2022_Internal Seminar: Sonic Visions of the Arctic / Norwegian and American Landscape Photography


In this seminar WONA research group members Åsa Stjerna presented their research projects Sonic Visions of the Arctic (Stjerna) and Across the West and Toward the North: Norwegian and American Landscape Photography (Marthe Fjellestad).

Sonic Visions of the Arctic is a transdisciplinary study that investigates the “agency of the sonic” by establishing alternative perceptions of the Arctic as a site and public space of great global significance. Methodologically, the study seeks to apply a transversal approach, understanding spatial production as involving complex, inter-relational, affective processes. By investigating  the  current and  potential  role of the acoustic underwater technologies —hydrophone as well as sonar technology — currently used in scientific research on the Arctic, as well as by exploring the complex artistic processes of transformation that take place when the scientific data extracted by these technologies is transformed in an artistic context, the overall aim is to advance explorative approaches, methods, and conceptual tools that contribute to a more complex understanding of the processes at work. To do this, the proposed project intends to both map existing sonic worlds and to develop new sonic experiences, elucidating the complex processes involved in taking sound’s unused potential into consideration. Sonic Visions of the Arctic thus addresses a topic that remains largely unexplored within artistic research in general, and site-specific sonic practice specifically.

Across the West and Toward the North: Norwegian and American Landscape Photography is an exhibition and accompanying scholarly publication. It comprises a total of 120 nineteenth century photographs depicting two nations’ landscapes at a pivotal time of history when vast geographical areas were first explored, mapped and documented by camera. Each nation’s lands had previously been home to indigenous populations, whose presence is visible mostly, but not solely, as absences in the photographs. Across the West considers the development of infrastructure, tourism, land development etc, drawing parallels and exploring similarities in two distinct nations’ iconography and questioning the construction of national identity and of man’s changing relationship to landscape – in the nineteenth century, but also in relation to today’s changing climate and global interdependency. The presentation was a preview of a talk to be given at the Across the West and Toward the North: Norwegian and American Landscape Photography symposium at Brígham Young University, Utah, March 25th 2022 (the annual Loftur Bjarnason Lecture 2022).

Åsa Helena Stjerna is a Swedish artist, using sound and listening as her artistic modes of exploration. Through her site-specific installations, she explores sound’s potential, making the embedded conditions and underlying narratives connected to a spatial situation perceivable. Through perceptually driven, transdisciplinary and often advanced technological approaches, her works create connections between the past and the present, the local and the global, and the human and the more-than-human. By this she seeks to reframe the act of listening, evoking a sensibility of places as complex ecologies. She is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Gothenburg, Sweden. As part of this project, she is visiting researcher at the WONA research group.

Marthe Tolnes Fjellestad is curator at Perspektivet Museum, Tromsø. She is co-author of Starman-Sophus Tromholt Photographs 1882-1883, and coeditor of Library and Information Studies for Arctic Social Sciences and Humanities. Previously she worked as academic librarian at the University of Bergen Library and served as the Academic Director of its Picture Collection, Department of Special Collections.