My residency with Ars Bioarctica runs from November 23rd until December 21st (winter soltice) 2014

My project ‘A Polar Night Study’ has been informed by my fascination with sleep science and circadian rhythm entrainment.  For near on 28 days I have been engaged in a performative ‘forced desynchrony’ study of my own body clock. Residing at the Kilpisjarvi Biological Station,  I have been running on a 28 hour cycle of 9 hours 20 minute for sleep and 18 hours 40 minutes per subjective ‘day’. Using the polar night’s long hours of darkness (and hence deprivation of the body’s major exogenous zeitgeber- sunlight) as a clean slate against which to tinker with the machinery of my own circadian rhythm I have harnessed my out-of-step wake time to explore Kilpisjarvi’s unique environment from multiple temporal perspectives. A full explanation of my project can be found on my website along with the more detailedproject blog.

In my adventures into all the 24 hours I have come to learn so much about the polar night and this unique Arctic environment in which it thrives. I have hiked up Saana, Pikku-Malla and Salmivaara…

I have discovered what it’s like to go running in -18C and stood in the wilderness and begun to see how the time scales of all bodies here, water, earth, sky and animal oscillate about each other at different frequencies and how this makes every hour unique…

I have learned about the sounds (and safety) of lake ice expanding and contracting.

I have seen seen how all different types of light shape the complex nature of the polar night- moon, sun. aurora and man-made.

Through research and conversation I have discovered how others change and cope with the dark; how reindeer don’t appear to have a true circadian rhythm and how, in turn, their herders harbour their own unique sleep/wake cycle. In short I have been lucky enough in my project to live and experience these and so many more things that make this place so fascinating, while simultaneously illuminating the fact that I have merely scratched the surface of my subject.

A full explanation of my project can be found on my website along with the more detailed project blog.

I was the first time in Kilpisjärven residence and I would like to mention that the biological station provides the perfect setting for ideation and work.

October 11, 2014, River, Malla Strict Nature Reserve

In Kilpisjärvi you get the feeling that you are separate from the modern society, but on the other hand  you realize that the “exhaust” is apparent. In daily life difference between Kilpisjärvi and Helsinki is a significant.

October 11, 2014, Stone, Malla Strict Nature Reserve

Essentially, I came to the residence in working on my upcoming The Last Beach exhibition in Rovaniemi, but fortunately I have a time also working in collaboration with other artists. We did other artists, with a number of interesting excursions Kilpisjärven nearby areas.

October 13, 2014, Night, The station, on the beach

 
October 5, 2014 near the station
While recording grass and other plants, a moth landed nearby.
The link below goes to the streaming video, Moth, Grass, Wind.
http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T01328&video=216447
I saw only a few moths after this cold and windy day. 
All work is © 2014   BMI and all images are from video stills
Birch and Lake
On a very windy day, I attached a transducer to a twig on the tree
and also to the birch bark.  Link below goes to the streaming video:
http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T01328&video=215992
Brook at Malla, with Carbon Fiber Rod and Ice Forming
The carbon Fiber rod is picking up the sound of the ice
forming and also records harmonics from the wind.
Link below goes to  the Streaming Video:
http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T01328&video=215993

We went to little Malla this morning. I did sound field recordings and underwater video recording tests, I will use the footage for the Documentary I’m directing during my stay in Kilpisjarvi for the ARCTIC2014.COM project!

the leash of the Camera frosted almost instantly outside of water..

We – my husband and son and I, are enjoying the stay in Kilpisjärvi. We are walking in the mornings and playing with our son Hugo. When he is sleeping, I work on my installation art. I am experimenting and making drafts for reindeer sculptures that will be part of my exhibition in Aine Art Museum, Tornio, in March 2015.

Reindeer art is something I have previously written about. The exhibition in Aine Art Museum is going to be my own contribution to this controversial field!

Maria Huhmarniemi

S

Yesterday I was out in the tundra, tunturi, and marvelling at the rolling landscape and misty backdrop of fells beyond, it seemed almost barren, where each element stood out by contrast, from little frogs to flowing water leading to a waterfall… All the way along I was admiring the splashes of yellows, oranges and reds of the ground cover – e.g. in Bilberry / Mustikka (leaves go bright red) and low shrubs – spread out and sometimes blending together, and when you look up close, the groundcover is also now full of berries!

Fall colours in the tundra

Part of most of my days are spent carrying out various tests with the natural materials I have collected, small samples from nearby and along my hiking routes. In the case of berries I’ve found, some were familiar, but in two cases I was berry confused. For example thus the correction on my first post – as it turns out, after having a chat in the Biological Station, what I had collected in fact was Dwarf Cornel / Ruohokanukka, which is growing all over here (where there are trees), it’s berries bright red and leaves now turning dark red, contributing wonderfully to fall colours on the ground, maaruska. Also, the test of eating a little red berry, and tasting the sourness, confirmed that it was indeed Lingonberry / Puolukka (as opposed to Bearberry / Sianpuolukka, looking extremely similar).

Lingonberries

In working with these samples, I’m interested in using also tools that have a connection with this environment. For example today I put together a brush, using driftwood (from the lake shore) and Cottongrass (found in the tundra), along with regular thread, creating an implement which can also be used on the other end for a hard tip. I tested both ends with charcoal (collected from different fire pits), using a flat side of a rock, first rubbing on the charcoal then mixing in some water and applying this to paper.

Testing the brush with charcoal

For more artist information, please see my website: scaldn.net

A few days ago the rain became less frequent, since then a few times the clouds have parted and the sun has shone through, as if the lights were turned on, details in the landscape became sharper, punctuated by shadows. It has been almost visually overwhelming, after being accustomed to the muted fall colours, softened by the clouds.

A sunny view of Saana

Taking the opportunity afforded by the drier weather, I went on a few hikes, including up Saana Fell, where I met two bands of ptarmigans (Rock Ptarmigan) along the way, who I stopped to listen to for a while, and tried to photograph (they blend in well to the landscape), as they made the most interesting sounds.

Spot the ptarmigan

I was fortunate to discuss with a local Sami contact recently, which included insights into a different worldview, and ways of life here, for example relating to the importance of reindeer.

Reindeer in the tundra

The environment here is an amazing contrast from the city, namely Helsinki, where I’m otherwise living. There can be dramatic changes in the weather and natural surroundings, the sky full of dark clouds, then suddenly the sun shines like a spotlight on the northern ridge of Saana fell. Or then there’s the more subtle changes, such as the onset of ruska around now, fall colours illuminating the leaves on the trees and ground cover.

Fall colours and Saana fell

Spending time observing here, from indoors or out, constantly reveals wonders, in the form of sights, sounds, smells, also finding different berries and encountering other living creatures…

Red leaves and berries (Cornus suecica / Ruohonkanukka / Dwarf Cornel - corrected 9.9)

Most of my time spent here so far has been characterised by rain, which has led me to spend more time indoors than I might have originally thought. From where I’m staying, sitting looking out the window, Sweden can be seen in the distance, where once, after the rain, appeared a rainbow.

Yesterday was my first hike, up Salmivaara, which was surrounded by dark grey rainy-looking clouds, and offered a lovely view of the landscape.

However I’ve been making use of my time spent inside the residence and also the Biological Station, researching and writing, working with my collected samples, such as berries, finding out about them and their properties, with an interest in making natural inks.

A berry test page from my sketchbook

One highlight so far has been the reindeer that come daily to munch the grasses and leaves in the field and tree-covered outcrop outside the residence. They are impressive animals. It’s a bit like having visitors, although rather I think it is me who is a visitor on their land.

View from residence window with reindeer

Here in Kilpisjarvi, the fast life doesn’t exist. A week ago I was back in Scotland, rushing through essays, articles and chores, and never stopping to breathe. Being a gentle soul at heart, this way of working has always seemed wrong, but I had to play the game. Edinburgh, my home city, is swarming with talented, dedicated writers all competing for the same few opportunities. Even if you’re published, you must continue to prove you are worthy. This takes, or rather we’re told it takes, a phenomenal amount of determination, resilience and productivity. If you have a day off you feel bereft, as though your one chance at success has slipped through your fingers and into the hands of another. I’ve tried tackling this problem for years, it’s just hard when you’re driven and eager. My peers seem to forget the old story of the tortoise and the hare, applauding my more stressful, speedy efforts. When you think about it, it’s no surprise: working both hard and fast is a very impressive feat.

My animated lake

Here, I still have my drive, but without the morbid passing of time. It’s difficult to describe. Local poet Johan Yuri captured these sensibilities with eloquence and simplicity. He wrote about how there is no time here in Lapland, but that its mist still impressions upon us. This resonates with me: here, I have no anxieties about time because I feel so connected to the present. The sunlight is perpetual and so it never feels like a particular time of day or night. The lake outside my window is an animation repeating over and over, operating in some strange state of flux and never getting old. Clocks are ornaments showcasing meaningless information — my body clock included. I feel mischievous and amiss, like a broken compass spinning round and round, taking immense delight in its own chaos. Artists, and indeed everyone who moves too fast, could benefit from time — or rather the lack of time — in Lapland. Of course, it has other high points too, besides its peacefulness and history. The food, which I have consumed in copious amounts, has been fantastic.

Although I love to cook back home, I let work get in the way. I also tend to live in my head, intellectualising everything and ignoring my body’s cries for attention. This is partly due to my over-ambitious work ethic, and also because I have joint pain. Switching off from this pain is a useful trick, though it means masking other sensations too, like tiredness and hunger. But when I travel, I become much more aware of my body and its need to be rested and nourished. It’s upsetting to notice the pain, but it’s great to want food. In general, I’m not keen on Scottish cuisine, especially not from canteens, as it’s often tasteless, unhealthy and unethical. The food here — a range of stews, soups and bakes — is delicious, combining unusual textures and flavours. My favourite is cake made with apple, cream cheese and cardamon — foods I’d never have thought to put together. However, I hope to get through life without ever having coffee cheese again. That one was a bit scary.

I’ll be sad to leave this place, but I’ll take its lessons with me. I’ve loved  having a clean, timeless slate to write upon, and I’ve enjoyed being around like-minded people. Our house, Kiekula, has been very sociable, inspiring great conversations about philosophy, science and art. I’ve taken various walks and hikes across unspoilt landscapes, and in the evenings I’ve been writing essays and learning Finnish; a complex and beautiful language. And when I’ve not been doing those things, I’ve been mapping the local area in an attempt to imbibe these ever-present feelings of timelessness, sleeplessness and hunger. I don’t know if this will lead to a significant piece or the most pretentious disaster ever created, but it’s been fun and that what counts. What is significant is how I feel about writing now as my residency draws to a close. I’m one step closer to dropping out of the toxic race for success. The fast movers will fire ahead at the speed of light, and they might get there before I do. That isn’t me and it never was. In order to be a happy and healthy writer, I need to leave that future behind.