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, 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.

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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 crickly crackly sounds. When a big piece of an iceberg plunges into the sea, the sound is colossal. Hull up, sail down. Boom boom.

Image credits: Created by Uwe Kils (iceberg) and User:Wiska Bodo (sky). / CC BY-SA


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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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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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