The majority of contemporary art production comes from urban centres where the density of funding and institution is the highest. This also makes for a perception of what is not city as "other" and only rarely does experiences and knowledge produced and rooted in a countryside find its way into the artistic discussions. Sørfinnset skole/ the nord land is unique in this respect. It is situated in Sørfinnset a town with 80 inhabitants in the municipality of Gildeskål, Norway. It is a former school that has now become the base for a whole range of activities and exchange between local and international art and culture.
Sørfinnset skole / the nord land is an ongoing project started in 2003 by the artists; Søssa Jørgensen & Geir Tore Holm (N), Rirkrit Tiravanija and Kamin Lertchaiprasert (Th) as a part of the public arts program Art in Nordland. It is a parallel to "the land" in Thailand: An artist driven ecological rice farm, school and selforganized commune established by Kamin Lertchaiprasert og Rirkrit Tiravanija in 1998.
The Art in Nordland program is supporting the project with no end date. This makes sense because as Søssa and Geir state: "Changes happen slowly in nature and in social and cultural processes alike, which is why we have involved ourselves in a long term relation to this place"
The school and its related plot of land is situated close to the water and just above the Arctic Circle, meaning days without nights in summer and the reversed in winter. Traditionally this was a farming and fishing community. Also being this far north you find influences of Sami culture; a nomadic people traditionally living of reindeer, travelling across borders between northern Norway, Sweden and Finland.
These conditions, and the fact that Geir has Sami roots have lead Søssa and Geir to work with Sami culture. In 2005 a course was made for building a "Goathi" (a Sami dwelling) with the master of Sami craft: Jon Ole Andersen and they have continued making projects on Sami history, building customs and food. The same year they started building the Thai house. The building was started in collaboration with 10 Thai students from the Land together with local craftsmen, people from the area and people coming to help from elsewhere. The construction has continued up until today and was just finished on the 3rd of August 2008 ready for use by international visitors and local wanderers.
The Sørfinnset skole / the nord land makes a strong case that hospitality and international exchange can be the foundation for another form of globalization actualized in a specific place and community. In this respect it is more than a project where everyday life and art is closely linked; it also points to how the specificity of the the land and local culture, in meeting with another kind of culture can transform places into a new kind of particularity; a place like no other.
For the Garage festival 09 Free Soil have conducted a site specific research project investigating the environment of the Baltic Sea.
We created an alternative archive of political and historical events that have occurred in the Baltic Sea region, especially Stralsund and linked these with the sea’s responses. The impact of Industrialisation, population growth and political changes has resulted in climatic and environmental changes recorded in the sea. Nature retaliates by creating new forms, one of the most significant being the spread and growth of toxic Blue Green Algae or “phytoplankton”
Images: wooden sewerage pipe from Stralsund. &
Portrait of William Lindley the designer of the first sewerage system in Stralsund, algae on paper.