OLAVSVERN NAVAL BASE, TROMSØ
The Wind Failed to Follow the Predictions 2015
“We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison”
- T. S. Eliot. The Waste Land (i)
The wind failed to follow the predictions is a site-specific installation I made for the group exhibition Nothing will grow together because nothing belongs together. It took place at Olavsvern, a decommissioned NATO naval base located outside the city of Tromsø in Northern Norway. 14 Russian and Norway based artists participated in the project, living on the premises and exchanging ideas for a period of one month.
Olavsvern was built in 1967, at the height of the Cold War, and was in full service until 2009. The construction is massive: 25.000 square meters of tunnels, halls for storing ammunition, workshops, a control center and a submarine dock. The facilities were once classified as top secret and could even stand nuclear blasts. Its doors opened to the public for the first time when this exhibition was inaugurated on September 5th 2015.
WITH SUPPORT FROM: Olavsvern Group AS, KORO, The Norwegian Arts Council, Sparebank1 Nordnorge Cultural Business Development Foundation, Fritt Ord, Barentskult and The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Overview slideshow - click images or thumbnails to enlarge
(more details and photos below)
Freedom vs control
The Cold War provides a general curatorial backdrop for the exhibition; the utopian/dystopian concepts of freedom and control serve as framework: the curators assert that “freedom and control are not antithetical, nor is their relationship as simple as two definitions, which can easily be deconstructed and shown as independent linguistic structures" (2).
The title of the exhibition hypothesizes a dystopian future (or present), reversing the famous quote uttered in 1989 by former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Willy Brandt as the Berlin Wall came down: “Now what belongs together will grow together.” (3)
The title of my project, The Wind Failed to Follow the Predictions was borrowed from a statement delivered by AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss' to the press on March 31 1954, in response to criticism regarding the March 1rst detonation of the 'Bravo' hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll, and the following fall-out contamination of the Japanese fishing vessel Fortunate Dragon ('Fukuryo Maru') (4).
We are never entirely in control of our creative or destructive actions. Consequentially, one person's attempt at 'freedom' might become another's prison.
The Wind Failed to Follow The Predictions is an odyssey in three 'acts', consisting of numerous cross-referencing elements, enough scrambled to allow the audience a dash of cognitive freedom.
All three spaces used - Hall 13, Hall 27, Hall 32 / 'blast trap' - communicate with each-other as if magic powers and secret portals could transverse, transgress and transcend the un-penetrable, atomic-proof walls of this vast military structure. Located at considerable distances from each other, the three halls were chosen for their distinctive qualities (spacial and numerological), and also to represent the concept of 'triangulation'.
«In trigonometry and geometry, triangulation is the process of determining the location of a point by measuring angles to it from known points at either end of a fixed baseline.The point can then be fixed as the third point of a triangle with one known side and two known angles». This is a technique used in navigation or i.e enemy localization. The notion of triangulation is also used in psychology («a situation in which one family member will not communicate directly with another family member, but will communicate with a third family member»), social sciences («indicate that two (or more) methods are used in a study in order to check the results») (ref).
The equilateral triangle, pointing upward, is a (phallic) symbol of potential, masculinity and power. Pointing downward, it can symbolize the grounded, the female, fertility, earth - Mother Earth. Some esoteric traditions postulate that the 'female' and 'masculine' energies must be in balance for the world to function healthily; when united, these two symbols form the six-pointed star, the hexagram. Presupposing the law of conservation of energy in physics, stating that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant, it can be transferred symbolically to illustrate how, if one energy dominates the other, one triangle becomes flat and defensive whilst the other becomes pointy and aggressive, like an aerodynamic weapon such as a spear or an arrowhead, sucking the life force from the other.
Power is such an entrancing tool; it can be used to do 'good', or to do 'evil'. The lines between the two opposites aren't necessary clear: sometimes good intensions yield bad results and other times bad intensions yield good results, as illustrated in Saruman the white's transformation from the wise wizard to the power-corrupted sorcerer in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, to which the half-Elven Lord Elrond of Rivendell comments: “It is perilous to study too deeply the arts of the enemy, for good or for ill.” (6)
In the video Triangulation, filmed on-site, a female character (played by myself), dressed in black and yellow rubber washing gloves pushes a trolley along the lines of a sharp isoceles triangle. Her footprints are recorded on the layer of mold which has accumulated over the years on the floor of the former torpedo storage hall. This erratic ritual finally charges her with enough power to break free of the form. She seemlingly vanishes through the wall, then reappears, in an endless loop.
The futurist and author of the novel 2001: A Space Odysee (1968), Arthur C. Clarke, once said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" (ref).
In the video montage Nystagmic Eye, found footage of the rapid eye movement of a patient with vertigo (a symptom called 'Nystagmus') is placed inside the confounds of a triangle. The archetypical symbol of an eye within a triangle is a masonic symbol often referred to as the Eye of Providence, symbolizing that the all-seeing eye of the Great Architect of the Universe - often referred to as “God” - is ever present, ever-observing. [Whether God created man in his own image or man created God in his own image can be disputed of course. “What if God has really bad taste?” asked my friend Rasmus. "What if humans have really bad taste?" I asked back. "Is God in show business too?", inquires Zardoz. Whatever the answer to any of those questions, let me quote my childhood hero, Carl Sagan: “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.» (ref)]
Digital video. Loop XX'XX''.
Labyrinthitis (2015). Animation and audio loop. xx'xx''.
Untitled (Revolution) (2015). Printed copy of site map on paper, permanent marker on overhead plastic sheet print, printed symbol (chaosphere) on archive card, mounted on found metal object.
Hall 32: Installation view
In the 'Blast Trap' (a caved-out cave within the cave whose function is to trap the shock wave of an explosion), stands a Dino 100 lift. It is dimly illuminated with a video projection showing found footage from the US navy aviation training from the 1960s, on Gyroscopic Instruments used in aviation (and submarine navigation) in order to determine the spacial orientation of the vessels, because the human sensory apparatus cannot always detect the truth of a situation all by itself. Screw you, puny humans!
«An archaic definition of disorientation literally meant “difficulty in facing the east.” (...) Disorientation, or vertigo, is actually a state of temporary spatial confusion resulting from misleading information sent to the brain by various sensory organs. The body’s elaborate navigational system was superbly designed for locomotion on the ground at a normal gait, but in an aircraft, during sudden acceleration or radial fight, it can trick you. The most difficult adjustment that you must make as you acquire flying skill is a willingness to believe that, under certain conditions, your senses can be wrong. When you are seated on an unstable moving platform at altitude (and your vision is cut of from the earth, horizon, or other fixed reference) and you are exposed to certain angular accelerations or centrifugal forces (which you cannot distinguish from gravity forces), you are susceptible to innumerable confusing, disorienting experiences. (...) Inside the airplane, if you are unable to see the ground and establish visual reference you are just seconds away from the famous graveyard spiral» (ref)
“Initiation ceremonies most frequently took place in a cave as symbolic of the underworld and the sepulchre where death took place prior to rebirth and illumination. As a place of initiation it was also a secret place, the entrance to which was hidden from the profane by a labyrinth or dangerous passage, often guarded by some monster or supernatural person, and entry could only be gained by overcoming the opposing force. Entering the cave is also re-entry into the womb of Mother Earth. Passing through the cave represents a change of state, also achieved by overcoming dangerous powers.” (ref)
The labyrinth is one of the most fundamental symbols of the human condition (The Genesis and ... Conty: Preface VII). While a labyrinth only has one path into the center and out again, a maze consists of multiple passages, crossroads and dead ends, just like the winding ways of life in its various forms and bodies, the trajectories of human history and existence. The maze ultimately represents man's attempt at adapting and understanding himself in relation to his puzzling surroundings.
Olavsvern naval base can, with some benevolence, be explored as a labyrinthine symbol of the collective human memory and psyche of the post-World War II era specifically, or in a long-term perspective as an archetypical manifestation of our species' complex attack and defense mechanisms, fight or flight responses, etc. "Its function would always be a reflection of those who keep it, the sum total of the exercise of freedom and control of the men and women behind its walls" (ref) in response to the potential threats from the outside, real or imagined.
In the video animation Labyrinthitis, red colour discharges from the innermost point on the map of the Olavsvern structure where Hall 32 and the so-called 'blast trap' are located, out through the corridors and halls, finally flowing out of the architectural body through its openings and into its surroundings.
Details from Hall 32:
Nystagmic Eye (2015). Video montage. xx'xx
Details from Hall 32 / Blast Trap:
Untitled (Graveyard Spiral) (2015)
Dino 100 construction lift, UV lights mounted in ceiling light fittings, projection of a found U.S Navy aviation training video
footage: 'Gyroscopic Instruments' (1960) (shown without sound).
The trouble with you is you want a simple answer
“Art being a thing of the mind, it follows that any scientific study of art will be psychology. It may be other things as well, but psychology it will always be”
- Max J. Friedländer, Von Kunst und Kennerschaft.
The prison of the mind
The Wind Failed to Follow the Predictions,
Compilation of filmed fragments
'BLAST TRAP' / HALL 32
Do Androids dream of electric...fish?
«An android,» he said, «doesn't care what happens to another android. That's one of the indications we look for.»
- Phillip K. Dick. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (ref)
By now there should ne no doubt about the science-fictious nature of this exhibition. The original loudspeaker system has been hacked by fellow-artist Ørjan Amundsen, and an automated recording reads out quotations from Terminator to Star Trek, re-appropriated in his poetic piece "Hidden message in Doom II". The voice hypnotizes the audience from the moment they step ashore, and is heard throughout the walk. Occasionally it merges with the sounds and references of my own installations, and my own work is necessarily read in this context (as it has been created for the context), cyclical
MULTI-MEDIA INSTALLATION MADE FOR FOR THE GROUP EXHIBITION: Nothing will grow together because nothing belongs together
DURATION: 05.09.15 - 13.09.15
LOCATION: Olavsvern Naval Base, Tromsø, Norway.
CURATED BY: KURANT / Camilla Fagerli and Maria Danielsen in collaboration with Ekaterina Golubina and Natalya Smolyanskaya
PARTICIPATING ARTISTS: Kirsten Astrup, Ørjan Amundsen, Ilmira Bolotyan, Tanya Busse, Dima Filippov , Ekaterina Golubina, Henrik Plenge Jacobsen, Alexander Lysov, Per Martinsen, Ellen Ringstad, Anne Schefer, Emilija Skarnulyte, Ekaterina Vasilyeva, Hanna Zubkova
ARTICLES AND REVIEWS:
The word 'Labyrinthitis' refers to a problem of the inner ear which can result in vertigo and also possible hearing loss or ringing in the ear. The sound track is a morse-coded repetition of the words 'esoteric warfare'.
. ... --- - . .-. .. -.-. / .-- .- .-. ..-. .- .-. .
The video resets when the auditive file and the visual file (which have different durations) are synchronized. It is shown on a television in Hall 32, which has been installed to stage a symbolical “mind control center” (the actual control center of the naval base can be found elsewhere on the premises), and is placed in the same location as the simulated source of the red secretion on the map.
Opposite the screen hangs Untitled (Revolution), an analogue hand-painted plastic sheet - the one that was used for creating the animation - overlaying a copy of the original map, mounted on a metal object found on-site, with a printed symbol attached to an archive card: the symbol of chaos, the Chaosphere.
Other office supplies (tables, chairs, whiteboard with markers, calendar set to September 6th 20XX, poster flip display, garbage bin with shredded paper, two flip over boards with painted triangles in black) and various on-site materials of known (metal tubes, plastic plant, aluminium signs, pallet, shelves, pyrotechnical leftovers in plastic cans, bullet casings, torn-off black and white picture of a deep-sea diver) and unknown function, reinforce the feeling of control, planning, secrecy. The reddish lighting and a worn out fluorescent light tube that flickers occasionally, furnishes the room with a dense atmosphere.
On a metal object found on-site, stands a series of 33 unique prints from a video sequence filmed at White Sands National Park in New Mexico - the site of the first nuclear detonation 'Trinity', which took place on July 16th 1945; the surface of the prints has been physically scratched off and the character depicted is no longer identifiable. Out of 33, only seven of these prints remain in my care, as the visitors of the exhibition stole the rest. This further eradicates the work-in-progress (meant to eventually become an animation), and extends it (without my consent, beyond my own intensions. Two more prints were later voluntarily dontated.)
Scans of the scratched prints, numbered as frame 223 and 235 of the now obsolete animation, documented before they were stolen from site.
Details from Hall 32