Tag Archives: Telling the Baltic

Ice(land), Ice(land), Baby!

So in January and February I am in away in Iceland on a two-month research residency working on a number of creative projects, finishing some (I hope) and starting some (for sure) and in development on more (no doubt). In January I am in residence at Gullkistan in Laugarvatn in Southern Iceland, on a sheep and horse farm next to a geothermal lake, and in February I am at Listhús in Ólafsfjörður, a herring village in the northeast of Iceland located at the mouth of the fjord Eyjafjörður. It’s an amazing opportunity to continue with work that draws inspiration from landscapes as a form of affective digital storytelling. Although the goal is to work on a number of projects, many Art Line related or inspired, I am also taking time to finish an article on augmented reality exploring the nature of “place,” “materialities,” and “reading differently” in the context of the “(Re-)Mapping Moby” project. It’s for a special issue of Convergence focussed on “Cultural Expression in Augmented & Mixed Reality” and co-edited by my colleagues Jay D. Bolter and Maria Engberg. I will be working from a distance with collaborators to finish a video installation version of the “(s)AND” project which will be shown as part of the Telling the Baltic exhibition in Rostock Germany (Feb-March 2013) and continuing on to Kaliningrad (April 2013).  Although we had hoped to work on an augmented reality version of the work for Rostock, we will save that for the “Mixing Realities Digital Performance Festival” to be held in Kalrksrona in May 2013, also as part of the Art Line project. (Another post will follow about the festival with more details.) The festival will include a variety of scholars and artists working across media in installations, exhibitions, performances, and seminars. I am also directing the festival, and so I have many hats to don, wonderous hats, fascinators even, if ever there were a more apt definition of the word. (Another post will follow about the festival with more details.)

One of the new projects I’m working on is a project called “iSLAND” which will be exhibited in the Marinmueum (Swedish Naval Museum) in Karlskrona in fall 2013. It’s another landscape-based work that works to forge connections between Iceland and Karlskrona through expressions of isolation, intimacy, and bridging watery-distance. I’ve included a full description below and a slideshow of just a few images (of the hundreds I’ve captured so) that have already begun to inspire me. This is a mystical magical place, where you are likely to encounter a rainbow, a geyser, a waterfall, a herd of horses in the yard, and a hot-pink sunset, all in the same day. iLike.


an experiment in intimate screens and touchable narratives

Project Leader: Lissa Holloway-Attaway

In this collaborative project, we are exploring alternative methods for digital storytelling via the use of the iPad. The goal is to make and tell a fictional story based on identities found in distant histories and landscapes surrounded and connected by water, ships, submarines, and submersibles. The story will be an artistic historical reflection on islands and sea cultures, in particular on Karlskrona and Iceland.

The iPad will be used both as a production tool and as an interface for displaying the story content. The touch screen capabilities of the iPad, as well as the “personal” nature of the hand-held screen is a key component in our research. The iPad touch screen provides “up-close and intimate connections” between the producer and the viewer/user and in our method of revealing the story, we will incorporate these elements. For our production methods, we will use the built-in iPad camera in a number of ways:  still photos, video, and augmented reality panoramas, for example. Also, we will use iPad applications for “filmmaking,” audio production, and artistic expression (particularly those developed to engage and explore touch and sensory input on iPad screens).

The project title “ iSLAND” suggests both the device used to produce and exhibit the project (an iPad) and references the content and the locations for the storytelling. This will be a personal (fictional) story of identity-making set in the converged landscapes of Iceland and Karlskrona, Sweden. In Swedish, “Iceland” is translated as “Island,” which in English means a land-mass surrounded by water. Both Iceland and Karlskrona are deeply connected to their physical nature of being islands. For Iceland, a remote island country on the border of the Northern Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, this suggests both isolation and uniqueness in its culture, people, and heritage. For Karlskrona, a small city comprised of more than 30 islands in the Baltic archipelago, this suggests a kind of scattering of identities over land and sea. The “i” then in our project title also hints at the personal identities an island can contain, as well as on human individuality and uniqueness. Drawing on old histories of sea culture and sea crossings (above the sea in ships, and under it in submarines), we will try to cross the waters and find cultural and historical connections.

The story will be revealed in a series of panoramic images (still images, video, augmented reality), audio expressions, (remixed texts, original poetry, music, and ambient landscape recordings), and text and video files. The content will use a mixture of languages (English, Swedish, Icelandic, German, Polish, and maybe more). The story will be accessed on an iPad where the user may select a series of clips, texts, and other media to  “touch” together the story. In the use of  augmented reality panoramas in particular, the user also will be required to hold, move, and physically interact with the screen in ways that highlight how contemporary digital media has moved beyond story-telling on the traditional page, computer monitor, or film screen.

This project is partially funded by Art Line, an EU project exploring digital art innovation in the Southern Baltic region. It will be developed in part during a two month research  artist residency by the project leader (Lissa Holloway-Attaway) in Iceland in January and February 2013. Following the residency, other collaborators in Sweden will work together to create the story and technology. The project will be exhibited in the Swedish National Naval Museum (Marinmuseum) in Karlskrona in Fall 2013.

Iceland Landscapes…

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Digital Postcards, Videos, and Books (oh, my)

I’m sharing below a few pics of the story-collection videos, postcards  and digital book now exhibited in Gdansk in the Telling the Baltic Exhibition at the Gdansk Science and Technology Park. They document some of our story-collection methods for the exhibition.

The videos, shown on a large screen on the wall can be accessed by a touch-screen interface, and users who want to watch and listen can choose from the menu. Exhibition designer Marek Zygmunt also created the video display. The display includes a number of video interviews and documentations of the stories collected around the Baltic as part of the exhibit. Included also are videos of our ferry interviews (Stena Line and Aspö), as well as documentation of the (s)AND project. Martin Arvebro, videographer, and I worked together on concepts for these videos, and he has produced some evocative work and excellent documentation of our process.

There is also a digital “book” in the exhibit that users can interact with, and it contains text fragments of Baltic stories collected for the exhibition (transcripts of interviews from Russia, Poland, Germany, and Lithuania), translated in multiple languages, as well as photos and images from our inspirations in Sweden that my collaborators and I have gathered. These include photos from the Blekinge Museum archives, collected by curator Karin Nilsson, with whom I worked to make a selection, and photos taken by myself and Ida Gustavsson for the (s)AND project. Ida’s  images of the landscapes are breathtaking. Many of these images are also included in digital form online on a YouTube channel, as “video postcards” designed by Martin Arvebro from Ida’s images, where viewers can leave comments and tell their stories. We are using them in print form in the museum, on board the Stena Line ferry between Karlskrona and Gdynia, and in the exhibition sites to inspire others to write texts and stories that will be remixed in the (s)AND work and displayed as part of the Digital Performance Festival I am coordinating in late spring or early fall 2013.

An excerpt from my prose-poem “Pangaea Drifting” or “after a period of prolonged suffering, for Gordon” is also included in the book. I have written of the context for this piece in an earlier blog post, and a text excerpt is available there. I am very pleased to see the work in a new context in the gallery space. It made me stop and think of Gordon and our journey together. Drifting is hard.

It was exciting though to watch visitors sit at the display and access the stories, images, and videos and even provide new input by writing on the postcards. Content-gathering. That’s what I’m talkin’ about…

Here is a brief slideshow of media–taken with a rather low-quality camera, but you can still “get the picture” so to speak:

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The Telling the Baltic ( TTB ) Artist Workshop I recently hosted at BTH with my Art Line colleagues over the past two weeks has been exceptionally interesting and creatively stimulating—which also means I’ve been totally exhausted most days. That said, having a group of artists and story-collectors in the same room together for such an intense, concentrated period to share their work and to develop ideas for building this grand touring exhibition is really a luxury.

Polish Story-Collector Marcin Boryczko describes his methods for collection and transcription

The breadth of stories collected from the different partners in their different areas of the Baltic has been fascinating. I’ve listened, totally enrapt, these weeks to the presentations of what we have been calling “raw materials” (that is the stories we’ve collected, in video, photographic, and text formats that will be the basis for the artists’ rendering into exhibition pieces) and to the artists’ talks about their practices and initial ideas for development. And so, in my ”raw” story-induced rapture, I have been transported to many sites and watery insights about the Baltic and what it has to tell and how it can inspire. As we suspected, the Baltic turns out to be an exceptional story-teller and evocative agent for abstraction.

Telling the Baltic Polish story transcript

Polish story-collector and radio interviewer Małgorzata Żerwe (with Marcin) highlights key moments in story about dog rescued in shipyard

 Raw is, in fact,  an apt term for what the stories we have collected convey, but only if that means the rawness that is a kind of richness of information—that is information that has not yet been distilled down or processed (as in a RAW image format). In this sense it is bigger still than what the artists will use to create what can only in its latter state be seen as selective rendering, an abstraction. This story rawness is pretty full on, and it’s hard to consider what might be left behind if/when the raw stories become abstract art, as if there is a clear difference between the two. Listening to one artist at the workshop  (whom I respected, but with whom I nonetheless disagreed) characterize the stories as “only information” that must be separately “archived”  (in a database or in a library-setting) as opposed to the art works that naturally should be on exhibition given their more abstract form, made me realize why this project interested me in the first place: ontological /aesthetic/philosophical/interdisciplinary conundrums excite me. . .

Lithuanian Artist/Story-collector presentation

Lithuanian Artist Irma Stanaityte describes encounter with fishermen

What is a story, anyway and how can we mediate it without somehow changing or intervening in it? What does it mean to render a story, in art, in digital space, or in the embodied act of listening to it? Of course mediation is always a factor in these interactions, and we are participants in all that we hear; this is both a theoretical and ontological reality fundamental to the theories of material mediation I teach—but in this case I am actively impacted by what that means, particularly when art and story are so closely connected, and yet somehow still opposed in this project. When confronted with the material fact of designing an exhibition space (or contributing to its design), this theoretical musing becomes more pragmatically engaging. Oh, what to do with these stories?

four fishermen

Polish and Swedish fishermen gather in the cultural center (an unlikely setting) with the artists to describe their Baltic fishing practices and thoughts about EU regulations for sustainability

In the project, we separate easily into story-collectors and artists by our actions and the tasks we have set for ourselves (story-collectors gather, then artists make), but the raw materials we work with are not so clearly discernible when we isolate them from those tasked with their mediation and rendering.

fishermen show size of fish

The fishermen show us the size of their biggest catch. They said only amateurs did this, but they reluctantly, and humorously, showed us together it was "this big." (photo credit: Anna Stellar, TTB artist)



And sometimes we have decided (or were forced to consider through material experiences that stubbornly resisted separation) that the artists and story-collectors should be necessarily the same person. They could not (or would not) divide into hunting/gathering and then making phases …

lighthouse keeper story presentation

Polish Story-Collector Agnieszka Wołodźko presents her interview with Polish lighthouse keeper

For me, the interviews with male and female lighthouse keepers in Poland, with articulate Swedish fishermen concerned with sustainable fishing practices, Lithuanian crow eaters (literally, those that eat the birds, and not in an idiomatic sense), with sailors and seamen of all nationalities who share their sexist superstitions about women on- and off-board (whistling women are the worst) is like being in the middle of some lovely, immersive mythic archive of oddity, history and fantasy—that is, the best possible of all raw archives. It is too much (to be processed) and too rich to be identified as in need of more artistry and abstraction.

artists locate sites on map of Baltic

Russian artist Anton Zabrodin and Polish collector Agnieszka Wołodźko locate sites of interest on the Baltic map

artists at workshop

Swedish artist Johan Thurfjell (L), Polish artist Patrycja Orzechowska (C), and Danish artist Henrik Lund Jörgensen (R) listen and reflect at workshop

And so in the workshop, a central concern for me (but for some others as well) has been to discuss ways to represent and share the stories we have collected, as well as the art derived from them, within the exhibitions we have planned. How can we make the stories accessible and dynamic and how can we be sure in an “art” exhibition that they are not subverted or viewed as a lesser kind of “raw,” as objective information vs.  arty abstraction?

baltic map relfected on collector's face

Agnieszka's Baltic grimace

How can we share the stories with others in ways that encourage immersion and connection with the people of the Baltic who bothered to talk to us (but who are also generally bemused by, or just confused about, our interest in their “ordinary” lives)?  Outside of a kind of traditional “media library” of sources through which visitors to the exhibitions can browse, how may we encourage them to spend time with the stories and find further connection with the art? It’s a dilemma I think we will continue exploring, but I am encouraged that others share my struggle with this.

worshop participants at pub

We end week one of the workshop at a local pub to discuss ideas with "other" kinds of flowing inspiration.

Intimacy with others via their stories is a challenge in a public exhibition space, as is the act of “shared reading” (however we characterize this slippery act, as slow and private,  or shared and embodied). I don’t expect we’ll solve this problem, actually, but I hope to embrace it and see how it flows. Thankfully, we have several exhibitions to explore the possibilities and see where we are led.

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Telling the Baltic Artist Workshop, March 2012:

I’m so happy that our Artist Workshop for Telling the Baltic is finally beginning. We are hosting a number of artists from Southern Baltic region at BTH between March 5-16 to help develop materials for our touring exhibition in 2012-13. An excerpt  from the press release is included below…

The Baltic Sea and its surroundings comprise a natural and multi-layered story that can reveal itself in countless forms, all depending on how and where one chooses to look and to investigate its many depths and surfaces

Beginning in early 2011, Lissa Holloway Attaway,  Pirjo Elovaara and Talan Memmot of the Department of Culture and Communication at Blekinge Institute of Technology, along with independent videographer Martin Arvebro,  began their research into the Baltic sea as a site for collecting stories. They met up with sea-dwellers at the island of Sturkö, south of Karlskrona; they met up with chefs, bartenders, captains and other crew members on board the Stena Vision ferry traveling between Karlskrona and Gdynia, as well as on the much smaller Aspö commuter ferry. They also gathered stories from the landscape itself around the Baltic region, using video and photography to document it. On the other side of the Baltic, Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art in Poland, NCCA Kaliningrad in Russia, Nida Art Colony in Lithuania and Kunsthalle Rostock in Germany  also gathered their stories, each using different methods and collecting unique perspectives.

This pool of different narratives, in video, audio, and in photo format will be presented to the International artists from the Southern Baltic region gathering at Campus Gräsvik. The artists will use the stories as inspiration to create art works to be included in a touring exhibition held in Baltic locations during 2012 and 2013. The tour begins in June 2012 at the Blekinge Museum in Kalrkskrona. This (re-)telling of Baltic stories in artistic form offers new perspectives on what the Baltic is for many, and what it might be for others to come

On Monday 5/3 from 14.30 and Tuesday 6/3, from 15.00 to 17.30 participating artists will present themselves and their varied art practices for 15 minutes each, followed by a general discussion. These presentations will be held at Campus Gräsvik, room C 313A and are open to the public.

Participating artists are:  Anna Brag (SE), Astrid Göransson (SE), Anna Steller (PL), Anna Zaradny (PL), Henrik Lund Jörgensen (DK/SE), Irma Stanaityte (LT), Iwona Zając (PL), Johan Thurfjell (SE), Jurgita Remeikyte (LT)), Katrin Roeber (DE), Łukasz Szałankiewicz (PL), Paetrick Schmidt (DE), Patrycja Orzechowska (PL) and Rikard Fåhreus (SE).

Participating story-collectors are:

Lissa Holloway Attaway (CA/SE), Agnieszka Wołodźko (PL), Marcin Boryczko (PL), Małgorzata Żerwe (PL), Pirjo Elovaara (SE), Karin Nilsson (SE), Talan Memmott (US/SE)

More information about the Telling the Baltic project:


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