Grey Day in Rekdal


On thursday 20 July 2017 it is high tide (190 m) at 10.30 am in Rekdal, a village on the northern coast of Vestvågoy on Lofoten. I am planning to record the view on the shore together with a small birch every hour during this day, starting with high tide at 10.30 am (190 cm) and continuing through low tide at 4.50 pm (48 cm) to the next high tide at 11.10 pm. (198 m), hoping for shifting weather, that is, some bursts of sun shine amidst the grey clouds, and it looks hopeful. There have been sunny moments this morning already. Changes in light conditions make it worthwhile; the shifts of the tide are not that visible since the sea is not very shallow in the spot I have chosen. I am eager to get out, but there is one more hour to go before the first image. A close-up of the birch to begin with:
 

 
10 am (or a few minutes before) – grey, grey, grey. Wind from the north, no sun any longer, half an hour before high tide, the top of the rock near the shore is still visible above water. No traffic on the road, but far away the sound of a motor boat heading out; I can see it as a small dot. Approximately three minutes with the tree is enough, I assume. There is already a path across the meadow formed by my repeated comings and goings between the camera and the tree. For a moment I think I should try to walk outside the frame to keep the grass intact in the image, but decide to let it be. Before I go to stand with the birch I take a few still images of it. And then, afterwards, I only turn the camera and the microphone off and leave them standing on the tripod out there on the shore. Hopefully they will not attract the interest of seagulls or other birds.
 

 
11 am, the same view, the same sea, the same sky, the same tree and the same grass. It is past high tide but I cannot see the difference. Perhaps the mountains on the horizon are a little bluer, but I could be imagining. The camera will register the nuances, though. Some seagulls pass by, and a caravan drives past behind me on the road, otherwise nothing is happening during my moment with the birch. Even the wind seems to have calmed somewhat. A long day ahead, monotonous, but pleasant as long as it does not rain…
 
Noon, the sun is shimmering through the clouds in the south, enough to create a shadow in the grass when I walk to the shore, enough to brighten the green on the grass and to strengthen the blue shade of the grey sea. The tide should be going out now, but I cannot see it in the bay with the tiny birch; on the other side of the cliffs the beach is more shallow and the seaweeds are now showing up above the water. I wish for more sun, for the warmth it gives and for the contours it creates in the landscape. The wind from the north is not strong but chilly; it is hard to imagine that there is nothing but the arctic sea in that direction; next stop Svalbard.
 
1 pm, grey again. The pale sun hides behind the clouds that seem to have grown thicker again. The tide is slowly going out. A small white boat is coming across the bay, stopping behind the cliffs to the left, perhaps the neighbours were out on a tour. I am no longer expecting surprises, this seems to be a grey day throughout, only minute changes in the quality of light. No directions, no shadows, no stripes of sun moving across the mountains. Subtle shifts rather than dramatic effects. And I did choose a very generic piece of shore with no high cliffs or steep slopes in view, nor any of the features that make the landscape in this area so exciting. And now I cannot change my mind any longer.
 
2 pm, the weather as before, the wind a soft breeze now, the tide going gout, slowly. The sun shines through the clouds, not enough to give shadow, but enough to brighten the colours. The meadow is very still, so quiet that I could hear somebody closing a car door on the road behind me. I would like to make some close-ups of the rocks here, they have strange curved shapes, formed by the sea. But I have left my camera standing on the tripod in order to get the images as alike as possible. With these subtle changes it is even more important that the framing stays constant. Here in the north it would have been fascinating, and easy, to record a full day and night, because the site is so close to the house, and there is light all night, too. For some reason I was tied to the idea of the tide and of making a companion piece to The Tide in Kan Tiang, which was only one day, and not even all the way to sunset actually. The Tide in Rekdal does not sound as good as a name, but this little valley and village is called Rekdal, so I should stick to that. Because the tide is hardly distinguishable in the images, I could of course rename the work to Grey Day in Rekdal, for instance.
 
3 pm, a pale sun shimmering from behind the clouds, warming my neck as I stand with the birch on the shore. The cliffs in the bay are lit by the sun for a moment, but they are outside the frame of the image. The tide is rather low now, revealing the pebbles and the seaweed on the shore, but the camera cannot see them, because of the high grass. The day is moving fast now, it is already afternoon, but the evening will be long due to the light. At some point the sun will hide behind the mountain but will hopefully be visible again when it slides closer to the horizon in the north. These are the last days of the midnight sun here, they say.
 
4 pm, the wind is increasing again, the pale sun has moved towards west as expected, the tide is even lower now. For the camera the shore looks the same. Funny that I chose a spot where the tide is the least visible. Although I can see the shoreline change where I stand by the birch, the camera cannot. Absurd to speak of the tide in Rekdal, when no tide whatsoever can be distinguished in the image. A slice of blue sky, however, has opened amidst the clouds, like a brushstroke of colour across the sky. And some white foam appears in the bay, where some underwater rocks are closer to the surface at low tide and cause the waves to break there. Basically this image I am repeating is so unspectacular that I wonder how I can relate to it or write to it, with it, for it… Or then I will not. There is no need for all recordings to become works.
 
5 pm, the tide is turning; there is more blue in the sky and the sea is thus more blue as well. Seagulls are screaming, the waves have foam when they reach the shore. In the image the sky looks divided in two parts, a grey part and a blue part. In the unframed world around me, there are all kinds of clouds moving around. The mountains on the other side of the bay are decorated by their shadows. The zipper of my crimson sweater is not working well, not yet broken, but problematic. So far I have chosen to struggle with it until I could close it before entering the image. In the worst-case scenario, I might have to leave it open or close it around me by my left hand. So there might be some action after all…
 

 
6 pm, partly cloudy, sun on the mountains on the other side of the bay. Now the wind is cold, the tide is coming in, but the water is still low. The rocks covered in seaweed look like lumps of old wet rags abandoned on the beach. Repeating the same image every hour gives very small shifts between the images, and also very little time to do something else between the sessions. Walking down to the shore and back up into the house takes some time, as does writing these quick notes after each image. When I look out the window I see a dozen or more of images worthy of repeating. But it was my choice to find a small tree alone on the shore, as a reminder or repetition of the one on the beach in Kan Tiang. Todays images have nearly nothing in common with that work, but the idea of creating a companion piece got me going. If I had more time I would probably transform this to something else, find another place and try to recognise what is the special thing to record in this landscape…
 
7 pm, cold wind, evening approaching. It is full day light at this hour up in the north, but the feeling of evening is here nevertheless. The mountains on the other side of the bay look bright and seem very near, but the meadow on the shore is in the shadow of the mountain behind me. I have managed to edit some other video works between my visits to the shore. Moving between the images on the screen in front of me and the images I can see through the window, both fascinating in their own way, makes for a strange duality. The work I am editing is called Cami de Cavalls and recorded two years ago on Menorca, while walking on a dusty path in the heat of the Mediterranean Summer, a world as distant from this one as it can be. I wonder where I will be editing this cold cool minimalist view – the image I am creating is rather different from the rest of the surroundings, which are spectacular and aw-inspiring.
 
8 pm, cold and windy. This time I had to do the session twice because the memory card was full and the first session was thus too short. I also realized the battery might be finished soon, so for the last two sessions I had better carry a battery with me. I would prefer not to change the battery now, however, because removing the camera from the tripod involves of risk of disturbing the image. It would very likely mean a slight shift in the framing, and that would be silly now, at the end of the sequence. Wondering whether the sun will come out on the other side of the mountain before I am finished; it might do so only around midnight, and I have decided to finish at ten. If the tide would be visible I could go on until high tide at 11 pm as planned, but as it is, that is rather pointless. Some sunlight to finish this video would not hurt, however.
 
9 pm, windy as before. The sun will probably appear from behind the mountain later tonight, but so far the meadow is in shadow and it is getting rather cold. Luckily we are having a picnic by the boathouse with the remaining artists and one of the neighbours, a barbecue of whale meat (!), controversial but delicious. I was sitting and chatting away with a glass of red wine when I realised that it was time to take the next to last image and hurried to the camera. I cleared away the material from yesterday from the memory card and hoped that the battery would last. And it did.
 
10 pm, the last image. The tide is fairly high now, covering most of the rocks and coming further in still. It is cold despite the light and I decide not to make an extra image at 11 pm hoping for the sun. At the moment of writing this it is eleven o’clock, and there are blue clouds all over the sky in the northwest and the north, so no direct view of the sun. Good that I did not wait; enough for now. I am eager to see what the images actually look like when taken together. Here is the last one:
 

 
While the surroundings looked like this: