Amphibious Trilogies

Dragonflies, dreams and transformations

A pond is a stage for transformations, fertility, spawning of fish, numerous different species of wildlife as well as for the display of beauty and courtship of numerous species. Using the pond as a stage and inspiration for choreography is acknowledging our strong attachment and connection to water and transformation.

In an ecological field guide to the Odonata of the Lowland Mixed Dipterocarp Forest of the South- eastern Kalimantan in Borneo, it is a description of 83 species of dragonflies (Bárta & Dolný 2013). Most likely, there are a number of not yet found species of dragonflies in the same area. Some dragonflies are rather rare and some dragonflies occur only seasonally in restricted ecological niches.  Dragonflies are peaceful beautiful creatures flying, but rather carnivorous beings in the nymph stage living underwater. The completely change both their appearance and way of living transforming from nymph to what we see as dragonflies flying both above ponds and at a distance from waterbodies. However, they depend on ponds and stagnant water to live the nymph stage.

The most beautiful for the human eye was the most spectacular coloured species. One of them the sparkling ruby red Tholymes tillarga or the coral-tailed cloudwing also called old world twister, evening skimmer, crepuscular darter, foggy-winged twister or simply twister. The names descriptive of movement and their dance above the foggy surface of water in morning sand evenings.  It is particularly active at dusk and dawn as well as during cloudy days. The family Libellulidae, to which it belong, found in tropical West- Africa, Asia, Australia and the Pacific (Silsby, 2001). The first to categorize for science was the Danish zoologist Johan Christian Fabricius (1745 – 1808). He made a system of nature for the Odonata, the study of damselflies and dragonflies (Krogh and Nielsen, 2008) His studies still acknowledged as part of the foundation of modern scientific studies.

All of the dragonfly species entwined with the habitat in which they live. Naturally, the tropics have a far greater diversity than the north. However, all connected to freshwater and they are admired beauties in their flying stage. Humans benefit from dragonflies, because they catch mosquitoes in their nymph like stage. In the flying stage, we just copy them and admire them. Recently dragonflies have served as models for modern drones as well as their eyes for photographic lenses.

The Dutch professor and nature scientist Dr Maurits Anne Lieftnick, (1904 – 1985) (Geljiskes, 1984) made scientific description of Amphicnemis mariae from Borneo in 1940 (Bárta and Dolný 2013:80). The local population co-existing with nature in the dense jungles of Borneo the beautiful dragonfly in yellow, red and green was a dragonfly of peat swamp forests.  It is a significant difference between traditional local indigenous knowledge and the knowledge of the scientist. The latter descriptive, analytical, classification and the former always connected to co-existence and the context.[6]

Lieftnick studied dragonflies in the Netherlands, the Dutch East Indies that later was named Indonesia and in the Pacific. He was one of the foremost scientific experts on dragonflies in his century.[7]  During the colonial period, he worked and studied under the Dutch administration, during the Japanese occupation he stayed in imprisonment and internment camps and later he worked for the independent Indonesian government. Dragonflies was a neutral subject – there were no political tensions connected to the study of the beauty of nature.

In 1945, “The natural History of Britain” published in 10 volumes. Among the volumes, there were one volume of insects and one of the nature life in London.[8] The books written during the years of war. In London, there were terrible destructions from bombing and later rocket attacks. In the ruins, there were stagnant water bomb craters and destruction.  Natural life, long absent from the town returned. Dragonflies flew above the stagnant water and the vegetation in the ruins.

As a metaphor the dragonfly symbolized that the ugly and destructive could transform into beauty and harmonious. In the nymph-stage, the dragonfly is ugly armoured covered in black and grey. They appear from muddy ponds and stagnant mosquito larvae infested waters transforming to the most beautiful flying creatures dancing in the air.

Dragonflies copied into enamelled and gem studded jewellery is fashion and decorate many females. It is costly jewellery afforded by the few. Dragonflies in the wild is free for all to see and remind us that human made copies can never capture the beauty of the wild. Liftnick lived through horrible treatment during his imprisonment, but his mind and reflection survived through the study of what was not in prison.  Even in the internment camps, the dragonflies flew as they wished. The dream of the wild, the dance of the dragonflies is continuous and cyclical. Still, as all nature challenged and poisoned by human materialism and hunt for wealth.

Dance and movements is perhaps part of the essence of the bonds of all living life. Possibly. We imagine ourselves in the damselflies and dragonflies performing. Very likely, they inspire our dreams and choreography. We can never copy them successfully, but we can classify and seek inspiration. Which is what England’s perhaps most articulate village voice the labouring class poet John Clare (1793 – 1864) did in his poetry[9] and which is what debutant Claire-Louise Bennet did in her book Pond in 2015.[10]  Water and water-life is a metaphor for human life and challenges as well as to acknowledge our connection to nature. Like in indigenous classifications and description of nature poetry is a connection attached to the totality and not the potentially destructive dissection of nature.

Claire-Louise Bennet wrote a genre-bending debut of the magic of solitude.[11] That is another dimension of the life of a dragonfly.  The lone flier of the waterbodies, dancing above the surface to encounter the other for a final performance. A master of choreography.

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Photo credits: Liquid Colour, enactment by Eye of Tree, Kyuja Bae and Katarina Skår Lisa, Maihaugen Open Air Museum, Lillehammer, Norway, 2018

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[1] Bárta and Dolný (2013)
[2] Silsby (2001)
[3] Krogh and Nielsen (2008)
[4] Geljiskes (1984)
[5] Bárta and Dolný (2013:80)
[6] Weihe and Syvertsen (2009)
[7] Geljiskes and Kiauta (1984)
[8] Fitter (1945); Imms (1945)
[9] Haughton, Phillips and Summerfield (1994); White (2017)
[10] Bennet (2016 and 2015)
[11] O’Grady (2016)

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Bárta, Dan and Dolný, Aleš (2013). Dragonflies of Sungai Wain. Hradec Kralove: Taita Publishers

Bennet, Claire-Louise (2016). Pond. New York: Riverhead Books

Bennet, Claire-Louise (2015). Pond. Dublin: Stinging Fly

Fitter, R. S. R. (1945). London’s Natural History. London: Collins

Geljiskes, D. C. (1984) Dr. Maurits Anne Lieftnick: A Brief Biographical Sketch, Odonatologica, 13 (1), 5 – 20. http://natuurtijdschriften.nl/download?type=document&docid=591635

Geljiskes, D. C. and Kiauta, B. (1984). Annotated catalogue of taxa introduced in Odontata by M. A. Lieftnick, with his complete bibliography, Odonatologica, 13 (1), 21- 50.

Haughton, Hugh, Phillips, Adam and ummerfield, Geoffrey (1994). John Clare in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Imms, A, D. (1945). Insect Natural History. London: Collins

Krogh, Helge and Nielsen, Henry (2008).Science in Dnmark: A Thousand Year History. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.

O’Grady, Megan (2016, 6/7). Genre-Bending Debut, Pond and the Magic of Solitude. Vogue https://www.vogue.com/article/pond-claire-louise-bennett-interview

Silsby, Jill (2001). Dragonflies of the World. Asutralia: CISERO Publishing

Weihe, Hans-Jørgen Wallin og Syvertsen, Carsten (2009). Identity, Understanding, Memory Landscape. Stavanger: Hertervig Akademisk

White, Adam (2017). John Clare’s Romanticism. London: Palgrave Macmillan

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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.

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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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The pond in Dvornovice and the Bohemian Landscape in Rumania

For a number of years I have lectured at the Environmental Programs at the Masaryk University in Brno in the Czech Republic. The international students from a variety of disciplines from art, urban planning, philosophy social sciences, biology, botany, medicine and even defence studies. The topic man’s relationship to nature and questions of how identity connects to landscape. My local partners, Czech scholars with a strong connection to their own landscape as well as environmental activists.

Pavel Klvač is the director of the library and cultural centre of Vyškov and a former lecturer of the Mendel University and the Environmental Programs at the Masaryk University in Brno in the Czech Republic. At the time of our travel, he was working at the local museum or rather collection of traditional farm animals including a large pond of fish. Fish farming with Carp (Cyprinus carpio) and Tench (Tinca tinca) and being a traditional part of Czech agriculture.

Together with the lecturer Dr. Zybynĕk Ulčák from the Masaryk University, he has studied rural traditions and landscape use in traditional farming communities in the Czech countryside as well as in Czech Moravian settler communities settled in Ukraine and Rumania. Such settlements made in the first third of the nineteenth century along the borders of the Austrian Hungarian Empire to protect against hostile neighbours. In Banat in Romania, the first wave of migration was in 1820 – 1824. Skilled Czech woodcutters and their families recruited by a local timber merchant and established a number of villages in remote forested areas in Banat. The Second wave came in 1826 to 1830 and established additional villages connected by footpaths with access to the outside by the Danube. The big river connected them to the big towns of Vienna, Bratislava, Buda and Pest (Klvač, 2009: 75).

The Czech populations have maintained their language and identity. They use the landscape as in the past maintaining subsistence farming, farming crops and methods as in the old time. Thus, agricultural techniques, old breeds of animals, species of plants and fruit trees maintained representing a resource that has disappeared in the home country. Still, it is as Pavel points out, a dying tradition. Many young people migrate, modern technology, electricity and even roads are changing the social structures of the small Czech villages.

Pavel is from Drnovice a small Moravian village near the larger town Vyškov. Just outside of the town there are a pond seasonally filled to the brim with water and in dry summers nearly completely dry. By the pond is a cross and there are a yearly procession from the local church to the pond. Tradition tells that the pond since ancient times have been held in high regard and is a sacred place for worship as well as place to connect to the spirits of nature. For local amphibians, the pond is the place of mating in the spring. Local frogs, toads and salamanders hibernate and migrate to the pond in the spring. Wildlife come for water and there are a rich insect life of dragonflies and various insects around the pond. Those living in the village have their small plots of land nearby often including a few fruit trees, trees with nuts and small fields used for various crops. Talking with Pavel it is the pond of his town – the one and only sacred pond – there exist other ponds, but none with the same significance. There are no other place with such rich animal life and no other place with such a sacred and spiritual significance.

Zybynĕk Ulčák come from a place close to the Polish border further east. It is a vastly different landscape, but connected to the Drnovice pond and landscape through writings and reflections with Pavel. The latter include expressing himself with artistic means, poetry, music as well as the traditional craft of hard science.

From a scientific point of view the pond in Drnovice is a breeding place of the salamander species Salamandra salamandra, Triturus cristatus, Triturus alpestris and Triturus vulgaris; the toad species Bombina bombina, Bombina variegate, Pelobates fuscus, Bufo bufo, Bufo viridis and Bufo calamita; the frog species Hyla arborea, Rana temporaria, Rana arvalis, Rana dalmatina, Rana ridibunda, Rana lessonae and Rana esculenta. In addition, there are snakes coming to feed on frogs, salamanders and tadpoles (Dungel and Řehák, 2011). It is really an amphibious place with frogs climbing in trees, on the ground and in the pond, salamanders in the pond and toads in the pond and on the ground. In breeding time, some of the amphibians have bright colours others have camouflage like the background. The small tree climbing frogs are green and difficult to see, but easy to hear. In breeding time, it is a concert of frogs and toads, different species each with their own sound. The pond is a stage for performance for amphibians as well as a stage for performance of religious rituals and sermons for humans.

The amphibious project at KHIO had the ambition of visiting the pond in Drnovice. The pond seemed like an ideal stage and environment for the project. However, it turned out that in some years with exceptional draught the pond had no water. The year of our project was such a year and plans had to be changed. As Pavel planned an organized trip to the remote Czech villages in Banat, we decided that the Amphibous project should join. Metaphorically speaking the Czech villages were like ponds of population settled in another country maintaining their Czech identity inside another nation.

Thus, we came to Vienna travelled to Brno and joined a group of Czech travellers to Svatá Helena up in the hills by the Danube. We walked in the terrain, visited small outlying villages, got lost in the forest, visited an island in Danube and certainly we saw amphibians – mostly frogs – numerous frogs – and we saw a nature that has disappeared other places with an abundance of rare flowers and the still existing farming techniques of the past. Horse and oxen pulled wagons. Manual labour and great pride of delicious local tomatoes, salad, local honey, jams, eggs and home baked bread made from locally produced and milled grain.

Living in Svatá Helena, we lived with a family of a husband and wife in their sixties. The two provided our meals and shared their living space with us. Their meals were simply fantastic and the eggs of their hens the best.

Environmental studies at the Masaryk University is a multidisciplinary meeting place for people from a variety of disciplines. Poetry, dance and artistic expressions are part of the approaches of communicating the ecological and environmental challenges we have in today’s world. Thus, choreography was of great interest and added to the menu of approaches to communicate the social and ecological challenges. Coming from Norway our approaches and experience of the landscape were from a perspective of outsiders relating to an historical dimension of another nation as well as another nature and way of living. Still, there were as Pavel, readily pointed out connections in art and nature as well as in the shared humanity and care of other humans.

The isolated Czech villages are like ponds in other cultures. The inhabitants maintain their own identity, culture, language and traditions. Still, they interact with their Rumanian neighbours some of them living in similar isolated communities and even single farms in the midst of the forest – others in the larger settlements along the Danube. On the other side of the river is Serbia also including Czech and Slovak settlements. A little further north Hungary. Another nation with great tensions to Romania. Crossing the border is like in the years of the cold war, long controls of passports and identity papers. Armed border guards who do not make any jokes. The northern part of Romania has a considerable Hungarian minority many of whom would like to be part of Hungary.

The Hungarian German Noble Prize winner of 2009 the author Herta Müller (1953 – ) wrote the book “The Land of the Green Plums” (1999, original of 1993). She described the life as member of the German minority in Romania during the heights of the Ceausescu’s reign of terror and those who left the impoverished provinces, in search of better prospects in the city. In a later book “The Appointment” (2011, original 1997) she manage in the words of a review “to turn the terrifying, the distorted and hideous ugly into something uplifting and beautiful.”

We had to wait for about one hour in the middle of the night travelling into Romania and on the return. There were beautiful flowers by the border control. All of them common wildflowers – weeds as they call them still beautiful if you wish to see the beauty. The French based French Czech author Milan Kundera (1929 – ) wrote about “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (Kundera 1999, original 1984) – it was a little cold in the night – still a little movement – a few rapid jumps and watching the moths kept us warm.

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Dungel, Jan and Řehák (2011). Atlas ryb, obojživelníku a plazu. Praha: Academia

Klvač, Pavel (2012). Backyard Landscapes. Drnovice (Czech Republic): Drnovice Civic Association

Klvač, Pavel (2009).The Bohemian Landscape in Romania- dying tradition. In Falk, Eivind and Weihe, Hans-Jørgen Wallin (2009). Living Crafts. Stavanger: Hertervig Akademisk/ Lillehammer: Norwegian Crafts Development, page 74 – 77.

Klvač, Pavel (2012). Backyard Landscapes. Drnovice (Czech Republic): Drnovice Civic Association

Klvač, Pavel; Buček, Antonín and Lacina, Jan (2011). Příoda a krajina vi okoloí Svaté Heleny. Drnovice: Občanské sdržení Drnka

Klvač, Pavel (2007). In Our Backyard. Drnovice (Czech Republic): Drnovice Civic Association

Klvač, Pavel (2006). Landscape and identity and the mythology of the swamp. In Weihe, Hans-Jørgen Wallin (2006). Tropical Permafrost. Lillehammer: Permafrost Press, page 12 – 19.

Kundera, Milan (1999, original 1984). The Unbearable Lightness of Being. London: Faber and Faber.

Müller, Herta (2011, original 1997). The Appointment. London: Portobello Books

Müller, Herta (1999, original 1993). The Land of Green Plums. London: Granta Books.

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Research Banat

Pondering on field work in the Rumanian Banat region, late May early June 2017, as seen through the guise of a social scientist and historian.

Banat was in the old the time of the old Austrian Hungarian Empire a border area towards the hostile Kingdom of Serbia.  Some of the first shots and military action of the First World War was fired along the border between in Banat was the Danube river. The river being a transport artery of crucial importance for the empire, however further down river under control of Serbia and Rumania and before their independence under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Up-river Roman Catholic and down river Greek-Orthodox, Rumanian-Orthodox, Serbian – Orthodox with small enclaves of Roman Catholics. Protestants and even some Muslim communities. Scattered among them small communities of Roma, Jews, Germans, Czech, Slovaks, traders and travellers of all nations. The fault lines of Europe and some will claim the detonators of war and conflicts in the past and possibly even in the future.

Being a social scientist and historian and working with choreographers, we came to the small Czech community of St. Helena situated in the hills above the Danube on the Rumanian side of the Danube.  We were studying what metaphorically is a pond of populations living in close proximity to the majority population, but still independent and very much in their own world.  The Czech speak their own language, maintain their own traditions and are either Baptists, other protestant denominations or Roman Catholics while the surrounding population is either Rumanian or Roma and Rumanian Orthodox. Other Czech and even German minorities exist close by but mostly accessible by tracks through the forest and a rugged terrain filled with crevices and isolated farms. Scattered here and there up in the mountains farms of Roma and people living a life they have for centuries. Horse pulled wagons with horses with feathers and decorations to scare away wolves and bears.  Huge pigs on the outlying farm serve as protection against wolves and bears as well as a source of food and lubrication.

In the middle of it all the new inventions of windmills putting the wind blowing down-river and sometimes up- river and across the ridges into electricity.  Part of my study is historical connections and part how a small minority culture maintain their traditions is part of my study. Part of the latter includes the maintenance of old farming practices, crops, breed of animals, plants and a traditional landscape.  Then I study how those cultures interact with outsiders.  The latter meaning that I study the choreographers and what they do and how the locals relate to them.  I am one of the team of three, the two others Amanda Steggell and Brynjar Bandlien.  Having another identity I feel different, but the locals understand as all as one category.  We are all outsiders, coming for a visit and staying for a few days. We all come from far-away places and speak together in an alien language neither Czech nor Rumanian.  Luckily, Brynjar can speak Rumanian and thus is the interpreter.

The common humanity, what we share as humans, the meals we have together. Both the locals and we coming as visitors appreciate the beauty of flowers, the taste of the home baked bread, the vegetables from the garden, the meat from the farm animals. Art is another common ground – dance and movements – the choreographed recorded movements. We use new technology and we communicate through new technology. We have audiences in Banat, living up in the hills, members of a small Czech community connected to us by Facebook.

Myself, I have similar experiences from other parts of the world. Some of them living in the extreme northern communities of Inuit in Nunavut in Canada. Suddenly, through Facebook they are in contact with people in another community living under completely different conditions. The Amphibious project, thus does connect and interact with people in far different places and I with questions of movement, music and dance and choreography.

Mobile telephones, horse drawn carts, huge pigs and computers. Windmills and hand pumped water. Limestone country with caves and bats.  The impressions are numerous and contradictory.

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Waves

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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Welcome

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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AMPHIBIOUSNESS -workspace

Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO)
1-29 April 2019
Conceptualised by Brynjar Åbel Bandlien with project partners

Imagine that you are a passenger on an cargo vessel across the Northern Sea route from northern Europe to north east Asia. About 3 weeks you will probably encounter extreme weather, turbulence and periods of calmness. Port calls and duration are always subject to cargo priorities, and so, its not always possible to go ashore in every port.

We have been planning a physical voyage like this (on theme PASSAGE), without results. To fill the void, Brynjar proposes an alternative. He conceptualises a ‘container’ ship, situated in a big black box theatre at KHiO. We fill this massive space with various activities; some known before, some planned on the ‘journey’ and ad hoc others.

We start in darkness. Lights on. Find a ladder. Hang big letters on a wall, proclaiming AMPHIBIOUSNESS, reminds us about working together; trilogies + transdisciplinary; artistic research through movements.

Put up a game camera to document the movements of people and things.

Mostly the door is open, people can come and go. We need to know how we can communicate the project to different groups and individuals. The working space seems informal, but that’s not right. Its about flexibility. As such, we plan activities and we are open to ad hoc activities. Main activities; sharing dancing practices (Brynjar) and focus on project work (team members).

Shared dancing practices as connected to the Amphibious Trilogies project,
such as the practice of Tai chi tai chi and enact the Dance of Evolution. SKILLZ breakdance group from Grorud, suburban Oslo. Reflections on amphibiousness; to be able to thrive in several cultures, identities and territories, dancing as therapeutic activity.

Focus on project work
Spatialising, shaping, generating; themes (island, pond, passage), topics, categories, plans for action, moving around big round tables.

Web-linked seminar on the new dynamic website in development, should bring all elements of the project together. First presentation by Boris Kourtoukov (Master student in design, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, AHO) web developer. We see potential usages/enactments when projecting the interface on a big screen.

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Bubble man

Day 19 of the Arctic Floating University Expedition
9 July 2019

On a spring sunny day cows happily graze and poop, the grass receives some of the nutrients, but is not always sunny, the rain comes and flushes the nutrients into the lake. This a feast for the algae. Algae loves the nutrients and begin to bloom. Soon, they use all the nutrients. The algae die and sink to the bottom. There, the bacteria uses oxygen to consume the algae. In the end there’s no oxygen left. The fish suffer … and finally die.

This is the transcript of an animation, Fish-kill in Soppen lake, an introduction to methane and hydrodynamics for kids. Let it be said, there are no direct references to methane bubbles anywhere in the animation. The animation is a collaboration between Sabine Flury and Daniel mcGinnis. Sabine designs the child-like visual animation. The narrator is Daniel. His voice is both satirical and melancholy aligned. Put together, I would call it an ode to the children of today. Trouble, trouble, boil and bubble. Be a little scared, be humours, be informed.

On bubbles

Bubbles are usually fragile and highly temporal beings. They are formed, shaped and sized as globules, one substance in another, mainly liquids and gas. Bubbles can form clusters and plumes. Whether a bubble or bubble cluster, they go on a journey. Whether floating on liquids or gases, bubbles generally exist for a relatively short time. Eventually, the surface of a bubble bursts, freeing the substance from the inside, now mingling and changing states with the ‘outside’ environment.

Who is the Bubble man?

Daniel, of course! Since childhood he has a a long term relationship with bubbles; changing states and ephemerality. Bubbles are interesting and everywhere. Think beer. Think soap bubbles. Think carbon dioxide and methane bubbles, often called greenhouse gases. Its well known that methane is a prime contributor to global warming. Daniel seeks to understand the natural sources of methane gas, particularly in the fast-warming Arctic. Rapid Sea ice loss, the melting of permafrost in the sea and on land. Key critical for understanding the future climate.

Daniel says that he is officially an oceanographer who also works on lakes, or alternatively, a limnologist who works on the ocean. In this sense, I would call his praxis and life style as an amphibious one. Formally speaking, Prof. Daniel is the head of the Aquatic Physics group of the Department F.-A. Forel for Environmental and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Geneva. Before this he gained a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, USA.

What does Daniel do on Prof. Molchanov?

Daniel is mainly joint organiser of sampling of water and sedimentary matters with masters’ and Ph.D candidates, from Switzerland, Russia and Korea. He also holds lectures on emerging topics, such as ‘methane sources, transport and fate in inland and ocean waters’.

Daniel’s lectures mingles between two modes and moods. On the first hand, he goes at a rapid speed. It’s hard to catch up with him; so many unfamiliar scientific terms and phrases. In the second mode he becomes less formal, more jovial and bubbly. He tells anecdotes that can help to understand the complex issues on hand.

When not supervising, lecturing and socialising you might meet Daniel in the bar working on an grant application for the second phase of Winds of Change scientific program, led by researchers from the University of Geneva. Leading the Winds of Change program is the Swiss sailboat Fleur de passion, which specifically studies greenhouse gases on the surface of the oceans. The first expedition (2015-18) on the Fleur de passion took the team across the Indian Ocean. Hopefully, the second expedition Arctic Change: Sailing for Our Futures might come in the near future.

I wish him good luck with the grant.

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What are amphibians?

Home in the water and home at land. Lives part of the life in water and part on land. Animals of humidity – some of them able to adapt to long periods on land and long periods in water. Still some of them climb in trees and bushes and some stay close to ground. Some can leap, some climb, and some can crawl and all can swim. None of them has wings and none has feathers and fur. Egg laying creatures and most of them lay eggs in jelly like substance in stagnant water.

Salamandra salamandra is a black salamander with orange yellow patterns, Triturus alpestris lighter, smaller with an orange underneath and a magnificent tail, Triturus vulgaris is more brownish, spotted and partly bluish at the bottom part of the tail, Triturus montandoni is more brownish, but still with a orange underneath and Triturus helveticus is fairly similar. Salamanders come in different sizes and colours. They are dragons of the past and love water. In fact, they depend on water for their eggs. The hatched eggs and tadpoles belong in water.

Toads and frogs look similar, but in fact, they live different lives. Toads can survive dry areas and some of them stay places frogs will never survive.  It exist a great variety Bombina bombina is red and black underneath and dark on top. If you look close, you will see spots like a leopard on top. Bombina variegate is rather similar but far more brown on top – nearly like chocolate and chocking yellow with black patterns underneath. Pelobates fuscus is light brown and Bufo bufo, the toad of the north is very darkish brown. Further south Bufo viridis is light greeyish with green patterns, Bufo calmatia sticks to the brownish, but the throat can blow up like a balloon and turn blue when it sounds. Hyla arborea is green and climbs in reed, bushes and trees.  It is also capable of blowing up the throat like a yellowish balloon when it makes sound. Rana temporaria is quitebrownish, Rana arvalis have a male that is blue, Rana dalamtia is a slimmer version of temporaria, Rana ridibunda has a yellowish stripe on top, Rana lessonae has a green male and darker female and Rana esculenta – the edible frog is more greenish.

All frogs and toads can be kissed, but be aware that toads can be slightly poisonous. If you take the risk and kiss a sufficient number, you will find a prince or a princess. Such is the tradition and according to history and folk tales, it is true.

Storks, and big birds, fish and foxes are enemies of amphibians and love to eat them. Amphibians eat others and such is life. But only humans dare to kiss them and only humans are bewitched to be frogs and toads.

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Ny Ålesund

DAY 10 on the Arctic Floating University Expedition
2 July 2019
A pond, a train, a sailing boat, science, topped up with a dose of Tai chi

The purpose of this excursion is to attend a presentation Norwegian Polar Institute on Spitsbergen. However, students from Korea hope to gather micro organisms in the sedimentary layers close to the sea. Likewise, the Chinese entourage intends to collect samples for oil research. They also visit their colleagues in the Chinese enclave.

A glacier slithers into the sea as we prepare to land on Ny-Ålesund, Kings Bay.

Onboard the ship I watch the iceberg melting.

In the distance the NASA Satellite Basecamp, two towers making a gateway, a passage of sorts. Looks like something from Star Wars.

It’s 11.40: Two hours late, waiting for a calm gap in the weather, (Norwegian time) we land Ny-Ålesund. Here is Brynjar with Prof. M in the background, and to the left, the iceberg clones the colour of the ship’s hull. We are met by a poster instructing us to keep Radio Silence when in the settlement.

Yesterday, one of the RIBs got an engine failure. With one RIB out of drift it’s taking a long time to get all the participants onto the land. Before this happens we are prohibited to go beyond the harbour area. It’s really frustrating. Only the scientists collecting samples and the organisers are allowed to wander at will, on the beaches and along the road. I break the embargo to get a shot of geese being chased by an arctic fox alongside a brackish pond.

There’s a little train close by. It once took coal down to the shore from the coal mines and onto cargo boats.

Such a strange sight to see. When I was a child living on the coast of Kent, UK, I used to take the little steam train, just like this one, from Dymchurch across the Romney Marsh to the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station where my dad worked.

Still waiting, I take the chance to talk to two friendly Swedish voyagers moored on the pontoon. They have been sailing for almost two years between the Arctic and Antarctic regions, mostly powered by the wind. I have been living in a boat on the Oslo fjord. I miss my boat. They cheer me up.

13.16: Why is Ny Ålesund so important? This is the question that meets us in the presentation of the Norwegian Polar Institute on Spitsbergen. It focuses on environmental research and management. Due to delays, instead of the intended programme we are served a general presentation. All projects on the Arctic Floating University are represented by a short talk and a simple PowerPoint slide.

This is our slide. Simple, clumsy. We will use it again when visiting The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) on Longyearbyen.

I am disappointed. Even in this situation I would think that we can establish a middle ground, a conversation that discusses and moves debates. I must admit that I would rather spend the short time in Ny Ålesund doing things outdoors.

14.30: Heading down to the harbour we meet a scientist taking a gaggle of Svalbard barnacle goslings for walk. They find their feeding ground close to two water tanks. The scientist tells me that her research involves analysing the growth rate of the geese as affected by climate change. The goslings seem so happy, grazing frenziedly on arctic flora. Their surrogate mother packs them up into a small cloth bag and takes them (home?) to the lab. These are migrating birds. I wonder if they will survive in the wild.

Waiting for the RIB to come, Brynjar initiates a collective Tai chi session alongside the sea. The wind has picked up and rain starts to come. Tomorrow, if the sea wills, we will hopefully land on Pyramiden.

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