To be here as the first Artist-in-Residence (AiR) in May/June 2019 was an enormous pleasure. But the real privilege came from working with local school children from two of the fjord’s schools. One week in June, over the course of three days, kids from Gratangsbotn Skole and Montessori Skole Morgan visited the site, some cycling with tents to camp overnight, and all forging their bond with this very special place.
Some had been here before of course; for others it was their first time. I overheard one young girl (whose family had fled war in Sudan) telling a teacher that it was one of the most enjoyable days of her life.
The children piled in to Captain’s Cabin for workshops in which we talked about Morgans Skip, this wooden structure, the ecosystem surrounding it (including us human inhabitants of course) as an interdependent, organic whole. We talked about Örnemark’s philosophy of his recycled wood sculptures as living things with a beginning, middle and end. Then we compared what we saw before us with Sydney Opera House, a sculptural masterpiece by organic architect Jørn Utzon and one holding very special meaning for me: I’d worked there for 25 years. The kids found much in common with their present location when we thought through the details of how both related to their environments and brought people together.
Together we brainstormed a wild idea: “what would Morgans Skip say if it could speak?” The ideas that came out of this exercise of pure imagination amazed me and form the collaborative basis of a short vertical video made during my residency.
Children who wanted to create a site-specific artwork of their own then went outside to the site — we were blessed with stunning arctic spring weather — and found their inspiration. Rock sculptures appeared on the shore. Models using natural materials were fashioned to imagine for example how the ship might be relocated into the water if one day it risks falling down. Some drew impressions of how the site might look in the future; others proposed artistic interventions in the structure itself (hammocks, ropes, a mobile of glass water droplets; even a wheelhouse-come-sauna).
I feel that Örnemark would have welcomed these ideas in his own organic philosophies: ecologies of communities building on, influencing and adapting (to) each other in life and death. A kind of Creative Commons of planet Earth.
Excitingly, the committees of volunteers whose countless hours of work keep Morgans Skip ‘afloat’ (so to speak) have agreed that two of these ideas, Morgan's Mor and Future Bird's Nest should be proposed as semi-permanent addition if logistical considerations can be overcome. I’m sure you’ll be reading more about them if & when they go up, on these pages.
I would like to thank the Gratangen Kommune for covering the initial costs of the AiR program, and the locals with whom so many pleasurable interactions have taken place, especially during the little cafés I've been running here. And a very special thanks to Astrid Høgmo, without whose passion, inspiration and tireless work over the last 11 years none of this could have happened!
To everyone who has welcomed me here so warmly, I am deeply grateful.
It’s been a transformative experience.
1st Morgans Skip Artist-in-Residence, May/June 2019