letters from the north

Itivdlersuak- the long crossing


The Nordic Art Fair 2008 at the Forum, Saturday Sept 20


Everyday I go to the Institute and it is becoming a second 'home'. I feel very welcomed there and am amazed at the amount of knowledge crushed into such a small building! Bent Nielson, the Director, returned from Greenland on Monday and we had dinner that evening to discuss my research at the Institute. It was a really positive conversation and he is totally onboard with trying to get the archive 'awakened' and utilized in a non-traditional way: To display its value differently than mentioning something from it in a lecture or ph.d thesis. He has his own visions for where he wants to take the Institute and it was great to hear that I can contribute in a small way to that.

So now I am concentrating on 2 projects, and both are in their infancy stage and will be totally different than what I had imagined in the end. The first is a photo+text project about the actual archive and documents-drawings-photographs, etc, within it, mixed with the history of the Institute. The text will be addressing the various things that I choose to highlight but will be not exactly 'museum text panel'. Rather more experimental or creative writing of some sort. Also I want to try to utilize the people involved by short interviews such as Bent, and also Leif, the former director, and Mette, the archivist and whoever else I can drag into my evil plan.

The second project I am still formulating but as of now it will be a photographic series about a Greenlandic girl who finds herself in Copenhagen, lost, and encountering the city. It will combine the past and the present tense. She will go through the stages of an explorer in experiencing the 'sublime'. It is a different sort of 'sublime' that the polar explorers experienced in the Arctic but similar in its stages of struggle, fear, and overcoming obstacles. We'll see! I am still writing up the pre-story for it and reading various texts to try to find my girl character and if she already exists in the archive somewhere, which would be fantastic! In 1724, Hans Egede, a Danish-Norwegian missionary in Greenland brought two Greenlanders, Poq and Qiperoq, to Copenhagen. They performed in their kayaks for crowds in the canals and were given very nice contemporary haircuts. The Institute has 2 portraits of them and there is also one hanging in the National Museum in Copenhagen. But I have not found any women, yet.

I also have been learning about Greenlandic place names and their English and Danish translations. I will be using these, too, to inspire and influence the various photographs I take around Copenhagen. Names such as 'Akalua' = that which is between 2 things, or 'Alativik'= where there is disturbance in the water, or 'Perserautoq' = one that continually drifts, or 'Malartarfik'= where the head is generally bent back. I am really excited over the list I have gathered. They are really beautiful phrases that are really rich in meaning. They have a lot of potential for transforming an image and vice versa.


This is my street- Hollænderdybet in Amager. It is actually way nicer in real life than what this photo presents...


The main street-Amagerbrogade that my street is connected to. You can follow it straight into center city København though it changes names 3 or 4 times.

Today I visited a friend who I met through my roommate, Pia, last week at our scary-movie-monday party. Julia works in the public affairs department in the U.S. embassy. She gave me a small tour of the drab grey building. We ate in their cantina which is totally a restaurant with a professional chef and wine.... She also took me down into their American grocery store! It was completely absurd! They had really bad t.v. dinners and things like toilet paper and paper towels! All things that you can find in Danish grocery stores! But they did have duncan hines cake mix and Jiffy brand peanut butter which you can't get here. (I brought my own HUGE jar of my favorite peanut butter with me, it is sad.) And I guess I should also point out the Dr. pepper. It is mainly for the husbands or wives of the Americans who work there who miss these items, or, perhaps are nervous (?) to venture out in the a ssscccarrrryyy Danish grocery store... I don't know. They didn't have Lucky Charms, though, and even center-city Accra, Ghana, at the nice grocery store they sold them when I lived there is 2003! Well, sold them for the equivalent of 15 bucks!

As I mentioned in a previous entry, the Nordatlantens Bryggen has an anniversary exhibition about the Danmark-Ekspeditionen 1906-1908. Leif, the former Arctic Institute's director, and I walked over there last week to see it. It was the expedition that surveyed the final stretch of Grønland- the northeast section- and where 3 men died. I just finished reading the book written by Ejnar Mikkelson, the man who went back up to northeast Greenland to find the bodies and diaries of the missing 3 men. He and his partner ended up wintering over 2 years in a row and barely made it out alive themselves! It was a great book! Like any polar narrative, it is filled with near survivals, dying dogs, hunger and fatigue, and weather reports.




During this expedition, they did all kinds of scientific studies and collected many specimens.




The Danish artist Achton Friis was also along and did many wonderful landscape paintings, drawings, portraits of each of the men, and watercolors. This photograph is part of the Arctic Institute's photographic collection. They also have the actual painting of the ship that he is making!