Future Path (For Moss River)
My work in Moss focused on the river. The river was the reason for the establishment of the city and has fundamentally shaped it since then. It is the entity around which Moss continually unfolds, with its existence exposing possible pasts, presents and futures of the city. It exhibits historical layers, earlier and ongoing stories, and memories both vague and distinct. Through the work, I came to understand the complexity this river contains, its diversity from the biological to the historical.
In the near future, the north side of the river, an area previously owned by the Peterson paper factory, will be rapidly and radically transformed. The area east of the railroad has been bought by real estate developer Höegh Eiendom, and plans for transforming the area into a neighborhood of attractive apartments are now set.
The planned future has been received with ambivalence within the local community. A mix of optimism, skepticism and confusion has pervaded the reactions. Most contentious are the plans for the riverside. My work focused specifically on the development of this public space along the river as well as the future planned development of a public park on the peninsula west of the railroad.
The work resulted in three proposals addressing the potential for art as a protagonist in the transformation of post-industrial areas.
- Art as documentation of present conditions
The river’s edge will never be the same after the development. The documentation of present conditions has a variety of potential uses. It is needed as an essential tool for comparing previous conditions with future ones and as evidence of the past. Art can be documentation, through records and representations, which emphasizes qualities, encourages attention, and subsequently, thoughtfulness, during processes of transformation. In Moss, I took a series of 1500 photos documenting the northern riverside. This series is a representation of present conditions providing alternative ways of understanding them. As a future activity, I am proposing to film the river with a drone, thus creating another record of these circumstances that soon will never be experienced again.
Another form of documentation is the collection of objects. During the workshop, I collected a series of objects resembling stones, possibly so-called Plastiglomerates, which appear to be remnants of industrial processes but give the impression of being results of natural processes. These residues are memories representing the transformation from industrialization to post-industrialization and indications of the Anthropocene age.
- Art as representation of potential futures
One of the problems in relation to the proposed developments is the lack of clarity and abundance of confusion regarding the actual plans for the riverside. This is an issue related to communication between planners, developers, designers, and citizens. As a consequence of a variety of circumstances, precise updated information rarely reaches the citizens, and, consequently, an inclusive democratic situation is faltering. One of the issues is representation of future plans through digital visualizations when engaging in public communication. Art can represent potential futures through alternative strategies that encourage understanding through palpable experience rather than distant images. I had the opportunity to participate in a closed meeting between the local civil activist group Mossefossens Venner and the developer Höegh Eiendom when the latest plans for the riverside were presented. As I had generously been provided with the plans for the future site, I marked the planned future path in scale 1:1 along the river. I also marked the contested boundary between the public and private areas in the plans. Through this intervention, my intention was to make the future plans of the area visible, thus making it possible to experience and discuss them.
- Art as activation of public spaces
When authorities develop public spaces they are often conceived through planning future activity rather than performing activity in the present. It is the presence of people and their resulting relationships with their present surroundings that constitute public spaces, rather than simply the planned physical form of the places themselves. Activities generated by art can function as alternative planning strategies. I invited our guests to take a walk together on the future path along the river. In a certain sense, we became active participants in the creation of a potential path. We also experienced together what it might be like to walk on this path once it is constructed. This enabled us to have productive discussions regarding its potential qualities. I conceived of our walk as an opening of the public space. But not the only opening: rather one of many future openings.
Public spaces are continually unfolding processes. Inclusive public spaces are continually being opened. Art can be part of encouraging this understanding and thus emphasizing that we ourselves are part of the future park, the present public space.
Potential Park (For Csepel)
My work in Csepel was influenced by the experience in Moss on many levels. I would propose that the work partially related to each of the three proposals outlined above.
Along the main street in Csepel Művek, almost at its midpoint, there is a modest rectangular plot overgrown with grass, weeds and flowers. It emerges distinctly along this street because it is the only grass-covered area that somehow appears to have been intended as just that, a place for leisure in an area founded on work.
My artwork titled “Potential Park (For Csepel)” was a light intervention emphasizing and exposing this existing plot and its potentials. Ten flood lights on tripods were positioned around its circumference. As it grew dark, the plot became increasingly visible and slowly transformed into a bright glowing green field amidst the dark industrial surroundings. The light was programmed to gradually fade from full to very low intensity. Approaching the plot walking along the long main street, the audience would experience a pulsating intense glow in the distance. Experiencing the work from the outside brought attention to the existence of the plot, while at the same time calling attention to its surroundings, which were in turn emphasized by its unusual and distinct presence. Moving from outside to inside the plot, the audience experienced a complete shift in orientation as they were blinded by the light and thus optically enclosed within a bright field of grasses surrounded by darkness. Spending time within the plot, this experience would recur as the light cycled back on. In a certain sense, the audience would lose their sense of orientation and temporarily leave the expected experience of Csepel. This experience encouraged an awareness of the present, its qualities and limitations. The audience was invited to experience the existing conditions in a multitude of new ways and consequently to imagine its possible transformation. The work exposed potential futures through turning the present plot into a temporary public park.