Amphibious Trilogies

Horizon video #5

Shot on the research vessel, Prof. Molchanov
Arctic Floating University Expedition (NArFU), 22 June – 11 July 2019

Expedition Route: Arkhangelsk – “Kola meridian” transect – Barentsburg – Ny-Ålesund – Pyramiden – Longyearbyen – Barentsburg – Arkhangelsk

This silent stop motion video assembles sequential photos, frame by frame, shot with a game camera tied to the mast of the R/V Prof. Molchanov. With 24hrs of lightness its impossible to know what is a day and what is a night. On the outward bound journey we struggle to protect the camera from the weather. When approaching the Svalbard archipelago the camera became more stable.


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Horizon video #4

Shot from the White Sea to the Northern Divina River
Arctic Floating University Expedition (NArFU), 7-11 July 2019

This silent stop motion video assembles sequential photos, shot with a game camera tied to the mast of the R/V Prof. Molchanov. Homeward bound, on the last leg of the Arctic Floating University Expedition.


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Horizon video #3

Shot on the Barents Sea
Arctic Floating University Expedition, 5 July 2019

This silent stop motion video assembles sequential photos, shot with a game camera tied to the mast of the R/V Prof. Molchanov. We have left Svalbard, heading homeward bound on the Barents Sea. A storm is brewing!


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Horizon video #2

Shot in the Barents Sea and the Isfjorden
Arctic Floating University Expedition, day 29-30 June 2019

This silent stop motion video assembles sequential photos, shot with a game camera tied to the mast of the R/V Prof. Molchanov. We approach Svalbard by way of the Barents Sea. The port of call is Barentsburg.


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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.

. . . . . . . . . .

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 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.

Menus, floating images and categories: Click
Pan: Click, hold + scroll (1 finger)
Zoom in/out: Pinch

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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