Amphibious Trilogies

PASSAGE: An artistic research event

31 October 2019 : 1200–1700
Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO)
Academy of Dance
Host: Amphibious Trilogies Artistic Research Project
Free attendance, registration required

Amphibious Trilogies is a developmental arts and practice based inquiry realised through an extended choreography.

The main goal is to artistically explore and monitor littoral spaces via an extending choreography of related literal, bodily and border conditions, environments and communication.

This event draws together experience and insights from this leading senior level three-year collaborative transdisciplinary artistic research project. The event leads up to a final artistic research seminar to be hosted by the project in early 2020.

This seminar will focus on the theme of PASSAGE, partner to Island and Pond, in the Amphibious Trilogies project.

The seminar is free and open to KHIO colleagues and students, and to others motivated to participate on the theme of Passage in the context of extended choreography.

Welcome to PASSAGE: An artistic research event

Stay tuned for updates

1145 TAI CHI TAI CHI A session for early birds
1200 WELCOMING Coffee and greetings
1215 INTRODUCTION Amanda Steggell

Amanda Steggell: Why Islands
Hans-jørgen Wallin Weihe: What ponds
Brynjar Åbel Bandlien: What does dancing do
Efva Lilja: The Hidden – On artistic research and dance as a distortion of reality
Andrew Morrison: On passage
Commentators: Snelle Hall, Jeremy Welsh


Jeremy Welsh: Artistic research, transdisciplinary and amphibiousness
Ingri Fiksdal: Affective choreography, Diorama
Dina Brode-Roger: Arctic Imaginary
Commentators: Amanda Steggell, Snelle Hall’

1550-1620: OCTOPA
Andrew Morrison: ‘OCTOPA’ A toolkit for extended choreography


Round table discussion
Moderator: Andrew Morrison

Guest speakers and movers: Snella Hall (Dean, Academy of Dance, KHiO) Ingri Fiksdal (dr), Efva Lilja (artist, Prof. of choreography), Dina Brode-Roger (Ph.D candidate, KU Leuven), Prof. Jeremy Welsh (Trondheim Academy of Fine Art, NTNU)

Project members: Prof Amanda Steggell (Academy of Dance, KHiO), Brynjår Åbel Bandlin (Ph.D candidate, Academy of Dance, KHiO), Prof Andrew Morrison (Institute of Design, AHO), Prof Hans-Jørgen Wallin Weihe (Institute for Pedagogy, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences).


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The passages of culture

Historically, Arkhangelsk is one of the key strategic cities in the Arctic. For centuries it has been a nexus of riverine and maritime trade: for the movement of vast swathes of felled timber from the region; for the operations of regional, Russian imperial administration and admiralty; then later key Soviet bureaucracy and military operations.

Prior to the epic terra forming of St Petersburg from swamplands, Arkhangelsk was the most powerful northern arctic city. Astride the sprawling delta of the Dvina river, the city has a long maritime and related technological infrastructural and communication history. This is evident from the air, from the ground and from the water. The city is a central passage point, where salt and fresh water mingle, where land and water rise and fall, channels and routes, sandy deposits and shifting currents.

There is something enchanting about the flatness of the area, the nearness of the horizon. Yet his is a city that is anything but flat. It’s a strategic point of passage that has shifted between its liquid and frozen states between the seasons, open and flowing, icy and bound. A cityscape and an environment that has been a venue of intensive development, use, change, and productivity. It has been a location and destination for urbanisation over the centuries, from early religious settlement to its current mark on the future map of the Northern Sea Route (NSR). 

The city. Classical. Sovietistic. Contemporary. A mosaic of architectures that have grown out of the sandy deltaic setting. Reputed to be a site of arctic climatic inhabitation for population of about 350 000, this is also a cultural hub for the region with its medieval history and future facing location for wider Arctic development. It is now also a strategically positioned arctic oriented university city, with 20 000 students, and sizeable international student profile, including medical students from India. This is a city that has long been connected to Moscow by rail and to the vast interior by rivers and canals, and to the open sea for half the year.


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Off to Arkhangelsk

For over a year and a half weeks try to find out more about the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and see what travels into and through it. Despite fairly frequent coverage in national and international media – whether in terms of trade, security or environmental matters – it’s turned out to be less straightforward a ‘passage’ then we had hoped.

Tomorrow Amanda and I are off to Arkhangelsk in Russia, to be joined by Brynyar on the 21st of the month. This is one of our ways to experience and investigate artistically what an arctic passage may entail.

As a journey, as an experience, both physical and psychological. A conceptual and allegorical trope. We will visit this historical and strategic Arctic city to try to understand its past and future. It runs largely along one side of the vast Dvina river in the midst of its emerging delta leading into the White Sea. Frozen half the year, we will see flowing passage inland and to the waters of the Arctic.

Amanda and Brynyar want to take part in the Northern (Arctic) Federal University (NArFU) Arctic Floating University Expedition 2019. This year this international research platform makes the voyage from Archangelsk to Svalbard and back. It’ll take perhaps 25 days, with a mix of mostly scientists, students and researchers aboard the Professor Molchanov. This is an steel hulled, ice protected vessel that will accommodate 60 travellers and a crew of 20. It has lab and seminar facilities. The programme has run for five years and has hosted a diversity of applied sciences, less cultural or artistic connections such as we hope to forge.

Such voyages takes some organising and we’ve only learned recently that this year’s route has been changed. Amanda is a little disappointed. She and Brynyar will not see or land on the mix of islands in Russia, from the White Sea into the open Arctic waters. Visiting Svalbard and will be a novelty all the same, as it’s a large archipelago, a slight work island and passage will meet in diverge again.

We visited Longyearbyen in the depths of winter in January of this year. The vast mountains around the town and across the fiord with mostly invisible, occasionally looming shadows. On this excursion they will be lit by the midnight sun, visible in summer skies. And the floating university will dock there, after Barentsberg and its research centre, we presume, shifting understandings of sea, land and sovereignty in this remote but now globally known destination.

The abandoned mining town of Pyramiden is on the itinerary too. So too is the still operating coal mine of Barentsberg and it’s small wooden church and larger swimming pool, a human-made all year pond. A hotel now open for tourists, less the cold war outpost, more a strategic Arctic foothold in 21st-century climate times. Narratives and trajectories of the future untold. A visit to the international scientific research station at Ny Ålesund. Experiences, exposures, expressions form an artistic project embedded as it were in the needed scientistic discourses and data of the changing Arctic.

What of this artistry and its passages? The passage an allegorical device, a narrative accounting tool, immaterial artistic messages for moving actions for climate emergencies. The travellers for Amphibious Trilogies have a set of themes, problematics, curiously framed concepts and questions, an a number of tasks to try to perform. These digital texts will give details of some of those engagements, on the water, through time and with many new companions, most technical experts, and when landing on the very different venues of the archipelago. Passage and islands connecting, a series of long spaces of open seas and short landfalls.

We wait to see what will play out. How we can use the choreographic in the world, in contexts that are transversed. to accentuate the workings and potential roles of movement, in an artistic voice, on board with experts measuring, probing and observing the conditions and changing contexts of the Arctic.

Our amphibious notions will be on the move. Our persona Octopa will be on a boat, land in distant venues, slither back to the continental scale. Experimentally launched we will be in a few days.


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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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Rising out of the taiga & delta

The sandy soil and pools of rainwater that lie still beside brand new apartment blocks suggest that the city is built on shifting surfaces. This is an urban landscape where water seeps into the reedy roadsides not only beside the airport runway and road into the city but beside the repeated concentrations of dilapidated square wooden houses, whose peeling surfaces and curtained windows cannot detract from the way they lean and have shifted in the passage of time. In the city centre these buildings have been restored, a marker of the city’s history and now a tourist attraction.

This is a city that has seen much change and yet remains afloat beside the delta. The delta too is a symbolic and cultural one, marked out across the built character of the city. The force of the movement of the river and changing economic and political climates are apparent above ground. The city sits some three metres above the water yet the horizon is pitted with numerous lofty structures, the church domes a cultural religious revisionism of sorts against the ever present 1964 Soviet TV tower that must have foundations the are sunk deep into these lowlands.

Today, we meet light rain, a peal of thunder, and changing reflections of the sky on the river’s surface. Intermittent shafts of bright light illuminate the flow of water between sky and river, between puddled city streets and the movement of new model cars and the grinding gears of the fleet of rusty Soviet era city buses with their plumes of polluting diesel.

This is an industrial city to where massive pulp and paper works have leached their chemicals back into the environment. There are cycles of the human on non-human here, where the Anthropocene is present and where changes in state between land and sea, between soil and water and anchorage and passage are dynamic.


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The Northern Sea Route #19

Day 19 on Prof. Molchanov
Wednesday 10 July 2019

Slept until lunch. Went up to the laboratory with Amanda and Natalia. Worked on the map and the route of the expedition. Got some new ideas to follow the geopolitical, economic, social, cultural, artistic and ecological routes of the boat in addition to the boats planned and actual route. Then we went down in the bar and listened to all the presentations.  After the presentations I went back up in the lab and drew Barentsburg from a photo. I also showed my drawing of the bridge to Igor from the crew. He said it was nice and then he photographed it 😉 I had another nap before dinner. After dinner Amanda and I went up in the lab to sign a card for Daniel. We wrote: you don´t have an English accent at all!!) I hope he will find it funny and laugh. Tomorrow we will arrive in Arkhangelsk. I think I will start packing now.


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Laboratory #18

Day 18 on Prof. Molchanov
Tuesday 9 July 2019

Got up late. Skipped breakfast and went straight to lunch. Went back to bed. Slept another four hours. Was awakened by Alexander in order to sign paper for toll at the bar. There I met Amanda for coffee and we decided to go to the lab and work a bit. Was interrupted by the Koreans and the Swiss who needed the lab to take samples. I drew them. Afterwards we had a chat with Natalia about the eastern sea route and the trip to Svalbard. Went up on deck to take down the SD card from the Game Camera. 10 minutes of tai chi. Had dinner. Had a nap. There was a second birthday party. Went to bed around 4. Nite.


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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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Tai chi before the storm

Day 17 of the Arctic Floating University Expedition
8 July 2019

We are somewhere on the last leg of the Barents sea. Brynjar suggests that we should take the opportunity to do Tai chi together before we enter the White Sea. A storm is brewing. We have to hurry up.

Brynjar is wearing a GoPro camera on his chest, just as we have done several times during Amphibious Trilogies in varying conditions and terrains. This is not a performance, per say. Rather, it enables us to capture the mood and motion of the surroundings from a moving body perspective, all be it by a technical apparatus. The top video still shows the horizon as we are used to see it. The rest is conditioned by the motion of the boat as it meets the waves and wind. The ship is rocking, to and fro. We strive for a balancing point in these conditions.

We struggle to find a balance in the every changing conditions.

My fingers feel frozen. I have loaned a professional sailing jacket, too big for me. While I am so glad for this jacket, a wind factor comes in. The deck shifts from port to starboard.

Here am I, close to the end of the five minute Tai chi session. The wind comes strongly in and the waves get bigger. The deck shifts from starboard to port. I follow Brynjar’s lead. I am able to stand upraised as the storm comes nearer. The deck shifts from port to starboard. The session is over. Still on the deck we talked about how seabirds have hitchhiked, taking advantage of air currents produced as the ship shifts from starboard to port. Good speed, anticipating that there is something to eat from the dregs casted out from the vessel. And these seabirds, we both have been affected and influenced by them in our moves.


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Getting somewhere #17

Day 17 on Prof. Molchanov
Monday 8 July 2019

Got up. Ate breakfast. Went back to bed. Skipped both lectures. Went on the roof. Did tai chi with Amanda. Ate lunch. Had a nap. Went on the bridge and drew the view from up there. Happy with the result. Looked for Amanda to show it to her. Couldn´t find her anywhere. Had another nap. At 4 PM there was the initiation for having crossed the polar circle. I skipped it. Instead I was working with Amanda in the laboratory.  We interview Natalia about how the trip is organized. She explained us how the trip is financed. I think we might be getting somewhere. At night: Birthday party. Karaoke. A lot to drink. People letting go on the dance floor.


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