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Month: September 2016

Island Fever

Island Fever

In Oslo, actually Lillestrom (12 minutes by train from Oslo Lufthavn) we stayed with Magnus and his girlfriend, who is a friend from our masters. Completely soaked from the rain, we reached their place and had a wonderful evening together catching up, enjoying good pizza, wine and even a Manhatten cocktail.

 

Arrival in Longyearbyen at 14:00. It is cold (5 degrees) but not nearly as cold as we expected. A tough looking busdriver (earring, short ponytail, foggy eyes) brings us to the ‘Raddison Blue Hotel stop’. The instructions from our AirBNB host were extremely easy to follow; it turned out to be one of the blue houses left from the Radisson. Top floor and the door was open. Local custom it seems. Our host was not there. In the hall of the building we place our mountainshoes on the designated rackets.

 

So far I am restless. Fear of not having enough to do activities. Of not being able to meet people. Everything looks eerie and has resemblance to the twilight zone. Neither Tim or I expected a claustrophobic feeling which overwhelmed us. Freed of our bags we searched the supermarket in the ‘centre of town’. Streets were deserted and the two pedestrians we did see didn’t greet us back. We felt strange, unwantingly and incapable of spending one month at the second most-Northern inhabited part of the world.

 

Especially inhabitants used to big city life are susceptible to “Island Fever”, when the island is too small and the idea of being cut off from the mainland and not having enough things to do, get to you badly. This spell can be broken through interaction with the islandlife itself; such as using the sea (which closes your world) as a path to sail on.

 

After dinner (which took us a very long time because the stove kept turning off) with Philip we did our own things on the computers, Phil watched Bulgarian soccer and chatted with his brother about it. He was very happy as his team did well. Internet connection up here is fantastic. We had pasta-pesto with beans and corn from tans, a cheap and comfort meal. Grated with the cheese we gave Philip. Red wine accompanied it and made us warm and fuzzy.

 

Around 23:00 we were dead tired from a day full of impressions. When closing the curtains Tim looked outside and actually saw the Northern light! Green and even purple curtains of light danced and flashed in the sky above Longyearbyen with varying intensity. Tim and I looked to eachother in awe and excitement, and ran outside for a better look. From the village we heard exciting screams. Phil ran outside with us and to our dissapointment the lights were nearly dissapeared. “Let’s go to some place real dark”. And so we went with our kind Bulgarian friend racing through the empty cold streets of Longyearbyen hunting for the Northern lights.. It was flowing like a green river through the sky, and we wanted to see it like that again. Hilly, muddy streets without lights led us to the restaurant of Phil. There we stood to watch the Northern lights, which had come back in less intensity, teasing us from the mountains on the left side. It was as if someone set a bright light from that mountain to the rest of the village. Flashes flickered and shimmered.

 

Phil then gave us a tour of his restaurant which was an old miner’s place. Old parts from the mine was given new purposes; drills became candle sticks and wine bottles replaced dynamite sticks in a wooden cupboard. It had become cloudy. Phil brought 3 panacota deserts (chocolate and orange mouse) for us and we went home.

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Seeds

Seeds

What a journey it has been… and we haven’t even set foot on the archipelago of Svalbard yet!
Almost 2 years ago this whole adventure sprouted, started of with a little seed of dreams and ideas. A longing to venture to the end of the inhabited world. To see it with our own eyes before it disappears. Our dreams became more solid, more serious. We started on our application, an enormous task of writing and rearranging portfolio’s and C.V.’s. Hours of Skype, with on one side Laurie in Brussels, and on the other side me in Japan. Mailing back and forth, we traveled around and leaving a constant trail of e-mails, messages and phone calls. During a exhibition in Eindhoven with former participants of the Arctic Circle residency we met the artists who experienced the expedition we wanted to be a part of. Talking to them only strengthened our enthusiasm, we had to go!

It was not long until we got the answer we were hoping for; we passed the selection and were invited for the Autumn expedition in 2016. After celebrating this victory we had to get to work, this wasn’t a dream anymore, this was real and we had so much to prepare. The funding was our biggest concern. In the next following months we spend every free time on funding applications, whilst fine tuning our project plan and goals. Sometimes it was demotivating, working on budgets instead of installations. We kept our eyes on the expedition, telling ourselves and each other that it was almost over, almost done, that this was worth it.

Then the rejection letters arrived. I wanted to push them back through the mailbox, hoping the mailman would pick them up, make paper planes of them and set them on a journey elsewhere. But this is how it works as an artist, you write a ton of applications, and get a ton of rejections. Better to deal with it! Because when you send a ton of applications, you get better at it, and it even has its advantages. You will understand your project and plans on another level, sinking deeper and deeper in the elements of your ideas.

We started working on our crowdfunding campaign at Voordekunst.nl. This was a part of the funding process we really enjoyed. We had so many ideas for the video and shooting the video with my dear and talented friend Sietske van der Veen was so much fun! Laurie is great with words, she composed a wonderful to the point text to accompany our video and campaign. I was in charge of the visual component and this time almost everything turned out like I wanted them to be (rare!).
The take-off of the campaign was thrilling, this was the first time we went public with our project! Also the first time of a really close-up video with our faces, talking through people’s computer screens… Embarrassing at times, but than again, we will do everything that will make our project a success! These were probably the longest 30 day’s of our lives, constantly spamming everyone through every social media available. Calling, texting, handing out flyers. This was an extra part-time job!
Some days the donations were pouring in (Yes! We’re going to make it!), other days there was nothing happening, nothing (O my god, what have we done! This isn’t working!). But all the supporting and sweet messages our crowd left us kept us positive and going on. It was an emotional rollercoaster, with a big, explosive and unexpected final. On the last day of the campaign, a few hours before the closing, the BankGiro Loterij Fonds donated the amount of money we needed to make the campaign successful!
Voila, finally official recognition, and the funding to make it all possible.

You’re probably thinking that all we did the last 2 years was hunting for money, and for a part this is true. I think it’s a good illustration of a part that people don’t often talk about (because it isn’t as interesting as the project!), but in a way essential to let things happen.

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When we were not sifting through text and numbers, we made maps, going to Schmiede in Austria (an annual gathering of creative people) to experiment with our ideas, collaborate with designers and technologists, reading about alternative cartography, meeting with people and talk about our ideas, be inspired.
I can’t wait to arrive in Longyearbyen the 28th of September. Breath in the air, see the landscape and meet the people. Wandering around with my sketchbook and camera, going on this adventure with Laurie. Doing this project together is precious to me. It is an enrichment. At times it’s really difficult to let someone near your seedlings. Because that’s what they are; that first little ideas and sketches and daydreams. No one ever sees your seedlings but you, you only send them out into the world when there grown up and firm plants. Now I have to share them, and it’s scary! But it’s worth it, like all the funding application crap, it’s all worth it. In 13 days we will walk on the most Northern inhabited part of the world, incredible…