Thursday, December 1, 2011


Our first Adfreeze Project installation, at Kurant Gallery for the Insomnia Future Music and Techno Festival, Tromsø, Norway.
Created from video and field recordings of Monaco glacier, Spitsbergen, Norway.

 Monacobreen (N79°31.14 E12°24.85); audio, video, rocks, paint; 12' x 14' x 14'; 2011. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Bear Facts

I've been sorting through 7000 photographs. That's a lot of visual information. I keep wanting to find the few very best pictures of each of the locations we visited in Spitsbergen. Part of the trouble is identifying what very best itself means, let alone finding those qualities in a single, or small set of photos.

Waiting for the perfect edit has meant blog silence (The perfect is the enemy of the good  my mind whispers to itself). So, while that task progresses I thought I'd post something fun.
   - Oona

•   The Polar Bear   ursus Maritimus
•   maximum size 1000kg
•   sprint speed 60 km/h
•   distance swimmers - 400km recorded
•   principal prey - seal

The presence of polar bears is part of Svalbard's identity. Humans have settled in their territory, and for safety and environmental reasons the residents of Spitsbergen have developed a lifestyle which recognizes this fact. Thanks to the bear's protected status, and a ban on hunting in 1973, there are now estimated to be 3000 polar bears in Spitsbergen. Sign of bear is everywhere.

At the airport you are asked to be considerate of the environment.

The first bear sighting - at the luggage carousel.

An invitation to the northernmost supermarket.
On the stamp, of course.

Everyone who visits Svalbard is given strict warnings that rifles must be carried anytime you are outside the main settlement of Longyearbyen. The only way to protect yourself against an attacking bear is to shoot it. The killing of each bear is subsequently treated like a murder investigation. As a result, every bear shot develops a provenance. Preserved and stuffed bears appear everywhere, provenance often on display.

At the Svalbard Museum.

At the entrance to the post office.

At the entrance to the (northernmost) supermarket

In the (multidenominational) Chruch

At our lodge

When you leave town... are reminded to be aware of bear.

One of our early landings was at the famous Magdalene Fjord, which has been on the Spitsbergen tour itinerary since the late 1800's. It is a very intimate bay with a small promontory which is home to some whale furnace remains, and an old whaler's graveyard. When we arrived, we were not the only visitors...

Each print is over 12"

The bear follows a trail worn down by a century-and-a-half of tourists

Our group of more than a dozen clustered around our rifle-toting guide under orders not to stray, while she investigated the prints for freshness. The other guide hiked up to the top of the moraine to scout the landscape. Eventually the area was declared bear-free and we were set loose to pursue our various projects.

On our journey we did manage to see one live bear, at the Magdalene Fjord in fact.
Blending into the rocky landscape, at a very safe distance.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tromsø forward

Well, it's been a busy month! 

The Tromsø exhibition has been created and installed - just a couple of days after completing our Svalbard sojourn. Now we can begin to sift through our material and give you highlights of the sail and some favorite observations about this special northern region. We've been a little slow to get started since the demise of Cheryl's computer left us sharing one - juggling sound, video and photo editing, archiving, and transmitting the rare email home. Our days were long getting everything accomplished, and we crashed to sleep midnights and later, leaving the blog untouched. 

But from just a few days in Longyearbyen and Tromsø we put together a bang-up installation! Inspired by the majestic Monaco Glacier and Liefdefjord full of melodious ice, we created Monacobreen fom video, composed audio, a few borrowed Norwegian rocks, and a little bit of paint. Sandwiched between two fabulous pieces by Elin Øyen Vister on birds and their soundscape in Røst, we created a dynamic presentation of natural spaces special to northern Norway. More on the installation and performance by Cheryl and Elin to come.

Cheryl is off to perform in Regensburg, Germany, and I am heading home. 

Sitting in the Trondhem airport with hours before my flight to Oslo gives me the chance to thank everyone who helped make this first phase of Adfreeze Project possible: Aaron O'Conner and The Arctic Circle 2011 residency; the crew of the Antigua; our Spitsbergen guides Karin, Michele, Jan and Ingunn; Galleri Svalbard; the Insomnia Festival for Future Music and Techno Culture; Kurant Gallery - Kristin, Susannah, Christian, Anders and Maria; Elin Øyen Vister; and all our generous supporters and well-wishers.

– Oona

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Bare Facts

We have just returned to Longyearbyen from our sail aboard the S/V Antigua, a barkentine (tall ship with three masts and square sails on the foremast).

More detailed posts about our adventures will follow, but first, here are a few fun facts...

1. Our two expedition guides/polar bear guards were women. They are thinking of forming a band called Girls with Guns.
2. The coldest temperature we worked in outside was -20 C (not including wind chill!). The warmest temperature was +3 C.
3. Our farthest north was N 80°00', E 14°27'.
4. Animal sightings: grazing reindeer, playful walruses, frolicking seals, fossilized brachiopods, one distant polar bear, and fox prints everywhere (but no fox).
5. Birds were felt mostly by their absence. A few hardy species remained for our viewing pleasure every day. One purple-sandpiper even peeped for the microphone.
6. Despite the cold and snow cover, plant life was plentiful, though small and often Dr. Seussean. You just had to look for it. 
7. Ghost towns, shipwrecks, old trapper huts, and research stations: one each.
8. Mines visited: coal, gypsum and marble. None currently in operation.
9. Ice forms observed: broad calving glaciers, beached bar ice, pancake and brash ice, grease ice, and bergy bits.
10. The last few days we had 4-hour-long sunrises directly followed by 4-hour-long sunsets. As of today we are losing about 1/2 hour of sun each day. On October 26th the sun will set for the winter here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

off we go

Yesterday we had a last afternoon hike before setting sail. A light snow rendered everything black and white, erasing the oranges, greens and purples of the late fall landscape. In the summer it would have been a good trip for fossil collecting, but the snow cover made it more about enjoying the landscape, textures and vistas. 

The boat is waiting for us as we scramble to get off our last missives. This afternoon we sail away from internet and regular contact, into the the Arctic wilderness.

Postings will resume on our return, around 10.15.11.

part way up Sarkofagen, view to the north past Longyearbyen

the Antigua awaits us

Friday, September 30, 2011

for animal lovers

During the summer the Arctic is host to huge wildlife populations. We have been extremely lucky to see as much as we have, now that it is almost winter.

geese migrating south

barnacle geese  branta leucopsis

kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla

purple sandpiper  Calidris maritima

snow bunting  Plectrophenax nivalis

svalbard ptarmigan  Lagopus muta hyperborea

svalbard reindeer on Nordensiöld plateau  Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus
arctic fox  Vulpes lagopus 
fox footprints on the summit of Sarkofagen mountain

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Longyearbyen: Textures and Colors

One cannot have enough maps

Glacier at the head of the valley

Layers of sandstone, siltstone and shale

Mine 2b: Julenissegruva

Hiorthfjellet, across the fjord from town

Wetlands at the edge of Adventfjorden
Looking southwest
Northwest edge of town

View of downtown from Old Longyearbyen
Our first "home" in Longyearbyen, Haugen Pensjonat

Reindeer skull
Autumn colors