Week 12: Choose Your Own Paradise

In the short time we’ve been away, Gothenburg has transformed into a lush, green oasis… every leaf unfurled, every blossom bloomed, the sun smiling down on everyone. “Swedish Summer” is right around the corner; it’s time to play and explore!

On Monday, we stroll the Botanical Garden and inhaled the scent of the season.

On Tuesday, we play with light and shadow. The simplest things are still the most magical.

On Wednesday, we work with students from Dômen Konstkola, Konstepidemin’s robust patch of stinging nettles, and a bit of purple cabbage leftover from Awakenings to create a collaborative Super 8 film bursting with alchemical energy.

On Thursday, (a holiday of obscure religious origin), we take a fantastic and fantastically inspiring journey to former woolen mill town and current quirky kooky steampunk paradise Uddebo (be sure to wear some feathers in your hat!) where we connect with instant soulmate sisters Linnéa and Linnéa whose radical textile work with Dreamfactory and other projects is an energized invitation to explore possible ways to survive and thrive in a post-industrial society.

On Friday, we use some ancient caffenol to process some Illy coffee can pinhole images… Oracularly mysterious!

On Saturday, it’s an epic cyanotype/photograms/photobooth of change/Super 8 workshop overflowing with terrific new friends of all ages (and the surprise appearance of SWS: Gothenburg 2016 participant Emely Hansson Cuadros!) in the cool courtyard our favourite community centre: Kulturhuset Bergsjön followed by a sumptuous, high-spirited sing-a-long Swedish Summer Supper with Magnus, Sofia, and the two newest (and most adorable) members of the You Are My Sunshine fan club.

And finally the sweetest Family Sunday in beautiful Bokenäs with Mama Kerstin, Sister Kristina, Dearest Maria and Grillmeister Linus… the warmest of welcomes, delicious traditional meals made with love and local ingredients (moose sausages!!!), walks through the countryside and down memory lane, two cool cats (one sociable, one shy), tours of the garden and the cutest little cabin, the first swim of the season, and lots of laughter. So grateful for this ever-expanding circle of love…

Week 11: May The Circle Be Unbroken

Part 2 of our Norrland adventure begins as we say so long to our beloved Moskosel and head up into the Arctic Circle. Jokkmokk is much more than a “simple and sturdy” set of table and chairs from Ikea, it’s a hub of Sami culture and commerce, where a winter market has been a vibrant meeting place for more than 400 years! At the Ájtte Museum, we are blown away by the amazing array of images, objects and stories that tell the story of Sápmi and Sámi culture; at the Sámi Duodji Sameslöjdstiftelsen, it’s clear that the elders and young artists alike are continuing craft traditions in ways that resonate deeply in the 21st century. If the soul of Jokkmokk pulses with the power, grace and resilience of the Sámi people, Kiruna is an unsettling glimpse at the realities of contemporary resource extraction. LKAB has mined so much iron in the area the entire city is sinking into the pit hollowed out below! But the mine also casts a long shadow above ground in this company town–seems like pretty much everyone here works for the mine, or used to work for the mine, or has a business that relates to the mine, or eats cake at the LKAB museum in the home of the founder of the mine–so all of Kiruna is slowly being moved 2 km away…

“Then there are the indigenous Sami people of Scandinavia, whose traditional lifestyle revolves around herding and hunting reindeer. The Sami have long protested against the building of new mines in their ancestral homeland. LKAB officials claim the relocation of Kiruna won’t affect the Sami because the new site was already a town dump, but the Sami themselves have a somewhat different take. “They just don’t need to give a fuck, so they don’t give a fuck,” a member of the Sami parliament told The Guardian.”

It’s a relief to flee to the fjords. Bibbi told us the Lofoten Archipelago is one of her favourite places on earth and we can see why… the magnificence of nature is almost overpowering in its stark and striking beauty. Combine this with the tantalizing (for JoJo) smell of millions of codfish drying in the wind and a sky that dims but never really darkens throughout the entire night and it’s absolutely unforgettable.

After a stormy ferry ride to the mainland, we make our way back to Sweden and hightail it Vilhelmina, a town Maria spoke about in such glowing terms, we knew we just had to visit. Classic cars and EPA-traktors cruising down the strip, hi-lo thrift store options, delicious soup at the old grey house, my new favourite singer and style icon Lapp-Lisa, and learning about Sámi art and culture from Doris at Risfjells Sameslöjd. An added bonus was discovering a family farm run by the intrepid Ida: lambs and their mamas gamboling around, cows enjoying the automatic backscratcher, a smiling sheep dog, fresh eggs in the donor-pay shop downstairs, and a whole array of amazing wallpaper… We loved it so much we stayed two days!

A night of camping in Mora (home of Santa Claus and the Dala Horse), where the teenagers quit partying at 11 pm on the dot but the birds scream all night long, and then back into Norway for Sunday in Oslo, lunching (brown cheese!) with our online poet pal Nuri (who’s been part of the Haiku You ever since she found us via Eventbrite, even though the 4 PM start time in LA means Nuri’s zooming in at 1 AM each month!) and hanging out at Cinemateket with our dear Elena Pardo and Dahlia Huerto Cano, and new friends including Greg Pope, programmer of The Dream That Kicks series that this evening is presenting Elena’s magnificent expanded cinema piece Pulsos Subterráneos.

From the program notes: “Using three 16mm projectors with live and recorded sound, Pardo investigates the history and contemporary struggles connected to the Zacatecas and Oaxaca mining areas in Mexico. Pardo’s work portrays a communities’ resistance to corporate mining and their defense of its life and culture. Pulsos Subterráneos seeks to understand the struggle to protect the territory through the stories told by its inhabitants and the experiences evoked by its landscapes.”

A perfect ending to our wondrous little road trip.

Besitos, darlings; we’re off to Gothenburg!

Week 10: We Live Meanings

A week of chock full of solidarity, creativity and possibility beginning with Göteborg’s May Day Parade when each faction of the the left wends their own route through the city with much banner-waving, call and response chanting (“Nu! Nu! Nu!”, uplifting marching band music mixedwith Clash-y punk anthems, and gifting of red roses. Thank you Cousins Jessika for welcoming us into the Vänsterpartiet for the day… Your dedication to the fight for justice, equality and the needs of working people is truly inspirational!

Next: Pack up the Volvo, it’s time to hit the road… to the North! North! North!

Pristine lakes and giant cheese slicers! Renewable energy fields and smoke-belching factories! Nature preserves and clear cuts! Cappuccino-serving cat-averse Ikeas! Big birds, gorgeous reindeer, foxy foxes and even a lone lady moose right next to roads where giant cargo trucks truck on by! Candy World and Microsoft! Aurora Borealis and Midnight Sun! It’s a land of extremes and contradictions but one thing’s for sure: the North is a place of warm welcomes and new friends who moments after meeting you are generously sharing their knowledge of all things art environment, their passion for community, and their cultural and literal homes.

Thank you dear Bibbi for introducing us to Åsa! Thank you dear Åsa for inviting us to Havremagasinet and Sámi artist Katarina Pirak Sikku’s powerful exhibition Dollet Almmiravdii – Bortåt Himlens Rand (Beyond The Edge of the Sky), for combining art and activism to upend oppressive forces against people and landscapes, and for connecting us to Northern Sustainable Futures. Thank you Linda, Gonçalo and your beautiful extended family of kids, cousins, neighbors, students, visiting artists and kittens for opening the doors of your rambling old schoolhouse that’s also an eclectic, electric castle of infinite wonder where the planets align, the manifestos run wild, the sound of laughter echoes down long halls, the kids commandeer the hot tub, the twilight dinner parties run until 1 in the morning, and art is everything.

The blue sky is your spirit; your heart has many rooms.