It’s been one week since arriving in Kilpisjärvi for the Ars Bioarctica residency. Given the occasion, it’s a good time to recount my initial experiences and discuss the focus of this residency: to translate Arctic weather patterns into sensory experiences

More specifically, I’m interested in framing a phenomena called Arctic haze as a hyperobject*. Arctic haze is the seasonal accumulation of air pollutants during the polar night that forms a reddish brown haze during the onset of spring. While collecting weather data about the Arctic haze, I’ll be exploring methods for translating this information into a bodily experience.

As I write this post, I’m staring outside my window—composed of two thick casement panels approximately two metres by two metres—which shields me from the extreme conditions outside. According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the current temperature outside is -28ºC (-18ºF), but with the wind it “feels like -35ºC” (-31ºF).

It is 2:30pm and the sun is setting. Google tells me the Kilpisjärvi Biology Station is located at 69º03’N; 20º05’E, a full 3º North of the Arctic Circle. Having only lived in warm weather climates and, prior to this residency, only experienced brief encounters with freezing temperature, I can say that, to me, this climate is alien in the fullest sense.

“I can think and compute climate…but I can’t directly see or touch it. The gap between phenomena and thing yawns open, disturbing my sense of presence.” 

–Timothy Morton 

Inside the station, which is equipped with a research lab, library, kitchen, sauna, dormitories and offices, there are many Finnish texts—as to be expected—and, while there is enough English to navigate this residency, I’m using various translators to further understand this new environment. One of these happens to be GoogleTranslate:

 

There will be more in the coming days and weeks, but for now these are my starting resources for this residency:

  • Timothy Morton’s Ecology without Nature (2007)
    Investigates how artists and writers use the idea and term ‘nature’ within art and its implications.
  • Augmented Ecologies from Theun Karelse
    Artist interested in the role of data and media systems in understanding the Anthropocene.
  • Conversations with past residents Shannon Williamson and Josh Crompton.
    Here is Shannon’s blog entry. Their experience here in 2014 offered a wealth of conceptual and practical waypoints for navigating the Arctic.
  • Caroline Jones’ Senses (2005).
    An article focusing levels of mediation and perception
  • Richard Long
    A classic for understanding walking as an art practise and means of discovery.
  • The AMAP Assessments from 2006 and 2015.
    The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) releases scientific assessments about changing conditions in the Arctic. 2006 focuses on Arctic Haze and Acidifying Pollutants, while 2015 focuses on Black Carbon.
  • EMEP database
    The European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP) has a database within climate data that dates as far back as the 1970’s, from what I have seen. This website is operated by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU).

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*hyperobject is a term coined by Timothy Morton in The Ecological Thought  to describe a thing that extends beyond our typical definition of an object. According to Morton, hyperobjects are, “things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans” (2013, p1). He provides several examples, including a black hole, a biosphere, the the sum of all nuclear materials, styrofoam (due to its extremely long degradation period), and climate change.

 

 

 

Last entry in the biological station.

One can only  really surrender to the ecstasis of the natural when the only mediation are the clothes one is wearing, no other technology in between. Then, the achievement of consciousness becomes a possibility. It is not an easy price to pay.

Edvard and I tried to get to the three borders but the snow was too high.

My Whistler Radio recorded the highest level of  low frequency or VLF electromagnetic waves.

These images synthesize the experience.

The second one is Edu’s.

…..

In the beginning of this residency, I was alone in the station for a week and I very much enjoyed the time for myself. After that, I met really good friends. Today the have left.  Now being alone is not the same. People above all, are the best brain food.

Kilpisjärvi 120515

I THINK WERE ALONE NOW

 

 

This entry is a gallery of the amazing photos of fellow researcher and friend Edvard Davra Sarroca.

Reindeer fence.  One of the things I was searching for to experience in terms of the ectasis of the environment, was letting go of the self. This same letting go, I saw in the eyes of a reindeer today. At the fence, reindeer are separated to be tagged and then taken to the truck that will deliver them to the slaughter house. There is a moment in the separation when the eyes of the herdsman meet the eyes of the animal for a second  and then, a part of the struggle is somehow over. In some way although the reindeer still tries to break free from the captivity  a part of it, has surrendered to it.

 

We crossed the lake today to the other side (Sweden) from the station.  Iv’e  attempting to surpass my superficially established conceptions of the artic to actually be able to take in, at least minimally, the surrounding environment of the station. Today something was achieved. I had to do with feeling of being lost in the middle of the lake, letting go, and surrender.

Surrender

 

 

First reading today. One hour.

 

Thinking about representation, imaginaries,  perceptual numbness and distortions:

1. Reindeer fence. It is such an aesthetic and life experience at many different levels.

2. Recorded the Korg MS mini today. I think I like it, but not so sure if the sound I built is a superficial representation of what I can see through my window or an actual overall gesture of the artic forces that intertwine.

3. Posting my fellow researcher’s illustration of mitosis: spindle assembly checkpoint resolution. Loved it!

 

It may sound obvious, but there is nothing like the direct experience of things.

The rest is just what our imaginary builds. I’ve never seen such colours in a sunset or

the moon at noon in the sky. There is something in common about the people who choose

to come to this station during winter. That is also really great.

Also, did comunal sauna and naked snow rolling today. Still smiling.

Northern lights. Finally.

Reindeer separation today. A very profound and yet a simple event at the same time. This experience among others in this residence, makes me think about how important it is to have a more direct, less mediated encounter with life. Perhaps  if we could have more significant experiences  in our city upbringing,  we could shake off the numbness a bit. So happy I could witness it.

Met new friends today.  :)

Thought about the power of language as well.