Artistic
Research
Sørøya

Location

70°35′N 22°44′E

Sørøya - Troms & Finnmark, Norway 

811 km2

History

Hasvik mothballed the rather long history of the city, which keeps the architectural features of different generations of residents between its stones. There is an assumption that traces of Stone Age settlements are still kept inside the soil layers. The municipality keeps this history in its commune archives as one of the scripts of the DNA of its land. Through their borders, one can find some imprints in the landscape, in the form of indentations in the ground, or rather the remains of ancient settlements - preserving the memory of the dynamics of Hasvik as a city, whose architecture is an integral part of the stone landscape. Water level changes also reveal previously hidden layers. The lines of the hidden cities change from century to century, and events from the outside return the inhabitant of the houses to the form of existence inside the stone, inside the soil. Like this knowledge of the place, this memory allows us to rethink the memory of the city, a city that in a sense is a living archive of a stone metropolis. Where the inhabitants are constantly moving from level to level of places that are hidden inside the stone by thousands of years of human history.

 

Second World War

In the winter during the Second World War, for three months at different periods, the inhabitants of the Sørøya island, who refused to evacuate, hid in the caves of their region. While the Germans were burning their land.

Touch

The first touch with the place occurred in the winter of 2022 when Nina and Nataliia started fieldwork on the DUNKE-DUNK project (hulelære - working name 2020). Taking into account the brutal weather conditions on the island during the winter months, the artists decided to start their exploration with the 3 caves that are as accessible as possible during winter: Kvithellhula, Sandfjordhula, Lillemolvika. In January, the artists went to the island of Sørøya, Hasvik municipality to immerse themself into one of the caves - Kvithellhula, where 35 people hid during the winter of 1944/45, a place that became home to the inhabitants of Sørøya. Having left the surface of the earth, the inhabitants found themselves in the very depths of it. Among the stones, under meters of snow - the breaths touched the rhythms around.

January. When you are meeting the place, you come into delicate contact with culture and history as closely as possible. But we were and remain absolute foreign bodies for this landscape. Archival texts and historical memories contributed to some kind of complex, slightly remote view of the caves, we also knew that Kvithellhula is one of the grottoes that the Germans also knew about. It is located really close to the road and to Hasvik. Also, Kvithellhula is clearly visible from the sea. We had a certain idea about the line of the landscape, about the interior of the cave as such. The image was quite integral before that first meeting with the local wind, with the sea. 

There was no mention of the wind in the texts, and it is necessary to listen and observe its power constantly. If you are outside not inside, maybe this is the reason why it was silent texts about wind.

The wind on Hasvik determines your everyday life, determines your movement, and your position as such. The wind is able to lock the body into a very confined space, deprive it of visibility, creating a dense blind-white veil around you, hiding the landscape in the depth of its power. 

The wind can make your body sick. 

One day, the wind blocked access to the island, at the very time when our bodies were on this island. We were motionless, unable to see, unable to move. Sound has become our guide to the very depths of the Sørøya soil. Touch has become our eye, through delicate steps, touching the locality. The gaps between the slate surfaces, air, and snow created a certain audio-visual complexity of the landscape layers. Layers that are intertwined through time, history, and locality. The layers we were in-between. 

Sea. Once inside Kvithellhula, we found ourselves visiting the sea. The ebb and flow do not become the main focus of memories from 1944/45, which once again brought back to us a sense of foreignness. The inhabitants of Sørøya know the habits of the place, listen to the body, through the body, grow up with the place. The sea, according to memories, gave an eternal sound, a little later artists returned to this eternal sound (evinnelige lyden), through linguistic immersion in 'sounding texts'. The eternal sound brought the inhabitants back to a religious sound, something that transcends sound as matter. It went beyond the body, beyond the sound.

The sea turned out to be the strongest resistance for us on the one hand, and on the other, the sea lulled us. That sense was creating a special cradle inside the cave. Our own cradle is deep inside the soil. 

The first graphic casts that were taken during our field research were destroyed by the wind, resistance was meaningless.

Listening and obeying opened up the possibility for us to immerse ourselves through our own bodies, creating that very echo inside the landscape. An echo that resonates across distances. Memories were intertwined with physical experience, an experience that allowed just being. Our material is stored in our touches, our narrative resonates through every step, our traces remain in the locality, gently erasing them from the surface. We coexist with the island, listening to the soil, we become temporary residents of the place that is inside. 

February. Choosing isolation, they found themselves under many layers of soil, choosing to stay in the silence of their land. Half of the population of Sørøya found their precarious positions in a region outside of which life was in a blind spot. Being inside, isolated completely from the home, which is no longer left. In a certain way, through a subtle rapprochement with a place familiar to the body, which is remembered by its outlines, touches, and sounds - this opened up the ability to feel this layered soil as the only thing that remains familiar to the body, the eye, the ear. The architecture of the soil becomes the interior for the body, the body that finds a position inside. We kept looking for our body position in this place. We kept touching. 

The visual side of the environment in a certain way forms a significant resistance in the body. Leading to the fact that it is almost impossible to liberate oneself of the strongest visual image. Being a foreign body, you seem to accept, absorb the environment through the prism of external nature, while the body rejects the beauty around you. At the same time, there is a certain (re)acceptance that makes it impossible to continue the path to the cave. Gradually, the resistance subsides in the depths of the body and passes into a blind background, becoming one of the layers of one's own skin. The body begs to turn to the surrounding sound, begs to seek some kind of immaterial reality.

The instrument for ambient sound becomes your own body. Reflecting this sound, forming a distance between the sound streams that circulate in the environment, the sound freezes inside the body, the sound goes to the very depth of the soil with which we come into contact again and again. The soil keeps all those sound vibrations, just as we keep all those sounds of the voices of the inhabitants that become our own, inseparable from the landscape - overlapping in time. The sound forms an infinite interval that materializes through the layering of the soil and us in it. 

Turning to sound recording tools, we manage to bring the cave closer, as it seems to us at the beginning. Only after walking many steps further and finding ourselves in this sound trap, do we seem to be repelled by this sound from the place. The pleading tormenting sound broke the link between presence and history.

In-Between. 52 days since the body is in the incubation period. The latent period has firmly consolidated its positions and is firmly coalesced with the incubation period. The resistance that occurs in this vacuum space is in tune with what the body feels, which cannot find its position in this gap.

A time that still resembles this rhythmic cutoff in the day, at the moment when the day lost its boundaries. These rhythms of resistance build a place that is firmly fixed in the body, where the body increasingly feels the loss of its outline. The space around is so isolated that any external vibration does not reflect the sound inside, does not allow the body to remember what it could remember outside the place where the resistance is the environment. Time which should not be - a sound that is not born. 

The war of the past has turned into a war of the present.

April. The surface of the soil we touch becomes flatter.

The correspondence is in a soft rhythm, and the body gradually dissolves in our walking. The environment ceases to be occupied, and the space in which we found ourselves opens up several paths that seem to lead to a place in which there is a nook for a long stop. A concave in which the body finds silence and stillness. A nook that is stored in the very depths of the corridor of layered stones. Through many levels of these stones, we slowly sink into a place that is so easy to go through. The place is inside the bend of those very layered rhythmic stones. 

The softness of this place falsely creates a sense of calmness. Envelops the body and invites to itself. Duality arises at the moment of touch when you are inside the cave, it repels and does not allow you to find a nook for the body, does not invite or keep you inside. Openness destroys that sacredness, the body does not find silence within. The softness of this place falsely creates a sense of tranquility and enswathes the body through rejection. 

When we returned and then again returned, we unconsciously adapted the place for us, the very place that did not invite us. Having returned again, we consciously erased everything that is so familiar to the person whose interior is the house. The logic of perception opened to us the nuances of what we resisted so much when we came into touch with the caves.

We changed our bodily behavior in the cave, we stopped going there as we usually go into our homes, we stopped perceiving the place as an interior, and we began to accept the place as a recess in the landscape.

That very unfamiliar rationalism opened the way for us to return to ourselves as a subject, alien to this place as same as to ourselves. Leaving a place for touch for its own awareness.

The soil is our nook, the one that is kept in that very corridor of layered stones. Did inhabitants of Sørøya remember that they were residents of the interiors of houses, did they remember that the architecture of the soil keeps the interior of the body in its layers? Have they become hostages of duality? Are we becoming hostages of dichotomy?

The war holds us inside in this duality, in which the outlines around did not allow consciousness to return back. Was there a way of releasing this duality, was there touch with these layered stones, beyond those layers? Did we find a position between them? Through the darkness, immersed to that distant touch to the place, to get to the very place where the sounds were dulled, and the body motionlessly resisted. Move-in stillness, resist, and keep looking for touch. The body is wary of any immersion inside since bodily touch with the interior of the cave becomes a deep bodily touch with the oppressive darkness of consciousness. Blurred darkness forms a place dangerous for the body, while acoustics whispers that you can keep moving. But if a place is filled with a body, how can you leave that place without a body?

Sørøya er...

An Indian name somewhere imaginary born in New Zealand, the island in the very north includes the southern direction in its name. The only thing that remains obvious is that this is an island, perhaps in the south. The borderline of unconsciousness where the fictional and the entity come across allows you to escape to some extent from the most terrible events of mundanity, from those events that the land of the island of Sørøya keeps inside itself. It was important for us to hear the echoes of that very knowledge, that voice that, after a distance of seventy years or more, through many kilometers from the north of the country to the south, translocated us to some tableau narrative of a place that is born from the mouth of everyone we meet. We spent May in Oslo carefully listening to everyone we met who tried to guess what the name of the Sørøya island says - the land of which became our shelter during the winter of 2022 when the war came, while in 1945 the island cradled its inhabitants through the war, giving the opportunity to be in that hidden architecture inside itself. The narrative that is being born now around the island captures its dynamics and lack of linearity, the archives with which we worked directly in the place have passed into a form of oral folklore, where information circulates from the body to body, and a rhythm is born inside itself that creates an image of a place that is no longer hidden, a place that forms new layers around itself, where, under the mass of voices, the pace inside is comforted. The form of oral literature is fluid, it envelops the sound that is born in the direct performative form of transferring one line of narration to another. The listener's body seems to waltz between the spaces of figurative and structural superstructures of words.

Moving somewhere between, between those places that precede our imagination, places where factual and fictional premises meet.

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