongolia ran the factory, leaving as quickly as they arrived when Georgia gained its independence in 1991.

The group concluded that we had commemorated transformation and change. The cyclic walking pattern was described as an expression of the four cycles of recovery following a systems breakdown; (i) severe suffering, (ii) pipe dreams/ illusions of freedom, (iii) depression; redefinition and reconstruction, and (iv) stability; a new system that lasts indefinitely, until it breaks down and the cycle starts again.

Georgia is currently in the 3rd phase. The platform was described as both a place for celebration and a Pandora’s box.

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Credits

Participants:
Jay Japaridze, Katie Bochoidze, Insa Nino, Shoko Chachua, Ira Lomsadze, Teiko Mgaloblishvili, Anna Bourdichon, Damien Coco, David Nemirovich Gabunia, Denis Gonobolin and Lasha Samadalashvili.

Co-produced with Fest i Nova and The Foundation for Revival and Development of Cultural Heritage of Shida Kartli, Georgia

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Rhizome, nexus and vector

Referring to publications in art research and public art (by Mika Hannula and Miwon Kwon), Slager (2015: 61-62) in a chapter entitled ‘Context responsive research’ points to a shift towards narrative as making places and site leaving its specificity of context to become a discursive artifact in and of itself. He points to Merleau Ponty’s notion of the viewer being engaged via a mode of a ‘phenomenological vector’ (entailing being grounded, fixed and actual), ‘… seems to have been definitively replaced by three completely different basic components of ungrounded, fluid and virtual’ (Slager 2015: 61).

In Amphibious Trilogies we have met such a shift in the very character and engagement of an extended choreography out in the world where our original notion of amphibious has been very much about these three components as we have explored them in the themes of island, pond and passage.

ISLAND may be partly positioned as concerned with ‘territory’ but following Deleuze, we are concerned with acts of deterritorializing knowledge through practice and reflection centred on transdisciplinary artistic inquiry. Thus territory becomes ‘ungrounded’, to refer to Slager. This is so in the sense that its public character as practice based inquiry is connected to a diversity of sites but that these extend beyond the mapping of fixed spaces and forms in their being between land and sea and due to their archipelago and ‘rhizome’ like qualities and relations. 

The theme of POND may be seen to be centred on the notion of site and thus ways public gatherings, for personal and group processes, may be situated. However, ponds are both calm and centre us around an expanse of water; they may also be stagnant and unappealing.  However, for us ponds are above all liquid, situated in the ground but in effect inserts and receptacles within the physical landscape. They draw us into a different materiality and may often allow us to see its boundaries, where shores and expanses of water are metaphorically bound. They function as a ‘nexus’, literal and figurative, less site, more venue for processes of becoming and transformation.

Our selected theme PASSAGE refers to both physical spaces and to journeys, between shores and across distances on land. However, it also entails our imagined and conceptual movement in and between locations, physical and virtual. In this sense we may approach passage as a volume, a channel, a voyage or a narrative event built of elements over time. However, passage has become more than this in our inquiries for it has largely become an amphibious passing of space and time, a kinetic ‘vector’ of change.

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Slager, H. (2015). The Pleasure of Research. Ostfildern: Hante Cantz.

“Rhizome connection point” by ‘Fragments pictosophiques’ is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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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, archipelagos 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.

To explore, use your fingers. Navigation will vary on different devices, so play around. Below is one version.

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Bon voyage!

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Ice flows moves #2. Hull up, sail down.

Icebergs are likened to an inverted sailing ship. Hull up, sail down. Water is one of the few substances that are slightly more dense in liquid form, rather than solid. This is why ice cubes float. Borne from glaciers and frozen sea shelfs, icebergs are made from frozen fresh water. They are riddled with multitudes of tiny trapped air bubbles, which give them their white colour.

Often times, natural light rays colour glaciers in shades of blue, purple, pink, orange and even golden. Generally speaking, grey patches on the surface of icebergs indicate the presence of people-made pollution. Similarly, when the temperature rises enough to melt the surface of icebergs, yellow patches may indicate the presence of bacteria. Hull up, sail down. The dissolved salts of ocean water are denser than fresh water, thus adding more buoyancy to icebergs. Hull up, sail down. Both winds and currents carry icebergs along with them. Sometimes, icebergs emit growling crackly sounds. When a big piece of an iceberg plunges into the sea, the sound is colossal. Hull up, sail down. Boom boom.

This iceberg is about 14m high and 40m long. The photo comes from the Arctic Floating University Expedition 2019. A storm leaves us surrounded by floating ice. Wind and currents push and pull the vessel towards the iceberg. This is a highly critical situation. A remarkable feat of manoeuvring and navigating avoids crashing into the iceberg.

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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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Moving plastics

DAY 16 on the Arctic Floating University Expedition
Saturday 6 July 2019

In a lecture on Marine Litter by the Russian scientist, Anna Vesman, she voiced the question ..

According to this chart, 62,3% of marine litter is made up of microplastic particles. But that does not answer the question about why, in general, people think about plastics in the oceans.

In popular media an accumulation of floating plastics are often referred to as floating islands and garbage patches. These metaphors are misleading. Islands and garbage patches are land-based concepts. Floating islands are not really ‘islands’ and garbage patches are not really ‘patches.’ Rather, they are a menagerie of marine debris, entangled and floating in the water.

River-borne plastics are a major source of plastics in the ocean. Other ways that plastic get’s into the ocean include direct dumping, by wind-borne carriage, by ships and lost fishing gear.

Altering states: Break down in three stages.

When the plastic debris are subjected to high salinity conditions they become very small microplastic particles – hard to see, hard to imagine and hard to locate as they are carried on ocean currents, and wind-borne gyres. They are always on the move. Horizontally, close to the water surface – or vertically, sinking deep down in the sea.

Most visible and disturbing impact concerning microplastics are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species. Plastic pollution also threatens food safety and quality, human health and contributes to climate change. No wonder that mircoplastics are called Mermaids’ tears. And by the way, the term ‘microplastic beads’ also relates to cosmetics, detergents and microplastic fibres. The mermaids do cry. Listen up! What is at stake in the world and in this instance, what’s at stake in the Arctic regions?

What is the journey of microplastics to the Arctic?

Image. Movement of water in the Arctic Ocean. Blue arrows: cold, relatively fresh water. Red arrows: warm, salty water that has entered the system from the North Atlantic. Also shows the prominent Beaufort Gyre. Credit: Jack Cook, WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute).

Sea ice and surface water move around the Arctic Ocean for more than 2 years due to two big currents—the Beaufort Gyre and the Trans Polar Drift. This means that sea ice and surface water, and also anything floating in it or stuck in the sea ice are stuck in the Arctic Ocean before exiting to the North Atlantic. -Nancy Bazilchuk, 2019 1.

What is the life of the “Plastisphere” ?

Plastisphere communities are distinct from surrounding surface water, implying that plastic serves as a novel ecological habitat in the open ocean. Plastic has a longer half-life than most natural floating marine substrates, and a hydrophobic surface that promotes microbial colonization and biofilm formation, differing from autochthonous substrates in the upper layers of the ocean. – Zettler et all, 2013 2.

1. Tracing the journey of microplastics in the Arctic, Nancy Bazilchuk, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Oct 16, 2019).

2. Zettler, Erik R.; Mincer, Tracy J.; Amaral-Zettler, Linda A. (19 June 2013). “Life in the “Plastisphere”: Microbial Communities on Plastic Marine Debris”Environmental Science & Technology47 (13): 7137–46.


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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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Leaving the archipelago

DAY 14-15 on the Arctic Floating University Expedition
Friday 5 July 2019

Phantasmagoria, movements in the interface, return,

Oh, Svalbard! What is your fate? Will I ever see you again?

Thursday: 15.30: We are about to leave Barenstburg, heading seawards on the homeward journey. The sun is shining. The water is calm. On the beach, I take the opportunity to make a semi-submerged video recording that captures the archipelago between the land, sea and sky. Wading in the water, the camera bobs up and down. In this liminal zone, the mingling of fishy and oily smells make up a tangy aroma.

Movements in the interface
Phantasmagorical surges, slips and warps
Castle

On board the ship, we hear that a big storm is brewing, with waves seven meters high. Anticipating this, we prepare our cabins, securing things in cupboards and draws. It will be a rocky ride.

16.40: North Greenland Sea: We have entered the open sea. I’m on the upper deck. The stern. I inhale the sea air, breathe by breathe. On the horizon I see the archipelago pulling away, diminishing, minute by minute, into the distant future.

Friday: I take a look at a photo of the first glimpse of Svalbard as seen on the horizon in 29 June 2019. Here it is. So similar.

In this snapshot, only the heavy clouds reveal the turbulent status of the weather and sea. We saw the mountainous archipelago approaching on the horizon, becoming ever bigger, more detailed, minute by minute, growing us into the near future.

End note: Setting out, homeward bound, I reflected upon what I have called ‘a journey-based approach to an extended choreography’. Journey as medium in extending choreography. Food for thought ……… A journey, backwards.

A journey signifies the process of some kind of change, a movement forward; eyes and bodies turned ahead, towards a final destination. But, let us also consider a sea voyage, when on departure most travellers gather at the stern watching the land recede; sometimes waving goodbye, measuring the distance, anticipating. How significant are the gestures of looking back and moving backwards during a journey? Both presuppose setting the eyes in the opposite direction to the movement and form something like a transition phrase, a threshold, in which a disorienting experience of movement and time occurs. – K. Georgelou, 20111.

1. Georgelou, K. (2011), A journey, backwards, RTRSRSCH Vol. 3, 2012, p.52
Link: https://issuu.com/kunsthogeschool/docs/rtrsrch5_paxton

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