World Heritage Scholarship, Hälsingland, Sweden
Drawing Certainty from the Spring of Doubt is a site-responsive installation by Imke Rust created for the World Heritage Scholarship 2021 in Hälsingland, Sweden.
Inspired by the World Heritage sites of the decorated farmhouses of Hälsingland and Twyfelfontein (/Ui-//Aes or /Ui-//Ais) in Namibia, a derelict hut has been transformed into a mythical world where the essences of both places correspond to and with each other.
While both sites are unique and separated by vast distance and time, they both bear witness to the global human need to creatively express and modify our surroundings to create the illusion of alternative realities.
The farmers of Hälsingland painted the walls of their festivities houses to create a sense of the unattainable luxury of marble, fine silk wallpaper and teak wood. Many years before that, the creators of the rock-engravings at Twyfelfontein depicted stories of attaining animalistic-magic powers during trance and ritual dance, on the rock faces around an (unreliable) spring in Namibia.
The creative interventions have charged the space with several layers of meaning, giving the viewer a mixed sense of recognition and mystery. Found materials are interwoven with images of Namibian fauna and Swedish flora, creating new narratives and reflecting on the creative spirit through time and space.
From the outside the inconspicuous hut appears abandoned and derelict, but once you enter, it has been transformed into a world of its own. The hut has two rooms. For my installation, I have called the first room ‘The Shaman’s Hall’. It is a colourfully decorated space, the wooden walls have been covered with hand-painted ‘wall-paper’ – designed from elements of Twyfelfontein (mostly fauna) and the Hälsingland farmhouses (mostly flora). The design is stencilled on found telephone book pages from 1966.
The centre-piece is a wooden children’s chair, suspended in the middle of the room above a white circle painted on the floor. It is an allusion to the belief that the Twyfelfontein shamans could float above the ground during their ritual dances. On the chair is another circle, this time made of tiny stones with engraved African figures.
Another dominant feature is the old, oversized, metal water tap found in the room, which creates a direct link to the spring/fountain of Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes, as it was originally known.
Following are some impressions of the Shaman’s Hall (first room).
The Shaman’s Hall
The second room is called the Bride’s Chamber. The Hälsingland festivities houses were mainly used for weddings and usually had a special bride’s chamber. This room was covered in old, white wallpaper, torn at places to reveal older layers of wallpaper with blue flower design and old newspaper.
In this room I have ‘married’ found natural and man-made materials into objects, which each tell their own story about correspondence between objects, places and people. There is also a white self-portrait printed on the raw wooden wall, seemingly looking between the layers of time and space.
The Bride’s Chamber
Söderhamn’s Lessons in Correspondence*
*Correspondence is an open-ended, dialogical process of unfolding and becoming. An in-between-ness. (Tim Ingold)
**This booklet was created during my World Heritage Scholarship 2021 in Sweden.**
„Region Gävleborg awards the Residence Scholarship for the World Heritage site Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland to a person who has an idea related to the UNESCO World Heritage List and is interested in connecting the World Heritage site Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland with other sites.“
The artistic question of how to connect two historical significant sites, which are divided by distance, time and culture, led me to the writings about correspondence by renowned anthropologist Tim Ingold. A connection can best be established through intensive correspondence of all parts – an in-between-ness, as suggested by Ingold.
During my residency at Erik-Anders in Hälsingland I researched and explored the decorated farmhouses of Hälsingland’s connection and correspondence with Namibia’s first World Heritage site of ancient petroglyphs ‘Twyfelfontein’ or ‘/Ui-//aes’.
As one can imagine, creating a correspondence between a site of Namibian petroglyphs dating back almost 5000 years and the decorated Swedish farmhouses from the 19th century in the year 2021 has its challenges. Especially since I have no distinct personal or cultural connection to either of the sites.
I am a Namibian by birth, but my ancestors emigrated from Germany to Namibia as early as 1874. I have been to Twyfelfontein as a child and young adult, but have few notable memories of it. Even as a Namibian I am just as much an outsider to the culture and history in which the engravings were created.
In the process I noted that this is in fact a three-way dialogical process, as I (the artist) am a distinct third element. Not only am I a translator, mediator and documenter between the two sites, but only my involvement with them calls this correspondence into life. I am an integral and important part of this connection.
My personal correspondence with the two sites and their connection to each other, started an unfolding and becoming within me, and within the process of creating. I also became acutely aware of the sites’ current, contemporary state, in addition and opposition to their ancient, historical significance and world heritage status.
Through an intentional state of deep listening and awareness to the unfolding and becoming, as a result of my involvement and presence at Erik-Anders, I entered a special inner dialog with the place and situation. This process was intensified through initial challenges in communications, due to language and cultural differences and Internet connection problems amongst others. As the outer communication to people was frustrated, the inner dialog with the space became clearer.
The booklet represents a short summary of some of the main lessons or essences I took away from this correspondence. They might seem simple and almost esoteric in nature, but each was a loud and clear lesson in a pretty practical way. They each contain multifaceted stories and elaborations, which I could have fleshed out into individual chapters, but for now decided against it.
The lessons serve as a reminder and documentation of my correspondence with the place, the time and the project.
The cover of the book has been cut from a piece of wallpaper found in the hut, which houses my installation. Like weathered skin, it speaks of a worn and used life, of tenderness, beauty, fragility, mould and stains… contained in between its covers.
I chose to write these lessons in crimson red watercolour onto pages of an old telephone book from the region. I selected specific pages from names and phone numbers from Söderhamn – the area in which I was staying. The 1966 book was found on site in a vacated shed. These choices underline my idea of corresponding with the here and now, but also with the history and ancestors from the area.