Exploratory creative fieldwork in Artic Lapland, beginning with the mediums of ‘extended-technique’ sound recording and macro and micro visual study.

I have so far spent my stay on the residency with a thorough and intensive period of gathering and documenting the surrounding landscape and environment.

Exploring the themes of scale and our perceived position in the natural environment are recurring themes in my work, with the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station being an ideal base from which this creative fieldwork methodology can be developed. I am fascinated by the notion of alternative landscape study. By this I mean I find the observation and documentation of environments both visually and acoustically on another scale but our own, a thoroughly inspiring way in which to appreciate our natural surroundings. In the broadest possible sense I would say it perhaps enables the observer to reconsider the interconnectedness of the natural world and our place within it, and to find beauty in the often insignificant and seemingly mundane.

Microscopic studies from Lake kilpisjärvi water

My main intention while here has been to gather, explore and experience, rather than to finish a final body of work while on location. By using perhaps seemingly disparate combinations of macro sound recordings, microscopic visuals and macro photography as avenues for inspiration and development I am hoping to complete some work which would primarily take on an audio/visual format.

Recording made at 13/07/15 at 16:20 Saana/Jehkas valley

Meltwater extract #1

Recording made 18/07/15 at 16:30 Skirhasjohka tributary 

Meltwater extract #2

My time on the program so far has been really quite inspiring, with a short hike in any direction being very rewarding with the fells of Saana and Jehkas and the Malla Nature reserve being instantly accessible. The varied local habitats of lake, tundra, bogs, fells and mountain birch woods are such a pleasure to explore (even if the mosquitoes are sometimes a little hard to handle) and the constantly changing (and perpetual!) light over these landscapes adds all the more magic.

I have also met some inspirational fellow artists and residents, and upon arrival received a hospitable and warm welcome from mentor Leena Valkeapää.

In some ways visiting this quite extreme northern landscape as a sound recordist has been quite a challenge, sometimes for my pre-amps battling with the extremely quiet and distant sounds which the human ear has an amazing ability to pick out, but prove difficult to capture ‘on tape’ without a bed of hiss. But there is something about this sonic environment, which because of its sparseness and subtlety I feel I am more conscious of the small and the almost silent, and I am reminded of the importance of a listening experience in its own right as a means to inform my work.

I will be posting a couple more of my observations and ideas here in the coming week but as I have spent the last several weeks here I have created a dedicated blog as to serve as a more detailed record of my time. This can be found HERE.

Two days ago I photographed almost the entire herbarium collection that is kept at the biological station. Some of the plants are over 50 years old and they’ve lost most of their colour, but the collection is otherwise in a fairly good condition. I believe the plants were collected by students and they are used as teaching material on some of the more basic plant courses. Collection data was generally missing, but I didn’t need it.

I wanted to see if I could use the plants as a basis for my own “generic” photo herbarium. There are more than 1200 vascular plant species in Finland, but most people walk in nature without realizing the high level of biodiversity around them. I got my first plant guide when I was about seven years old and I can still remember how the world seemed to grow bigger when I realized a “hay” is not just a hay. I learned some of the scientific names, such as Phleum pratense, Calamagrostis arundinacea and Festuca pratensis, and the fanciful names made me look at all species with a bit more respect – even the most common weeds had such fine names they had to be worthy! Later I of course came to understand that scientific names aren’t there to impress people, but they form a practical and clever system.

I wanted, in a way, to return the isolated plant individuals back together – although I have to say my meadow combines species from very different habitats and is therefore very imaginary. The specimens were mounted on beige carton which may not work very well because contrast between the faded plants and the carton is so low. This is only a tentative experiment since my laptop can’t handle very large files and image editing requires a better screen. I used Photoshop to layer many of the hay-like species (excluding the Cyperaceae species) I found in the collection, so that all the images are put together in order to create an impression of a meadow.

The biological station has also another collection that is more bizarre than the herbarium. In the dark basement there is a room called “mouse museum” that exhibits skins and skulls of many rodent (and other small mammal) species. Some of the skin specimens hang on the walls, but there are also a cabinets that have skulls and stuffed animals. The stuffed creatures resemble living animals only remotely since they have been simply filled with cotton etc. instead of being properly taxidermied. I found this collection intriguing and spent many hours trying to get the most out of it. Here are a few general photos from the museum:

All sounds recorded with piezo disks and/or hydrophone.

Streaming 6 minute link: 

The first week out of my two weeks here has almost passed and I’m starting to regret I didn’t apply for a longer period. I’ve spent most of my time collecting different things: mosquitos, seashells and polypores – the latter are for a biology course I’m undertaking in university, as I am not only an artist but also a biology student. Mosquitos and landscapes are the main reason why I’m here, but so far I’ve caught surprisingly few mosquitos. I’m not going to complain about that, though, since for once outdoor activities don’t feel like a torture which is usually the case in Lapland during summer months. The mosquitos that try to bite me (or at least the ones that don’t escape) will end up into my private insect collection and multiple exposure photographs. Both of these will be a part of a larger project that involves using many different insect species.

The weather has been nice apart from a few rainy days, but I am still waiting for the “perfect” photography light. Unlike in the coastal Norway the weather doesn’t change so often here, so I wonder if my time will run out. I’m thinking of doing a few day excursion to Norway as a precaution, as I believe I’ll have better luck there.

The other resident of the house (Tom) and I already did a short day trip to Norway. First we drove to Skibotn for a seashore walk and lunch and then circled a nature trail in Lulledalen. The trail was quite lovely with variable habitats and and a clear-watered river. Many endangered orchid species can be found in Lulledalen because of high calcium level of the soil, but unfortunately someone had cut the flower stems from all Lady’s Slippers that were located along the path. Who does that?

I collected seashells from the beach in Skibotn for some photo experiments. The stairway in Kiekula has a nicely even light, so I photographed the shells there.

It’s been nice to sit by the living room table in Kiekula because swallows nest right above the window.

My room is upstairs and the view from there is also pretty. The sun will set tomorrow for the first time in two months, but it’s still so light that I find sleeping a bit difficult.

Today it seemed as if there would be thunder, but eventually it didn’t even rain. The maintenance person from the biological station told me about a boy who got hit by lightning at the top of Saanatunturi last year. He survived, but had to be flown to a hospital in a helicopter. Apparently this area gets thunder very rarely.

We’ve been back in Germany for almost a week now, but the internet in both our studio and flat has been terribly unreliable. As such, I haven’t posted as much as I should.

Today will be pictures of some of the wilderness we encountered. Hopefully this will be a bit of a pictorial peace offering.

In the coming days I will post some thoughts on my time in Kilpisjarvi, a few more images, and ideas that I’m considering for the next time (fingers crossed) I’m an artist-in-residence in this wonderful place above the arctic circle.



In some ways I was lucky that much of last week was rainy, because I had tons to do. Despite the rain however, we still wanted to explore. Somehow a balance was struck.

After a day or two of trying to get some of the minutia of being an artist out of the way, we decided to set out hiking again. This time up the fell in our backyard, that being Saana. The map says 4kms each way, but we easily added another 6kms in diversions.

Heather documented every single spray painted trail marker on the way up. I’ll let her post about that.

I’m going to back up a bit. In preparation for an upcoming show, I had to get a visualization that corresponds to viewers heart rates working properly. Luckily I had the wonderful John Wenksovitch (our collaborator on IMMOR(t)AL, one of the projects we have been working on here at AB) to help me to get a very finicky TFT Raspberry Pi screen working correctly. Definitely not a plug and play effort. Despite set back after set back, we finally succeeded.

Liberated from that stress, we set out up the fell. I won’t bore you with a written recollection, instead I’ll post pictures.

Heather and I.

I have a ton of photos of this trek on Heather’s dSLR, and will post them in a subsequent photo only post.

I should show some of the Ars Bioarctica specific work I’ve been doing. The project is kind of a sub-project of a larger body called ‘Repatriated’. My website says the following: Repatriated will be an ongoing body of work that traverses the often muddled waters of globalization, colonialism, and territorial disputes. By repatriating objects, ideas, sounds, DNA and other artifacts and remnants of influence by people and powers in territories historically far from their ancestral homes.

Being that Heather and I are based in Leipzig, Germany for the summer, we are about 50kms from the former Junkers factory in Dessau.

For my Ars Bioarctica edition of ‘Repatriated’, I am taking non-object residues (sounds, images, video, plant samples, possible DNA samples, and microbial samples) from around the crash site of the downed German Junkers Ju88 bomber that sits at the base of Saana.
These residues and remnants will be ‘repatriated’, a phrase that brings with it many unsettling connotations in respect to a Nazi bomber.

Here are a couple of pictures of where I took samples, which will end up inoculating plates. Also some of the plant life. Shameless self promotion in 3…2…1…You can see a more in depth explanation, and find updates on my website. Here is the link: http://byronrich.com/Repatriated-Ongoing

That is it for now! The next post will be of all the lovely animals that I’ve encountered around the house, and in the surrounding hills.

1. Leipzig–>Berlin–>Oslo–>Tromso–>Kilpisjarvi
At 07:30 we set out from Leipzig, and by 18:00 we were in Tromso. Not knowing what to expect, Tromso was much more vibrant than I had imagined it would be. John, our collaborator, had arrived a few days before, and had already located a Doner shop for dinner. After that we headed up the cable car, and on to the top of the fell across the inlet from the city. We were greeted with a spectacular sight at 01:00.

The doner was mediocre, but the view was spectacular. A wonderful introduction to the arctic.

The next morning we hopped on a bus at 07:00 bound for Kilpisjarvi. Along the way we saw many incredible sights. The place was already leaving an everlasting impression.

Once in Kilpisjarvi, we were greeted by Leena, who was most hospitable. It was hard to not want to just set out into the back country wildly unprepared. The landscape seemed to be calling.

Having studied Oron’s work on the wreckage of the Ju88, I was keen to get out there and see it for myself. So that is precisely what we did. At 01:00, naturally.

With a bit of historical contextualization form our lovely housemates, the wreckage and what it represents, sent me on a completely new and unexpected course in my work. In only 60 hours, Kilpisjarvi had already managed to affect what I do, and how I do it. Such is the power of the landscape, the people, and the stories.

Part #2 will come tomorrow. Pictures of Saana, more of the wreck, and some of the creatures that dwell in the yard between the house and the lake.


06/30/15 - SAANA TRIP#2
I borrowed GPS (Garmin GPSmap 62stc) and hygrometer (ebro TFH 610)
from Kilpisjarvi Biological station to collect the following data
from 15 waypoints recorded onto the GPS.

(tracked by STRAVA)

far far away from Los Angeles
there the big city swallows me whole
but here in Kilpisjarvi, luonnossa
there is space to think and move

Enter the Landscape
and the landscape enters the body.
Feet in felt boots, we walk softly in the snow.
With the sensitivity of animal paws, reading the forms underfoot.
Here a crust that may hold the body with a gentle transfer of weight
…here a stable icy ridge… and then a sudden softness giving way to knee
depth snow. This was the experience of walking to Malla on Sunday.
Malla the mountain drawing us over the frozen lake, to her shores of
gnarled Birch.
With waist deep snow so soft you can surrender all the weight
of this world. The pores of our skin meet little of the wind,
wrapped and layered in wool, then high tech plastics, then wool again.
Our outer-shell is animal.
It was an aesthetic choice for the filming, not to be plastic coated,
but underneath it filters the wind so we can stay out in the Arctic
weather some time. The texture of the wool knit gathers snow as we roll.
Snow becomes our outer layer of skin, creasing into small clumps at the
backs of our knees, hanging on our jumpers in reptilian patterns.
Underneath all these layers something else is at play.
Other spaces are opening.

Each day after porridge, we clear the lounge room for movement.
Titta guides us with some kinaesthetic reminders and plays music
to support the images. We move with awareness of the spaces in our bodies,
between the ribs, the spine, the jaw and hips.
As we play with these awarenesses they grow.
It feels as if, through these spaces, the Arctic landscape is slipping in.

A snow covered expanse between the ribs, subtile light reflecting
from the bones, extending the contours of the self.
These kinaesthetic reminders are part of the Skinner Releasing Technique,
the somatic movement practice that brought us together.
Deniz Soyarslan from Turkey, Titta Court from Northern Finland and
myself from Sweden/Australia, all the way to Kilpisjärvi in the Finnish
Arctic. We move inside in preparation for our outdoors.
Dressing in our many layers is quite an ordeal,
it’s a sauna in the clothes before we make it out in the cold.
Our woolen pants with so many layers under looks like we all have
nappy bums, all in grey wool we are the three teddy bears.
And then we put on our masks. Full of holes, white linen stuffed
like bone, shaped like bone. Hips, ribs and lung.
Seeing through the heart’s eye, through the skeletal spaces.

But today our masks stayed right here in the window.
We didn’t go out until the evening blue hour,
for a snow shoe shuffle and lay on the lake.
The storm that began yesterday continued through the night and day.
We heard the main road is cut off and the tractor of the Biological
Station, where we are in residence,
burst a tire yesterday and they are waiting for a new part.
Our driveway is a standing wave form and the car
we came in has been reshaped, snow-scaped.
Our windows are painted in dappled patterns and folds of snow.
The shapes and spaces evolving throughout the day.
Today we moved inside allot, left the cameras untouched.
The weather is the true director of this project.

And finally, here's the tower we built during our residency in February,
photographed by the station cooks during melting process in March.

For more blog entries, images and Deniz's text in Turkish please visit