During my stay in Naryan Mar and Krasnoye for the NIVA TO NENETS project, I had the possibility to travel to some Nenets on the tundra. This was only for a very short visit. I was flashed into a traditional reindeer herding livelihood, and absorbed every second with great joy and appreciation… resulting in hours of remembrance. The herders were friendly and welcoming. When I was notified that it was already time to travel back to the car, my whole body seemed to protest and wished to stay. But on the sledge pulled by reindeer all my muscles were filled with joy again!
I made much more photographs during this short visit. Some can be found in a Facebook album: http://tinyurl.com/c4fvuyg
A powerful artefact that illustrates the artistic approach of the NIVA TO NENETS project is a mock-up of the Lada Niva. This car made of wood and felt is used during the picnic-quizzes. People can sit behind it while pretending to drive the car. The Niva mock-up car has proved to be a strong artefact for the creation of interest, enthusiasm, imagination, joy and engagement. It has been the centerpiece in photo-shoots during which the temporary feeling of togetherness was strong.
I have presented the NIVA TO NENETS project at the Participatory Design Conference in Roskilde, during a picnic-quiz. In three questions I asked the motivated group of participants about their opinion and concerns related to some side-effects of bringing help to an indigenous people (specifically the Nenets, a semi-nomadic reindeer herding people in the northwest of the Russian Federation). The answers to the quiz-questions were connected to colourful picnic-blankets with matching picnic-snacks. A mock-up Lada Niva made from wood and felt stimulated the creative minds and the feeling of togetherness.
During a working period as artist in residence at Danish Art Workshops in Copenhagen, I discussed some aspects of my interactive roadmovie NIVA TO NENETS within the format of a picnic-quiz. I asked the participating people five questions, after which they positioned themselves on the picnic-blanket that resembled the answer of their choice. While matching snacks were served, some interesting discussions on paradoxical aspects of bringing help occured. It was a joyful and inspirational afternoon. This was my second time to give such a picnic-quiz and I am very happy with how it went!
The Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples Secreatariat wrote a nice article about this event: http://www.arcticpeoples.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=498:indigenous-day-tribute&Itemid=2
And so did Danish Art Workshops: http://svfk.dk/dk/Service/Nyheder/picnicdebat (only in Danish…)
Just as for any other roadmovie, the route is basically dictating the locations and moments of filming. Driving, being on the road and covering distances is usually more important than the final destination. Though the purpose of the journey, closely connected to the destination, gives direction and creates suspense.
The route for NIVA TO NENETS is explicitly through Scandinavia and not through Eastern Europe in order to create a closer connection to the participating Inuit via Denmark and Saami via Sweden and Finland. Several infrastructural locations give guaranty for visual attractive scenes, such as two beautiful bridges in Denmark (De Great Belt Bridge en de Oresund Bridge) and two picturesque ferries in the Åland archipelago. The crossing the Finnish-Russian border, where the Niva needs to be imported, will result in valuable images, just as the almost tangible difference in atmosphere as soon as the border is passed. The Russian part of the route will by far be the longest part of the journey, where the amount of distance per day is significantly lower. The last thousand kilometers are inaccessible without a four wheel driven car. This part of the route will be driven with two cars and experienced drivers with good knowledge of the road. At Ust’-Cilma both cars and passengers will be shipped to Naryan Mar over the Petsjora river. Naryan Mar is the capital of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug and counts around 20 thousand citizens. The city is only 110 kilometer south from the Barents Sea and is surrounded by tundra and taiga. On these stretched fields the Nenets herd their reindeer. Their nomadic livelihood makes it impossible to predict where in this region the route and the roadmovie will end exactly.