the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth

It’s been a while since my last post on Oymyakon, but the town is not forgotten! And just this week the Smithsonian & Amos Chapple gave us some wonderful images from Siberia.


Gas station and Christmas tree (Amos Chapple)

Cars must be run continuously when making a trip to Oymyakon (if they stop you wont get them going again because of the low temperature), and so 24/7 gas stations are essential to winter transportation. Workers on the gas stations work two weeks on and two weeks off.

Such a strange and magical world we live in …!

perfectly useful concentration

What one seems to want in art, in experiencing it, is the same thing that is necessary for its creation, a self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration.

 – Elizabeth Bishop, letter to Anne Stevenson, Jan. 1964

In the same boat: It’s very interesting to see how Bishop, in this short and powerful statement, parallels experiencing & creating art i.e. the perceiver & the artist; we are both looking for the same thing – a self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration.

Self-forgetful concentration is precisely what happens in the artistic process–an absorption in the moment, a pouring of the self into the now. We are, as Dickinson says, ‘without the date, like Consciousness or Immortality.’ That is what artistic work and child’s play have in common; both, at their fullest, are experiences of being lost in the present, entirely occupied.

Mark Doty, The Art of Description, 2010

Maybe it’s possible to – instead of Doty’s “the artistic process” – describe the self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration as the aesthetic moment, a place where artwork and receiver fuse.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude  Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-76

Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-76

The next step could be – and here I’m bringing Damasio into the party – to evolve out of the fuse = become selves (again); to separate emotion from feeling. For neuroscience, emotions are more or less the complex reactions the body has to certain stimuli, say for example art. This emotional reaction occurs automatically and unconsciously. This is what happens in what I termed the aesthetic moment.  Feelings occur after (according to Damasio feelings occurs after emotions) we become aware in our brain of such physical changes; only then do we experience the feeling of pleasure, fear, joy etc.

Mind begins at the level of feeling. It’s when you have a feeling that you begin to have a mind and a self.

In short: Art is about loosing and creating self …

back home

This weekend I will finish my final 2014 art-review. The last six months have been a great work-experience. I have seen a lot of exhibitions, both in Norway and abroad. I have written & been published. And I have, for the first time, received competent & thorough editorial feedback along the way (the value of good editors should not be under-estimated!).

Last spring I was not sure if to continue writing on art or not, now I feel so very inspired & eager to continue. But I also know it is wise take small breaks every now and then – to catch up on my reading, and work on my personal writing.

Silent studies is the plan for the weeks to come (crossing fingers that I won’t be devoured by x-mass), sitting down, not to rest, but to work …


Ai Weiwei, Marble Couch (2011), Lisson Gallery © sh

Apropos sitting: Ai’s white marble furnitures, modeled after leather couches, are probably the most hilariously ugly & funniest works of art I’ve seen so far this year. How anyone can choose to sculpture these monstrous middle-class furnitures in marble is a mystery. Somehow it feels very up-lifting & liberating.

At the end of the day, writing has very little to do with writing, and much to do with life

I first became aware of the work of Sarah Ruhl, award winning playwright, in a great post by Deborah Barlow. Barlow’s text made it clear that Ruhl was someone I would need to read. 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write is a book for writers & artists, for feminists, for women, for parents and for those dreaming of becoming one, a book for all once having had to struggle with a rather messy life (- & who hasn’t?!) A book about art and life, or art and reality – if you prefer, and how they essentially are one and the same thing.

She ends her first essay with the following lines:

I found that life intruding on writing was, in fact, life. And that, tempting as it may be for a writer who is also a parent, one must not think of life as an intrusion. At the end of the day, writing has very little to do with writing, and much to do with life. And life, by definition, is not an intrusion.


Sarah Ruhl

How can a woman writer, a mother of three children and embroiled in the domesticity that comes with them, be expected to believe that her condition of life, far from marginalizing her, is in fact bringing her closer to ultimate forms of knowledge?

Art and Motherhood is a favorite theme of mine. My curiosity, I suppose, stems partly from a personal question; how do other women mange to combine being a mother & being an artist? But my interest also have to do with artistic form and content; does being a mother affect ones work as an artist? i.e.: which themes are chosen and which forms are preferred. But also; does becoming mother change ones view of the world.

Ruhl’s statement: At the end of the day, writing has very little to do with writing, and much to do with life – brings food for thought.