December 2009

Freedom to Roam II: Hunting and Uranium

Lofoten Islands, Norway. Photo: Anton van Genugten
Lofoten Islands, Norway. Photo: Anton van Genugten
Lofoten Islands, Norway. Photo: Anton van Genugten

After finishing the installation of Freedom to Roam, I had an interesting conversation with Susie Osler, owner of the FieldWork site land. This was right around hunting time in the area, and Susie did not want any hunters passing through her property. It felt a little bit funny to be installing a piece about the freedom to roam and at the same time use a land owner’s right to deny trespassing. The whole situation made me think about what kind of “use” of land that feels just to me, and what not. If I had owned land I would definitely not want any hunting to be done there either, simply because I don’t hunt myself and don’t want to risk my life walking around in the woods....

After some feed back from people living on, or close to Old Brooke Road, I became aware of a local land related conflict of a kind that I, strangely enough, hadn’t even considered when the idea for this piece came up. It’s a conflict about power and control, about brave and persistent individuals fighting against authorities and big businesses to prevent exploitation of land. In this local case it’s about a uranium mining threat close by, but on a global basis this is of course a huge deal.

In Norway, for example, the area of Lofoten on the northern coast holds the last unexploited oil field in the country. The awareness of oil peak seems to not have been very high in Norway up until recently, but as it’s considered that their current oil fields will be empty in only ten years from now many people are waking up from their state of “petromania” and are now facing the decision of either opening up for oil drilling in the Lofoten archipelago to keep the national economy on the same high level it has been on since the seventies, or to let this wild and beautiful area remain untouched.

For more information about Lofoten, you can visit

For more information about the Swedish Allemansrätt:

I would like to say thank you- so much- to every one who has given me feedback on this project. I am so happy that it seems like the piece has really been able to be trigger some thoughts.  More comments are very welcome.

Winter coming, adding contrast

freedom to roam, fence and snow
Freedom to Roam, first winter pictures

Susie took these pictures last week during and after a snow storm / fall. Nice to see how the changing surroundings affect the piece. I will be taking a small Christms break but will be back with more posts and new text after New Year's. Happy holidays to you all!

What do we see when we see?

freedom to roam- henny kjellbergs winter fieldwork installation

Over the past month I have heard a variety of responses to the winter installation at fieldwork that make me recognize some of the ways people see or don't see.  Questions directed to me have ranged from 'Is the fence protecting something that we can't see?', to 'Where is the art?', to 'We were wondering if you are getting ready to raise elk'.  I usually smile and suggest that they look closer at the fence, think about what they are seeing and read the interpretive sign for some context.  It is surprising, and I guess, not so surprising, how many people don't seem to read the signs (even though they are placed right by the road) - though I realize it is a matter of timing (whether the publlic is willing or able, at that moment, to get out of their car or not), and of the degree of interest or curiosity they feel....

One of the interesting points about this installation is that, as I noted in an earlier blog, at first, it is not so obvious that there is something different or unusual in the field.  There is nothing that looks like what might be commonly identified as 'art'.  There apparently is a fence.  But look a bit closer!  The fence does not surround anything.  It is oversized (except for maybe a fence for deer or elk).  The strands woud be ineffective for keeping anything out or in.  The barbs look like barbs from a distance but has anyone ever seen barbs that big on a fence?  Moreover, on closer inspection, they are made of clay.  Hummmm.

How do we see?  How do our brains interpret something familiar?  It seems like our brains are programmed to try to find patterns of the 'recognizable'.   How different does something need to be before it is noticeably different from the 'standard', or becomes itself something unto its own?

Context clearly has great deal to do with interpretation.  If this fence were erected in front of an office tower, it would immediately be viewed as an art (intervention) work - no?  Due to the rural context within which Henny's fence is located, a fence is normal, if not expected.  Perhaps if the fence had been erected in the center of the field and in a form other than straight line, it may have become interpreted more as 'art'.  Again, choices on the artist's part are made to manipulate the viewer's attention in subtle or not-so-subtle ways.  How much responsibllity for stimulating interpretation should an artist feel?  How much should be expected from the viewer?       -susie

Further notes on hunting

Further to the discussion on earlier posts about hunting (see posts titled 'hunting vs freedom to roam' and 'stewardship and some more words on hunting'), I came across an excellent article/interview by Jeremy Lloyd in December issue of  The Sun (a great magazine).  It's called The Good Hunter.  Here's the link  It is particularly useful at distinguishing the different approaches to hunting, and describing the practise of what hunting should be vs. what the norm is.

winter in all its glory!

fieldwork - henny linn kjellberg's 'freedom to roam' ceramic installation
fieldwork - henny linn kjellberg's 'freedom to roam' ceramic installation
fieldwork - henny linn kjellberg's 'freedom to roam' ceramic installation

The field (and fence) had a taste of this winter's first freezing rain a couple of days ago.  The effects of freezing rain are two creates a shimmering wonderland of ice encased lines that delights and dazzles the eyes....but it can also be damaging to the plant life out there, causing branches and trunks to bend and snap under the weight. 
I was interested in the ice formations that were created on the fence and how, in the noon sun and warm temperatures yesterday, the fence was slowly shedding its sheath.