Hydrofeminist METitations is a listening series brought to you by Ensayos as a part of the digital residency at the New Museum of Contemporary Art.
Act 1: A glaciorhythmic audio collage from the Arctic
Regions of ice and snow can seem like a desert where changes happen slowly and imperceptibly, but the unequivocal fact is that this region is warmed about twice as fast as the global average. The weather conditions in the north can be both an early indicator of the future climate of the rest of the world as well as a driving force for weather patterns worldwide.
The Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic sea is located midway between Norway and the North Pole. In this act we follow Karolin Tampere to one of the world’s northernmost settlements; Ny-Ålesund, where in 2015, she and Randi Nygård were artists-in-residence. This place was established in 1916 for the coal mining industry, but today it is a “science village” located on the island of Spitsbergen, Svalbard.
Norway was granted the right to exercise authority over this archipelago in the 1920’s through the Svalbard Treaty. This agreement secures Norwegian sovereignty, but with certain limitations. The treaty was signed in 1925 by 44 countries, including the United States, Chile, and Australia as well as Russia, China, India, North Korea.
Both poles, and the sea around them, have become areas of heightened interest, and are today still activated through science, increasing tourism, and growing military presence. A new gold rush, or a sea rush is underway, and the aim is to gain sovereign rights to new resources such as fish, oil, gas, and transportation routes. The Svalbard archipelago has because of its assumed similarity to Mars, also become an experimental ground for testing new technology.
As part of Randi and Karolin´s daily activities they shadowed working international scientists. This act features excerpts from 2015 interviews with scientists Klemens Weisleitner, Angelo Pietro Viola, Kristin M. Schild and a sound collage by Karolin Tampere.
Act 2: On law and poetry
Can seeing a law as poetic help us create new ideas and images of the world?
We live in a world where people are alienated from nature. Legal structures are invisible, but they determine the ways we relate with the natural world.
The art project “The Wild Living Marine Resources Belong to Society as a Whole” got its name from Section 2 of the Norwegian Marine Resources Act. It explores the wording of the act not just in terms of standard, legal definitions, but also by taking an open, poetic and profound look at different ways of viewing nature, natural resource management, societal responsibility, language use and values.
In this act we join artist Randi Nygård as she reads her thought experiment around the legal code governing the marine resources in Norway, “The Wild Living Marine Resources Belong to Society as a Whole”.The project has taken form as an exhibition, an anthology, and a series of events where artists and scientists seek better ways to understand and respond to today’s ecological problems.
Together with the ensayistas in Norway, Randi believes that affective, poetic knowledge is needed to deepen the relationships that we, humans, have with our surroundings.
Act 2 features sound recordings of orcas by Lise Doksæter and Petter Kvadsheim of “3S” (Sonar Safety Sea mammals) at FFI and the Institute of Marine Research and Lise Langgård (rumbling cod).
More about the anthology Wild Living Marine Resources Belong to Society as a Whole.
Act 3: A walk along Holsbekken Creek, leading to a canyon of controversies
About an hour’s drive south of Oslo, artists Søssa Jørgensen and Geir Tore Holm own and care for their farm called Øvre Ringstad. On their farm, art merges with life.
Graywater from their property feeds the Holsbekken Creek which is a narrow, sheltered waterway that drains from the Stormåsan Swamps. These wetlands also receive water from farms, forests, residential areas in the municipality of Skiptvet. We join the artists to the creek in midsummer, and also meet with local farmer Tor Jacob Solberg who tells more about the dreaded black fly Simulium truncatum, which makes life very uncomfortable for people and animals in Skiptvet.
This act is a continuation of Søssa and Geir Tores project Holsbekken (RGB) (2018) made for the exhibition Let the River Flow. The Sovereign Will and the Making of a New Worldliness curated by Katya García-Antón, with Antonio Cataldo at OCA – Office for Contemporary Art Norway. Advisory Board: Prof. Harald Gaski and Dr. Gunvor Guttorm OCA – Office for Contemporary Art Norway in Oslo that focused on the Áltá-Guovdageaidnu Action (c. 1978–82). Its call to ‘let the river live’ was launched against the construction of a large dam across the legendary Álttáeatnu (Áltá river) in Sápmi/Northern Norway. The action grew from an unexpectedly broad movement of solidarity across civil society, Sámi, Norwegian and international, in which Sámi artists played a crucial role.
Act 4: A rowing journey
The artists Søssa Jørgensen and Geir Tore Holm have been collaborating for decades.
In 2003 they started the art project Sørfinnset skole/ the nord land, a hyper-local socially engaged work that examines how contemporary art can function in a prolonged dialogue with a local community. Jørgensen and Holm invited Kamin Lertchaiprasert and Rirkrit Tiravanija from the land foundation in Sampatong outside Chiang Mai in northern Thailand as founding partners.
Understandings of ecology and natural habitats in the broad sense have been investigated through activities related to the seasons, construction of small-scale experimental architecture, lectures, concerts, courses, workshops, exhibitions, excursions, hikes, and parties based in Sørfjorden, Gildeskål, Northern Norway.
Sørfinnset skole/ the nord land will last forever.
This project’s long-term connection to a remote place inspired the founding of Ensayos.
Søssa and Geir Tore undertook an 11 day boat journey above the Arctic Circle in 2018. They traveled in a 16-foot-long wooden skiff called a “færing”. This type of boat has been used by generations of coastal people for transportation, for fishing, and for joy.
The sounds are captured from their journey along the coast. From Sørfinnset they rowed to their retrospective exhibition Collaborations, 1993-2018, 300-miles further north in the city of Tromsø. The entire journey was a performative artwork.
The text read by Ernst Risan is an excerpt from Floating Studio written by Søssa Jørgensen.
Act 05: A song sung by farmed sea salmon
In the summer of 2016, Sørfinnset skole/ the nord land went to sea. “Solglimt”, a 52-foot former shrimp boat, was during 5 days, a floating art studio for 11 people. They visited people on the islands, learnt about history, archaeology, and modern fish farming and got fresh sea air into their lungs.
Salmon farming is an important industry in the fjords around Sørfinnset. The group visited the huge circular nets where salmon are corralled just below the surface.
The lyrics of the song Kings of the Rivers are composed by fragments from a writing workshop onboard the ship. Artist Christy Gast arranged it into a song and Karolin Tampere recorded her singing in the tiny kitchen of the boat, and added a chorus of salmon.
“The Logbook” is a document from this journey and is a free-standing publication which accompanies the anthology “The Wild Living Marine Resources Belong to Society as a Whole” (2017).
About Hydrofeminist METitations
Gender studies scholar Astrida Neimanis coined the term “hydrofeminism” to bring together feminist, queer, and ecological sensibilities.* In her words, hydrofeminism begins “one’s ethics and politics from the realization that we are mostly made of water…refusing a separation between nature and culture, between an environment ‘out there’ and a human subject ‘in here.’”
When Ensayos collaborated with Neimanis in 2017, Camila Marambio formulated “METitation” to emphasize Ensayos’ material-somatic research that considers molecular and global relationships in the physical world.** MET is an acronym for Mechanical Electrical Transduction, a sensory mechanism through which cells convert mechanical stimuli into electro-chemical activity. MET accounts for senses of hearing, balance, and touch; hair cells in the inner ear convert the stimuli of drum vibrations, water dropping in the sink, a crashing wave, and voice into electro-chemical signals received by the brain. This transformation is the sense of hearing.
*Astrida Neimanis, “Hydrofeminism: or on Becoming a Body of Water,” in Undutiful Daughters: New Directions in Feminist Thought and Practice, ed. Henriette Dr. Gunkel, Chrysanthi Nigianni, and Fanny Dr. Soderback (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
**“Hydrofeminist METitaions” was first used by Ensayos to describe a live sounding experiment performed by Neimanis, Marambio, Sarita Gálvez, and Karolin Tampere and presented as part of the Liquid Architecture program, “Negative Volumes: Body Languages” held at West Space, Naarm/Melbourne, on October 14th, 2017.
Episode 2 was created by Karolin Tampere, Geir Tore Holm, Søssa Jørgensen, and Randi Nygård, with Ariel Bustamante, Pablo Thiermann, Jack Kohler, Elina Waage Mikalsen, Mr. Creek, Gulls, Ernst Risan, Tor Jacob Solberg, Catalina Jaramillo, Camila Marambio and Christy Gast. Special thanks to Cato Langnes at NOTAM – Norwegian Centre for Technology, Art and Music, and the Municipality of Skiptvet. Music is by Vera Dvale and “We are all bodies of Water” are the wise words of Astrida Neimanis.
This project has been funded by the Norwegian General Consulate in New York.