I recently finished a project in Vardø, a small community basically as far north and east you can get in Norway (it is for instance further east than Kyiv and St. Petersburg). It´s one of the oldest cities in Northern Norway due to trade and fishing, and fishing is still the main livelihood there.
In mid February I made a sort of mini art festival there in collaboration with Nordnorsk Kunstnersenter and a lot of great local venues and people. All the works I made grew out of field work done in Vardø, with focus on the coastal fishing community and a community green house project.
Here is a video from a research trip last September:
A bit of context
My first encounter with Vardø was when I was making the video Barents (mare incognitum) for the Dark Ecology project in 2015, when I really got a sense of the vast ocean, and a feeling of being at the intersection of different worlds somehow.
Dark Ecology, initiated by Sonic Acts and Hilde Mehti, took place in the border area between Norway and Russia. Vardø and the whole north-eastern region of Norway have strong ties to Russia, being close neighbours. There has been trade relations for many hundred years, and it was the Soviets that liberated this part of Norway at the end of the second World War.
At the same time the biggest radar system in western Europe is placed in Vardø, being NATO´s eye into Russia, making it a primary bomb target in case of conflict.
My project finished just before the aggressive, meaningless invasion of Ukraine.
There are big fishing resources just outside Vardø which has been harvested for centuries. These resources are also a source of conflicts between local interests and big capital:
The privatisation of the national fishing resources through the fishing quota system introduced in the 1990s (where quotas now are sold for big money), which apart from putting in the hands of the few something that belongs to everyone, also makes it a huge investment to become a fisher.
Locally based coastal fishers also create jobs on land (processing and packaging of the fish, preparing the lines before fishing, repair and maintenance of boats and equipment etc), while big fishing trawlers and fishing factories deliver very little of the fish locally (which is actually against the law): 70-80% of the fish is sent directly to other countries for processing or is processed on board the huge factory ships. Even most of the fish that is sold in Norwegian grocery stores has been processed and packaged somewhere in Europe or Asia. This is an economic disaster for the fishing communities as well as very little environment-friendly (not to mention scraping the ocean floor with trawls vs fishing with lines).
These are some of the conflicts that is fronted by Kystopprøret (Coastal Rebellion), where some of the main protagonists are based in Vardø, and the iconic mural by street artist Pøbel has become the symbol of this rebellion.
I made a series of works entitled Vardø Kystopprøret, based on 3D scans of some of the fishing equipment used by the coastal fishers. I was fascinated by the very intense colors of especially the fishing lines (which apparently have no practical value as they are used so deep in the ocean that there is no light), and how these very concrete objects turned into abstract point of colours.
I capture the objects and environments using a lidar scanner (which captures depth information) combined with a camera (which captures colour information). From this a point cloud 3d model is calculated, which is the departure point for the work I do in the 3D software: Work with lighting and the virtual camera and render the result as animations, holograms or still images.
One animation was presented on a big flat screen in the window of local radio station Radio Domen, visible for passersby.
I also created 3D animations presented on small holographic screens placed at various locations in the city, trying to reach an audience that might not actively go to see an exhibition.
Finally I made three light boxes with still images from the 3d-scans in the windows of Barentskrummelurene and Galleri Luna, also very visible for passersby.
A quite different type of work grew out of learning about the volunteer based construction of a community green house in the center of Vardø. Even though they have midnight sun from mid May to end of July, they also have polar nights (no sun at all) from end of November to about mid January.
I just thought it was very inspiring and a project full of hope, so I asked if it was possible to make a light installation there, even if it wasn´t finished yet.
My installation was in the smallest of the two spaces, and the plan for the green house is to combine all-year growing of herbs with small cultural events. The bigger space will be the main growing space.
The idea for the installation comes from light being the maker of life through photosynthesis. I created a sort of hanging garden where each unit consisted of a light source and a pile of phosphorescent pigment on a dish. The light charges the pigment, and the pigment gives off a green light.