Reindeer fascinate me. The beauty of their antlers, the sounds they make, their stocky appearance compared to other deer, the uniqueness of their fur, their smell: I am a big fan!!! As I am also fascinated by their imagery, I am initiating a project that focuses on the representation of reindeer. At a time that we long for rewilding, how do we cope with the image of cute cuddly reindeer? What exactly makes a reindeer a reindeer, in essence or in spirit? Can we identify that without anthropomorphism, and can we keep this identification intact during representation?
This new project is still in its infancy, and I have not yet decided how to continue or what could become the end result. As a first step, I collect cuddly reindeer from flee-markets and second-hand shops and photograph them.
In a good Russian tradition, I made ‘official’ stamps for the NIVA TO NENETS project. More experimentation is needed to make better inkpads, but the stamps themselves seem to be perfect!
These are stamps made with the laser-cutter in FabLab Genk. The stamps are cut in grey linoleum and glued on a cutout of its outline in MDF to give it more stability. In a second hand shop I bought a round wooden doorknob for the small stamp. I am still searching for a second handle or knob for the big one. The first inkpad I tried to make was an experiment with tissue paper on a plastic bag and normal ink cartridges that I cut open. It didn’t work out perfectly, but using the small stamp it sometimes came close. For the bigger stamp, the pattern on the tissue paper was too visible. Another problem is that this kind of ink dries so quickly that you can’t keep the inkpad for later use. Again in a second hand shop I found a square tin that fits the big stamp: excellent for a more sustainable inkpad. I used textile paint (this dries much slower) and a piece of felt for this inkpad. I want to make more experiments, for example with specific inkpad-ink and with different kinds of paint, but with these first results I am already happy!
A calendar of the year 2013 has been made for Arctic Peoples Alert, in which images of historical maps of the Nenets region are combined with pictures that I made in November 2012. The first page of this project explains the NIVA TO NENETS project in three languages: Dutch, English and Russian.
Arctic Peoples Alert is the Dutch non-governmental human rights organization standing up for the interest of indigenous Arctic peoples in the countries around the North Pole. Every year a calendar like this is send to donators… So help them helping them, and help yourself in the meantime with one of these nice calendars!
With thanks to Zoia Vylka for helping me with this translation…
In November 2012, I was guided by the Nenets group Ханибиë (Snow Owl in Nenets language) to a wish tree. The women of this performance group first welcomed me in their chum not far from Naryan Mar, where they shared nice food and some interesting anecdotes and songs. These women want their indigenous traditions to be known and appreciated; hence they promote and perform parts of their culture. After I told them about the NIVA TO NENETS project, one of the women cut a red ribbon from her traditional dress and gave it to me. I was surprised and a bit shocked, and pointed a bit pityfully to the empty spot on the beautiful dress. “Don’t worry, I will sew a new ribbon to it with your project in mind,” she assured me. While I firmly held the ribbon in my hands, we posed for a group photo. Then we all together walked through the snow, towards a Nenets wish tree. This tree was completely draped with ribbons, which made a colourful contrast with the surrounding leafless trees. We found a good branch where I could tie my ribbon on. I did this silently in deep concentration and with awareness of the moment itself. Of course I had the NIVA TO NENETS project in mind.
During my first visit to Naryan Mar and Krasnoye for the NIVA TO NENETS project, I had the possibility to travel to some Nenets on the tundra. This was only for a very short visit. I was flashed into a traditional reindeer herding livelihood, and absorbed every second with great joy and appreciation… resulting in hours of remembrance. The herders were friendly and welcoming. When I was notified that it was already time to travel back to the car, my whole body seemed to protest and wished to stay. But on the sledge pulled by reindeer all my muscles were filled with joy again!
I made much more photographs during this short visit. Some can be found in a Facebook album: http://tinyurl.com/c4fvuyg
During the last week of October I gave several guest lessons at the Naryan-Mar Socio-Humanitarian College in the Northwest of Russia (www.nmsgc.org). I lectured not only about the NIVA TO NENETS project and the FOOD RELATED project, but also about Belgium and the Netherlands, and about the social function of art. After one of my presentations, the students wanted to make a group picture with my picnic blanket.
I made small creative questionnaires about the Lada Niva for these students, because I was curious to learn about their feelings for this car. So after my presentations the students filled in the booklets, which were handed out together with small Niva’s made from Belgium chocolate.
In September and October 2011 I am doing artistic fieldwork in Kilpisjärvi for the FOOD RELATED project, while I am at the Biological Research Station of the University of Helsinki. Although it is mostly biologists who do their fieldwork in this isolated place within the Arctic Circle, the Finnish Bioart Society runs an artist-in-residence program here as well.
During these months I am developing cultural probes packages that will be used for participatory practices. These probes are made to be used in workshops and at home. In the meantime I am studying local food and food culture, and do a lot of hiking around on the tundra. I am very happy and thankful for being here!
Website Bioart Society: http://bioartsociety.fi/
Website Kilpisjärvi Research Station: http://www.helsinki.fi/kilpis/english/index.htm
Residency blog: https://bioartsociety.fi/projects/
The first prototype of the FOOD RELATED platform will have three mappings: a Geographic View shows the entries in relation to their geographic location, a Foodgroup View shows the entries in relation to their ingredients or food items, and a Historic View shows all entries in order of publication. Future versions will include more mappings and forum options. People will be able to comment on each other’s entries and to start discussions.
Geographic View, FOOD RELATED 2011
In the Geographic View, an image of the area within the Arctic Circle zooms in when an encircled area is clicked. Within this selected area, colored dots function as buttons to open related entries. For artistic reasons the 66° latitude was chosen as the outline, unintentionally excluding certain areas from this mapping. People from more southern areas are nonetheless still able to contribute to the platform in other mappings. The Foodgroup View, for example, will map the entries by their ingredient. Entries are mapped under sea mammals, birds and eggs, land mammals, fishes and other sea products, hoofed animals, bread and pastry, fruits and vegetables, drinks, or snacks. Just like the Geographic View, the selected part of this mapping enlarges when clicked. Thus the entries are visualized and can easily be viewed. The Historic View maps and shows all entries in order of creation, to easily retrieve a particular entry and to find recently added entries.
Foodgroup View and Historic View, FOOD RELATED 2011