Malla – Mountain in the North

As part of the ArsBioarctica Residency at the Helsinki University Biological Station in Kilpisjärvi, organised by the bio art society, I am writing some working notes on their blog, here. In the following I summarize only some of my experiences, briefly.
When I prepared for this visit I planned to create a video work documenting a day and a night, in the same manner as I have done on Harakka Island, in connection with the series “Animal Years” (see days and nights). While arriving here in the afternoon April 2, I realized I might have to revise my plans due to the amount of snow. I could not move freely in deep snow and would have to find a place near the house. I learned to use snowshoes and even tried skiing yesterday, but nevertheless opted for an easier solution. Why stay up all night when everything interesting happens at daytime? Documenting a day and night would be more fascinating when the sun stays up all night in the summer.
There is plenty of light already, however; the days are long. Today, for instance, the sun rose 25 minutes past 6 in the morning and sets 5 minutes to 9 in the evening. Most of the interesting changes that take place are caused by the weather, which can change in an instant, like on the Atlantic coast, where the clouds roll in and bring rain every other moment. We are only 50 kilometers from the Arctic Ocean, on the Norwegian side, and that makes the weather unpredictable. The altitude is less than 500 meters in the valley, although they call this the only mountain village in Finland, since the surrounding mountains, the fells, are high. Saana is officially 1029 meters and Malla Fell, in the North, is 942m or 738m; there are two of them. The geographical coordinates of this place, the village of Kilpisjärvi, are 20.4 degrees East and 69 degrees North. That is rather far up north, really. The amount of snow is exceptional this year, they say, at the moment 150 centimeters.
My first attempt was to video Malla Fell across the frozen lake towards north, from a spot on the shore, every two hours. I tried that on Thursday 3 April from 2 pm onwards and the changes were fascinating, so I decided to make a full day, from 8 am to 8 pm the following day, on the 4th. That day, however, the weather was more constant, and more bad, too. Grey skies, snowfall, bad visibility. The small changes in the landscape were nevertheless interesting and I made an image every two hours from the same spot, leaving my tripod by the shore in order to maintain the same framing easier. During the last session the snowfall was so heavy that I missed the framing, somewhat. In any case I have now one hour, that is, one tape (I still record on DV tapes, because of my old camera, and because I like to archive them) of material and will probably edit it into a five or ten minute piece.
Although Malla Fell is the protagonist, I am figuring as a tiny dot on the ice as well. The first time I walked out on the ice it seemed like walking very far, so I stopped and stood there, leaving my footprints in the snow, to find the same place during next session again. Later ski tracks and the tracks of snow mobiles crossed here an there around the place, and I realised it was very close to the shore. By that time I could no longer change the spot, of course, but returned to my first footprints in the snow. As it turned out I had placed myself fairly centrally in the image, almost too centrally for the composition. So in the last image, where I again returned to the same spot, but where I had missed the framing slightly, my position thus moving further to the right in the image was actually more interesting, although clearly “wrong” compared to the rest of the series.
There is still time to make some more attempts, and if the weather becomes clearer I would like to try to find a spot further up on the slope, with a slightly different view of the area, and make a series from there. But how could I find another action to accompany the landscape, instead of standing still in it with my scarf? Sitting in the snow? Lying in the snow? Walking into the landscape and slowly disappearing in the snow? I can only try…
As it turned out I made a new attempt very near the place of the first attempt, starting 7 am in the morning and finishing 9 pm in the evening, videoing the material for something I now call “A Day with Malla”. When it is edited, I will add a link here.