Amphibious Trilogies

What are ponds?

A pond is a body of water, but it is not a sea and neither a lake.  It is a body of stagnant water, but not a puddle. Ponds can come in different sizes and always surrounded by land. Still, water might drain into a pond and it might drain out of a pond. Water is never completely without movement.  Evaporation and drainage will empty a pond. Streams, rain and groundwater will fill a pond.

For some creatures as well as other living beings, the pond is the world. For others it is a place of temporary stay and for some it is a necessity in a stage of life. Amphibious life needs the pond. The pond is part of the life cycle for frogs, toads and salamanders. Water is life for all of us. Plants, animals and humans all need water. The acknowledgment of water as part of life is an acknowledgement of what we share with other living beings.

Waterlilies, dragonflies and tadpoles belongs to the summer. Still, there are life even in an ice-covered pond. The pond is the future and place of new life. It is a sacred place since ancient times for humans as well as other life. In the morning mist elves are dancing on the surface, in warm summers dragonflies dance and in the night bats will hunt for dancing moths.

As a metaphor, the pond can represent change and life, possibilities and the stagnant, the isolated and different, surrounded by another world, the sacred and bewitched and numerous other images.


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The Pond in the forest

All snow and ice covered . The fish swims underneath the ice – the elk moves across and I follow the tracks skiing – the grouse is going to have their dance in April – on stage participating in the pond ballet, meanwhile we have to wait for the light to return a little bit more – as soon as the ice is gone the frogs will come – making love along the shore


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The snow in march and the never-ending winter

At the beginning of March, 70 cm of new snow – small birds return to the birdfeeder, the roe-deers to carrots and apples – we have to clear roofs yet another time and we live like on an isolated island isolated by snow. In a way it is like being in a pond – inside we stay and make short incursions into the snow covered terrain – skiing and trying to clear roads to get access to settlements around.


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Pond 3: Lillehammer, Norway

Amphibious Moves: Choreographies of littoral landscapes
Residential workshop
Maihaugen Open Air Museum

12.04.2018: Opening seminar, Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHIO)
16.04-04.05.2018: Maihaugen Open Air Museum; Lillehammer, Norway
04.05.2018: Final presentation, Sensitive Chaos

Workshop leader: Amanda Steggell, in cooperation with Hans-Jørgen Wallin Weihe and Brynjar Åbel Bandlein.
Master students of choreography (KHIO): Kyuja Bae, Katarina Skår Lisa, Thomas Prestø and Otto Ramstad.
Bachelor student of film photography (Norwegian Film School, Lillehammer): Vegard Landsverk.

This is a residential workshop located around the ponds of Maihaugen open-air museum, one of the most visited tourist attractions in Lillehammer. The thematic ‘Pond’ will be explored within this cultural landscape. In origin, ‘pond’ is a variant form of the word ‘pound’, meaning a confining enclosure (margins, membership, borderlines, immigration, under represented societal groups). From biology a pond is a boundary ecosystem, a complex of living organisms where a body of water meets the land (a littoral landscape, and an important source of biological diversity in landscapes). Ponds all over the globe are culturally assigned as a function within societies. Examples include waterholes for animals and humans and as way marks and spiritual sites.

Through field work over a three-week period we will situate our bodies in this landscape and study the kinetic and kinaesthetic life of the pond on a daily basis. Thus we will become visitor-researchers, temporary inhabitants of the ponds, with an angle to both human and non-human participants. What gets attracted to a pond? Can frogs, tourists and even children have critical voices? Through inhabiting of the mundane and miraculous-ness of everyday life of ponds. In the context of the museal, the field work may create choreographic situations, which may be considered as a result of landscape performances. This is open to discussion.

Between nature, nurture and tradition the question we will address is this: What is the hope, happiness and trauma of the pond.

The workshop culminates with a situated presentation by the master students, called Sensitive Chaos. 

INVITATION: Welcome to Sensitive Chaos

This workshop is supported by the members of Amphibious Trilogies;  Amanda Steggell (Professor of Choreography, Academy of Dance, KHIO), Andrew Morrison (Professor of Interdisciplinary Design at the Institute of Design, AHO), Brynjar Åbel Bandlien (dancer, research fellow, Academy of Dance, KHIO) Hans-Jørgen Wallin Weihe (Professor of Social Welfare, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences) and in cooperation with Maihaugen Museum.


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Movements. Island and pond

Field Notes, Apr 26 2017
10 min spontaneous writing

Recently,  I have traveled to Vardø to follow up on the culmination seminar of the Future North project (AHO) and the Vardø Restored project. Shortly after  I traveled to  Lillehammer with MA students of choreography from KHiO, namely Kyuja Bae, Thomas Presto, Katarina Skar Lisa and Otto Ramstad. This is a three-week residential workshop called Amphibious Moves. Choreographies of littoral landscape. The workshop is based on the ‘Pond’ thematic, hosted by Prof. Hans-Jørgen Wallin Weihe (Inland University College) and the Maihaugen Open Air Museum. And by a trick of the tale we made a connection to Vegar Landsverk, a Bachelor student of the Norwegian Film School based in Lillehammer. In the middle of the workshop I got a bad cold. I tried to work with it, but eventually took time off in the weekend, traveling back to Nesset, close to Oslo. I am writing this text from my cabin in Nesset, covered by blankets, looking out over Bunnefjord.

In Vardø I lived in my host’s family apartment, paying for basic expenses. In Lillehammer we all stayed in Hans-Jørgen’s house for free (myself , 4 students and research fellow Brynjar Åbel Bandlien). All are generous. All do as well as they can. Different circumstances. Different localities. Different personalities. Different challenges. Conflicts of understanding to be breached beyond cold critical views.

I am thinking about artistic research and I do seek to bring students into artistic research practices. The mandate says that we should use research in our teaching. What ‘research’ does this pertain to?

I have a small budget. I have to decide where, how and who to take with me – sharing resources across thresholds of economy in accordance with local situations. I try to apportion out the available funds (in a kind fuzzy logical way) to get the most out of encounters when working with fieldwork in littoral landscapes.

In artistic research in Norway there is a push towards an international standing (dissemination – presentations). Yet my experience of working in various littoral landscapes in Norway (and in other countries too) I learn about relationships between the land and sea that contest the given borderlines, founded from both current and historical perspectives. Movements. What I am trying to say is that we humans are mixed bunch. For example, working as a volunteer in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos in 2017 I have met many people from different countries, their plight, their hopes and dreams. Holding on to a social importance. Connecting in the doing and sharing, beyond the given national/political territories. The students I am working with now have entered Norway from the US of A with ancestors in Norway, from routes in Korea and Trinidad, and one who is discovering her Sami ancestors. Then there is Vardø – arctic island- with strong connections with Russia, Finland +++.

This post is a 10 minute spontaneous writing.  There are many issues to attend to. I am trying to understand. To cut a long story short, I do think that the focus on international outstanding (pertaining to institutions) within artistic research on today is a misdemeanour – a wild herring? And yet it is so very inspiring, challenging.

Right now I am on my cabin 27 km from Oslo by road. I look over the water of the fjord, now fluid, not frozen as I left it. Not so dramatic when on Hornøya  in Vardø when the birds migrate from the antarctic to the arctic. Because the spring came lately many birds had trouble to make a nest. Many sort out alternative places to raise their young. That was once two weeks ago. Really, I would like to stop here. Really I would like to migrate to my boat on Hovedøya, just 5 min by ferry to mainland Oslo. Right now I am content to look out over the fjord. To see the spring bloom with flowers, buds and the birds. I can be here calmly. – On Monday the work starts again in Lillehammer, some 4 hours by bus and train. I will be living in a house that houses many books in shelves and crannies that I would like to read.

No time. Some time. I land in my cabin. My bed. Mirror boat mirror. Mirror cabin. I am logging off now.

Photo attribution: Amanda Steggell


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Pond 2. Sketch

Fieldwork documentation

Pond 2, Banat and Sfânta Elena, Romania, May-Jun 2017
Amanda Steggell, Brynjar Åbel Bandlien, Hans-Jørgen Wallin Weihe
∼ hike between Czech villages

– first draft of the Fairytale comic strip, by Brynjar Bandlien
– Download the full version (PDF): Fairytale

Visual shorthand approach to fieldwork documentation

Hiking and getting lost between Czech settlements from Gârnic to Sfânta Elena.


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Grimm notes, Banat, Romania

Amanda Steggell and Hans-Jørgen Wallin Weihe travelled by plane from Oslo, while I travelled from Berlin to Vienna. We all took a bus from Vienna to Brno. From Brno we travelled with another bus for twelve hours during the night through Hungary and Romania to Sfinta Elena by the River Danube in the most southwestern region of Romania on the border of Serbia. This region is called Banat.

Banat is like an island/pond of Czech culture in Romania, which again is an island/pond of Latin culture in the general Slavic culture of the Balcanic region. I am a bit sceptical to any identity or autonomy based on claiming rights and ownership to a piece of land, no matter which culture developed or arrived there first. It is this kind of territorial behaviour that, next to religion and economic interests in the exploiting of riches of the land, has been the cause of so many wars in this region. However, the Czech minority is minor compared to that of the Hungarian minority in Transylvania, not to mention the minority of Roma people living all over Romania. These minorities have all been existing in Romania for centuries.

The long trip could have been shortened by a day if we had flown directly to Bucharest and then caught a train to Banat. If we had chosen this route we wouldn’t have got the same sense of distance and time (travel time). Somehow this pilgrimage seemed like the right way to arrive in this forgotten place where time has stood still since 1830. We were traveling together with our tour guide Pavel Klvac and 20 Czech tourists from Brno and the little village of Drnovice, some 80km westwards from Brno. We were not the only artists in the group. There was a delegation of painters with their canvases and easels coming to Banat to eternalize the picturesque landscapes of grass covered hills. – We came there to walk through them. On the first full day of our trip we were going to hike from one village further up the Danube Valley and back to Sfinta Elena.

The hike:

Amanda, Hans-Jørgen and I decided to leave the group and head off on our own. We had only a rough map of the area, some apples and some water. It started to rain and we got lost almost immediately. We couldn’t agree if we wanted to return to the starting point or to continue to search our way back home using the map and the compass on our iPhones. Amanda suggested to ask directions from the first person we would meet.

We continued walking and met upon a farm at the edge of the forest. The first ones to greet us was a pack of dogs that were very aggressive. The farmer calmed them down and smiled friendly to us. His family, hiding in the doorway behind him seemed less open. Since I lived in Bucharest for five years and speak Romanian, I functioned as a translator. The farmer pointed out the right direction and told us that it would take two and a half hours to reach Sfinta Elena by foot. Our spirits lifted after we had been given the right directions, and we were appreciating the unique beauty of the wild Romanian forest, which reminded us of something out of a Grimm brothers fairy tale.

After another one and half hour walk along a stream we meet a construction worker who offered us a ride in his car down to the Danube river. We declined his offer, and instead asked him for direction. He pointed it out and said that Sfinta Elena would be about two and a half hours away. The sense of distance and time seemed a bit random in these parts of the world, so we didn’t let our good mood get affected by this. We just kept walking. This time through the thick forest on an old timber road.

After a while the road ended in the middle of nowhere. We tried several different routes, but ended up taking another more recently built and very steep uphill timber road. At the top of this hill there was another farm. No dogs were greeting us, so we thought that the farm was abandoned. When we got closer an old lady, with several dogs around her that were completely silent, greeted us. She asked us if there were more to our company, but I replied that we were on our way to Sfinta Elena, and that ‘no’, we were the only ones. She pointed out the direction and told us it would take us another two and a half hours to get there. Later we were told that there are witches still living in this area.

We met a man that looked like a monster accompanied by his beautiful daughter, an old man eating his dinner who shouted to us from his balcony and then,  a woman who spoke a bit of English. She told us that her daughter was an English Professor. Everyone told us that Sfinta Elena was two and a half hours away. When we finally walked up the last timber road to the top of the last forest hill and could see the windmills surrounding Sfinta Elena, we nearly cried in relief. It was still a bit to go, but at least we knew we were going to make it back that evening. We continued walking among the windmills and the flower fields until the sun set. We had been on this hike for 12 hours.

Much in the same way ´If I were The Ocean´ () can be used as a map and a compass for the entire Amphibious Trilogies project, I think that our hike in the Banat region can be used as a map and compass to how the coming collaborations between Amanda, Hans-Jørgen and myself will be. Through collaboration, respect and trust we negotiated and navigated our way through the thick forest together, and individually we keep our mood and our strengths up so that we could continue the trip without interruption. We let go of individual needs in order to reach the overall goal. We all showed our best sides. It was great to experience this. (comic strip documentation ⇒)

The dance:

The day after the long hike, Amanda and I decided to leave the group and stay in Sfinta Elena to rest and work. We walked back up on the hills where we had arrived the evening before and found a spot in the shadow of one of the windmills. There we practiced the dance of Tai Chi Tai Chi. I was wearing the GoPro-camera on my chest and documented the landscape with the movement of the dance just like I had done on the island of Fourni in Greece the year before. The recording looks very poetic with the sound of the windmills going whoop-whoop.

On the last day of our three-day stay we travelled with a boat to an island in the river Danube, which is a shared territory between Romania and Serbia. There we repeated the practice of the Tai Chi Tai Chi dance together with Hans-Jørgen. With a GoPro-camera attached to my chest I documented the frog pond that was there on the island, the boats passing on the Danube and the mountains on both sides of the river. If I remember correctly, the recordings became very picturesque with the sound of the frogs and the crickets in the background.


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Banat and St. Helena in Rumania

Banat and St. Helena in Rumania – Notes on islands of otherness in the sea of nationalism

In the sub-Carpathian mountain chain along the Donau river there are pockets or rather ponds of populations of Czech populations established from the 1820s as border settlements along the borders of the Austrian Hungarian Empire. Most of them have historically been rather isolated being culturally and linguistic apart from the Romanian population.

The Czech, Slovak and earlier also German settlements were mostly Roman Catholics or protestants a different faith than the dominating Orthodox Rumanian or on the other side of the river Donau Orthodox Serbian.

Traveling from Vienna (Wien) to Brno (Brünn) and by road south to Banat is a long drive, still we follow the ancient route and we come like most visitors and participate in traveling the traditional way of culture and language. We travel with Czechs, some of them visiting relatives, others just visiting being artists, tourists and scholars.  A drive through the night – a long control of passports on the Rumanian border to Hungary. The two countries being ambivalent to each other. Hungary claiming parts of northern Rumania having Hungarian nationals – the Hungarians in those regions want to be part of Hungary.

St. Helena is like moving back a century. People live traditional lives – tending their fields, milking their cows and sheep, having a few pigs, hens and growing traditional crops. The fields are small and life is hard-work and dedication to the land of the ancestors. People are hospitable, used to sharing and serving meals made from what they have from their gardens and farms. Food of a quality and sharing of a quality that is highly appreciated by us coming as visitors. We live in the home of an old couple, they prepare meals and share their warmth across language differences. Brynjar speaks Rumanian, which helps. Yet still, locals speak mostly Czech living in a world apart from Rumania. Many have been to the Czech Republic, but never to the big centres of Rumania.

We walk from one Czech settlement to another, we lost our way somewhere along the trail. Walking through the forests we come to another world of isolated Rumanian farms with no electricity living in a world of their own with their animals – pigs, dogs, hens, cows and horses. Always sharing and giving us directions to our destination – the Czech village in a distance somewhere down the trial – some hours on- the next place, the same answer – some hours on – the next place – the same answer – some hours on – just a short distance – enormous pigs – ancient wells dug by someone a long time ago – we see rare orchids, beautiful flowers, toads, frogs and a single snake. We never saw the bears and wolves, but we are sure they saw us.

“In the forest there are witches” we were told when we returned. We met an old and very helpful lady living alone far away from others. She sure did bewitched us by her personality and helpfulness. We met a young lady herding a cow with her father, some young children hiding in a doorway and middle-aged female giving us water from her well and showing us the way towards St. Helena. She lives across a valley from the Czech settlements, but there were no trails to walk. Most of the way just forest and a small stream.

In St. Helena they do not know their Rumanian nieghbors in the next settlement and neither do they know them. They are a world apart, still very close as the crows fly and as the deer run.

Big wind turbines up in the hills. Amanda and Brynjar danced by the turbines , following in the shadow of the huge propeller blades on the ground.

The Donau river includes big islands, at times of flood all covered by water – midway the Serbia – and as water flow and the river change the terrain with flooding the islands might change in shape and perhaps even nationality. A world of birds, butterflies, insects and fish. People living along the river are mostly Rumanians on the eastern side and mostly Serbians with pockets of Hungarians and Slovaks on the other side. Fishing, smuggling and subsistence farming along the river. During Communism, huge industries and mining operations that collapsed with the fall of Communism. Still, people remain – they have no choice and no alternatives – and the river Donau gives at least some possibilities. After all, there are fish and birds and the occasional job.

We all moved and filmed on an island in Donau, we were there and we were together – the few others were a Rumanian family taking a dip – we skinny dipped when alone – and we saw the tiny fish collecting in small backwater places, the frogs in a pond, swans and ducks

The return was the same – we drove through the night. Passport control on the border to Hungary – no refugees allowed in Hungary – a short time afterwards we took a toilet break at a gasoline station. On the road side by the stopping place there were young Asian ladies of the night smiling to the male passengers and ignoring the females. There are rules and they are practiced selectively – passport control is only for those poor and needy.


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Pond 2. Video 2

Artists at work

Sfânta Elena and Banat, Romania, 3 Jun 2017
Brynjar Åbel Bandlien
Tenta{c}tively taking in the surround on Ostrovul Moldova Veche, Romania.

Take a walk on a small island. Go with the flow. Take in the surround.

Brynjar stops and sings an island song by the choreographer Jennifer Lacey.

Location data

Ostrovul Moldova Veche is an island and is located in Caraş-Severin, Romania. It lies on the River Danube between Romania and Serbia. It is a nature reserve of more than 1600 hectares with a unique biodiversity that includes a colony of over 80 wild horses, several lakes, ponds and small beaches. The estimate terrain elevation above seal level is 65 metres.

Area: 160 km2
Area code: 327161
Administrative region: Coronini


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Pond 2. Video 1

This post contains three items.

1. Fieldwork documentation

Pond 2, Sfânta Elena, Banat, Romania, June 2017
Amanda Steggell, Brynjar Åbel Bandlien
Tenta{c}tively probing the surround on a hillside close to the Danube River that borders onto Serbia

2. Mixed methods for probing unfamiliar surroundings in a 360° manner

‘T’ai chi – T’ai chi’: A kind of personal expansion pack for T’ai chi.
– You can make up your own moves and you can follow the moves of others.

Documentation: POV camera on the Heart Chakra.
– Forget the camera, examine your catch later.

3. Location data

The village of Sfânta Elena Caraş-Severin county, is the oldest still inhabited village of the small ethnic minority Banat Czechs. – Wikipedia
Area code: 327161
Administrative region: Coronini
Wind farm data:The Wind Power


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