Though science might take front and centre stage quite often in Svalbard, art certainly plays some interesting roles up here. There are long-standing artists residency programmes (for both Longyearbyen and Ny Alesund) and expedition trips (like The Arctic Circle or Cape Farewell) specifically for artists and art-science collaborations, which have attracted many to these shores, searching for meaning, inspiration, difference, peace, ways to communicate climate change...other things I'm sure. I've found inspiration and ideas from talking with some of them myself. Now art has been ramped up a step in Longyearbyen...
Since I just received a weather warning for Aberystwyth, (looks like it's storms and hide tide time again, brace yourselves those at home!) this post I wrote earlier seems all the more apt. After Monday's wet and mild weather things have been getting steadily colder and we've had a bit of snow fall, it all got much nicer to get about on. Given I was pretty worried about how my sun-loving self would cope in the cold, I thought I'd reflect a bit on the temperature and light conditions...
For once, I'm not talking about environmental regulations, though I very well could be, given the multitude of boundaries lurking on the map, but not visible in the landscape, but that's another story... No, today I stepped over a fear and re-arranged my own values in doing so. To most people it would look like an ordinary tourist trip out on a snow scooter though, and in some ways it was...
I never thought I'd say that kind of phrase! After the -23 clear skies of Saturday, the blizzard and white out yesterday. Today, we have a new challenge: standing upright and going in the direction intended. It's warmer here than in Oslo at +3 degrees, and raining. This has turned almost all the roads and flat surfaces into a giant potential ice rink. Again, most tours are off, but for very different reasons. Amazing how much can change so quickly round here! Walking about (and driving too) is really a struggle, I'm quite surprised I managed to stay upright all day (ok there was a moment of bum-shuffling to reach some deliciously crunchy snow and get up an incline avoiding the ice). Hooray for these little gizmo's. So, with the challenge of standing up without camera in hand, there are no landscapes and light pics to woo you with today. Though today was the first offical return of the light and the sky, between showers, was looking brighter.
Today's forecast was good and the clouds lifted, revealing just how light it gets around midday now. So, given it looks to be a pretty stormy day tomorrow I thought I would make the most of the still conditions, don some ski trousers, get toasty and go for a proper round-town trek.
One of the interesting things I came accross was this little hut. Made in August last year by artist Solveig Egeland (with help from volunteers) from waste gathered on the annual svalbard coast clean up. It has caused quite some controversy in town, given it received money from the Environment Protection Fund and the enticement to volunteers to get involved was to win a trip to Venice (!). Originally, it was due to be taken down again, but I'm really glad people stepped up at the last minute to take responsibility for maintaining it. This might be candidate for the best symbolic image of the PhD yet - so many questions of what is valuable, how it should be valued, what should be protected and how, who gets to decide and how to engage people in environmental issues are enmeshed in this amazing hut. Plus it embodies the Flowering Elbow ethos - making cool stuff with would-be waste!
Well, when I left last summer, I wrote that I didn't know if I would be coming back to Svalbard, I really didn't. It seems that the conviction and numbers of people that told me to come back in winter/spring, combined with some diligent budgeting (and understanding funders) and my own curiosity has led me back and I find myself here again at 78N, and at the end of a cold snap...