Amphibious Trilogies


An essay on the physical phenomenon of waves, movements, forces and emotions.

Waves – a physical phenomenon of the surface of a body of water. Influenced by currents, wind and earthquakes sometimes to immense and destructive size. At other times, gentle and small , seemingly caring movement, but always beyond the control of humans. All humans by shores of bodies of water, or in another way being on the water, do study and interpret waves. Waves are happiness, despair and grief representing emotions and physical forces, of which we have to relate to in an extended choreography, but never disciplined and void of instructions.

Emotions are like waves and the cycle of life is like a wave. No one can ever step into the same water twice in a river, neither in a lake nor in the sea. Ponds however might give the illusion of representing the ‘stagnant’ always the same – still it is an illusion. Even a pond is a body of water in interaction with its surroundings.

Having studied big disasters at sea, talked with survivors and relatives of those that died I realise that humans face the uncontrollable and again and again must fate the futility and limit of their seagoing devices, whether ships or oil-drilling vessels. Waves hammer constructions with a tirelessness of sledge-like blows. Sometimes for long times moving slowly and others, sometimes moving rapidly.

My interests in waves are two. The number one is navigating and survival of the waves of stormy weather. The other is the emotional aspect. In stormy weather both emotional and physical are just a matter of survival and coping with a challenge. One that can turn into the end of human existence. However, reactions are different and even in emotions – no wind and no challenges might be lethal. In the time of sailing vessels, being in the doldrums was dramatic. No movement, just the complete and lethal calmness.

Being with humans that has lost their dear ones at sea. I encounter different reactions to waves. Quite a number describe them as reflecting their own emotions. They represent grief, anger, despair, comfort, reflections and relating to the existential. For some, they represent the forces of God and what is beyond human control. Some cannot face the sea after the loss of a dear one and a great number find comfort in walking along shores and reflecting on the waves and with the waves. One wife that lost her husband told me that she had to be by the sea to cope with his death. She found great comfort in seeing the sea- whether in storm or in calm conditions.

Somewhere beyond the surface, her dead husband had his grave. “The Sea is the greatest cemetery in the world,” she said – and told me that her prayers and what made her cope with his death was the waves. She brought their children to the seashore. They watched the seagulls and storm petrels skimming the waves. The latter only to seen in moonlight conditions, black shadows just visible above the foaming surface of big waves. “I guess, I imagine them more than see the storm petrels,” she said – having read about them and thought they represented the greatest mystery of the sea and the night.

She came from a family of sailors. Men had died at sea for generations. Still as she said, the doldrums are worse. The calmness of the mirror-like surface after death and destructions. There were no tears, only the numbness. She had to return to the seashore to see the sea crash foaming onto the beach and rocks in order to feel like she regained her mental self. Her children were a great comfort, but the sea and the waves made her close to herself and the memory of her dead husband.

Reading the waves is the essence of navigation, either in relations or as a sailor. The words were from a fisherman of a small archipelago of islands at the coastline of Helgeland in northern Norway. His main navigational skill was, in his opinion, his ability to read the wind, currents and waves. Skills as ancient as man have used boats. Waves are information of what to come and what is in the past. The waves after a big storm are different from those warning of a new storm. His wife was the same – all waves to be understand and taken into consideration. I guess, as he said, I am the same all waves. He emphasised his love of the sea and his wife and coped with the waves of them both. “The good thing” he said “is that “she copes with my waves as well.”

To recap, emotions are likened to waves and the cycle of life is like a wave. No one can ever steps into the same water twice, whether in a river, neither in a lake nor in the sea. Ponds, however, might give the illusion of representing the stagnant , the always the same – still it is an illusion. Even if a pond is a small body of water, whether waves or ripples, ponds do interact within the surroundings.


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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
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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

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


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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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