All digressions aside

A Twofold Installation
2016, Barents Spektakel, Kirkenes, Norway and Nikel, Russia

A snowy landscape in minus thirty degrees. A glowing hut in a dark landscape.

A twofold outdoors installation connecting neighbouring towns Kirkenes (in Norway) and Nikel(in Russia). The project consisted of two identical storytelling huts. Each hut housed a live-stream of the landscape and stories of the other city, shown in the form of ‘subtitles’ to the landscape, both in english and in the local language. The stories were controlled by temperature sensors, measuring the heat produced by the fire inside each hut. When a visitor enters one of the huts, and helps the firekeeper to tend to the fire, a sensor sends stories about that place to the other hut.

I collected stories on both locations, these were day-to-day observations and reflections about their environment and living conditions; both places are affected by pollution from the mining industries, yet to a vastly different degree. Nikel, 7 km from the Norwegian border, and linked to Norilsk Nikel, is marked by deeply troubling levels of pollution with major life threatening consequences for its inhabitants. A high percentage of woman are infertile, most people don’t live pass the age of 60. The cemeteries extend further than the eye can see, and most graves are equipped with a bench, and properly tended to tiny gardens. However, the locals I met told me largely positive stories, attempting to adjust the perception of their town and their life. The stories from Kirkenes were stories about activism and protest against pollution, the period during and effects after the war, and their love for living high up in the arctic and the social bonds taking place for example in the form of the ’dugnad’.

For this project, and during two residencies a year apart, I spend time with 4 people in Kirkenes, and 6 people in Nikel. With Karin Danielsen, a local teacher from Kirkenes I also made a little cookbook, titled Karin’s Little Herbbook, which became a part of the project. The humble book, was her guide on how to collect fruits and plants from the area, and it contained specific recipes of how to turn plants into tea, lemonade, soup and other things. In the storytelling huts you would, amongst others, read stories from locals from both cities describing their relationship to collecting mushrooms and berries. Karin took great pride in the produced book. After the Barents Spektakel, she continued to present her book in cafes and libraries, bringing homemade teas and jams to share.

The stories, which were shown inside the storytelling huts, can be read by clicking on the link below:
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The Exhibtion Team 
Architect: Cristian Stefanescu
IT developer: Sindre Sorensen
Construction: Erik Solheim

This was kindly supported by Bergen Kommune, Norske Billedkunstnere and Art Council Norway.

Photo credit: Apichaya Wanthiang

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