Borders project is a collaboration with artist and potter Lou Gilbert Scott, funded by an Arts Council International Development Award, supported by the Finnish Institute in London and Arts Producer Kaisa Kerätär. We had time at the end while in Kilpisjarvi, to reflect on how the journey affected our own practices and to think of the beginnings of new work. The following photographs are of work I made in the mountain Birch forest zone at the foot of Saana Fell, a place sacred to the Sami.
Birch bark tar and Arctic Birch
When we reached our residency location at the Biology station at Kilpisjarvi (thank you Finnish Bioart society and University of Helsinki), Lou and I managed to successfully make birch tar from birch bark....
Exploring the birch tar. We used some of it to glue the 'clay conversations' inside a ceramic pot...
...then made a pit fire from birch wood to fire them
before leaving them to their fate at the tri border point between Norway, Sweden and Finland in Lake Kilpisjarvi.
Amongst the many people Lou and I met in Lapland and shared discussions with on our journey are Professor Jaana Erkkilä and Kalle Lampela at the University of Lapland and the Director of Korundi Museum, Hilkka Liikkanen. Helvi and Reijo Lantto co-founders of the Arctic Ceramic Centre in POSIO, ceramicists Suku Park and Miki Kim, interior design retailer Anu Pentik, all of whom gave generously their knowledge, time and warmth.
We gave everyone we met a small amount of clay and asked them to make something small for us to collect and document our journey.
Travelling on upwards toward KEMIJÄRVI and SODANKYLÄ we were welcomed by Artists Pirkko Mäkelä-Haapalinna, Kaija Kiuru, and Helena Junttila, who took time out to talk about their practices and share thoughts of materiality, connection and identity
In INARI, Director of Siida (the national Museum of Finnish Sami) Sari Valkonen and Aile Aikio, Exhibition Organiser, explained the history of the Sami culture, its suppression and struggle for resurgence. Sami Artist Anne Aikio described the upswell of feeling within some of the young Sami artist’s work, particularly suohpanterror, an anonymous group of artists using wit, iconic images and humour as weapons of comment.
Onwards up and across the Norwegian border into KARASJOK, we met with Elisabeth Heilmann from the Sami Centre of Contemporary Art (supported by the Sami parliament and the county of Finnmark) currently showing work by Bente Geving and pop up exhibition by suohpanterror....and always adding to our clay conversations.
In KAUTOKEINO, we visited the Sámi University College and designer Hilde Skancke Pedersen, who gave us a whirlwind tour of the building and the art inside.
And on we drove to KILPISJARVI and the University of Helsinki’s Biological station, where we had to say goodbye to our friend and Arts Producer Kaisa Kerätär, hello to Artist Leena Valkeapaa and turn our attention to engaging with our project and our physical environment. Lou and I were staying as part of the ArsBioarctica residency programme organised by the Finnish Society of Bioart.
Kaisa, Lou and I covering hundreds of miles in our ACE Artists Internationally funded research trip to Northern Finland. Talking to Artists, Universities, Museums and Art institutions. Uncovering so much, we need time to process.
Talking with Anna at Frame Contemporary Art Finland, Helsinki, this afternoon at the start of our journey. 'Things are 'beginning to bubble up' in the art world in the North. We'll be exploring over the next 15 days....
The first of our conversations in clay.
Thanks to Artists International Development Funding from The Arts Council and British Council, Lou Gilbert Scott and I will be returning to Northern Finland. Working with Arts producer Kaisa Kerätär and the Finnish Institute in London we will be travelling the length of Finland up to Tromso in Norway, researching the literal and metaphorical notion of borders.
The local school burnt down early this morning. Fire from a camper van here for the fishing competition spread to the school and destroyed it completely. Luckily no one was hurt but the school is the only one in the Enontekiö region and is important to the whole community.
How many people can you fit in a circle in the middle of a frozen lake and drill a hole to catch a fish?
This competition is held yearly at Lake Kilpisjärvi and there are big prizes at stake. During the 1998 ice-fishing competition, two participants brought two large burbot (Lota lota (L.)) to the officials for weighing. These two burbot were much larger than the rest of the fish caught. The origin of these two burbot was questioned and subsequently studied by comparing their age-specific size, stomach contents and parasite fauna with those of the smaller burbot caught during the competition. Both the age-specific lengths and weights of the suspected burbot were higher than those of the smaller burbot, and the stomach analysis revealed that the large burbot had eaten roach (Rutilus rutilus (L.)), which are not found in Lake Kilpisjärvi. Moreover, the parasite fauna in these two burbot was not typical of the lake. It was therefore concluded that the suspect burbot could not have been caught in Lake Kilpisjärvi, and the contestants were disqualified.
The land of the Sami, called Sápmi in their own language, spans Arctic Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. The Sami are one of the world’s indigenous people with their own language, culture and customs. There is a belief that all significant natural objects possess a soul and are aware of their surroundings. Sanna fell behind the biological station is a sacred place and I wondered about my photographs and what the trees might have to say about my intrusion into their environment.