Friday, March 19, 2010

Cool Emotion

The most haunting part about life in Ummannaq is  that everything changes here and yet nothing changes. Everything moves, yet  everything stays in place. As you move, everything moves too: the Sun, the dogs, the icy road, and your final destination.

You do not have to travel far to be reminded that everything  is provisional, including your thoroughly planned objectives, thoughtfully chosen destinations, calculated exits, and well…even life itself. Yet, at every single step here in Uummannaq we are being reminded  again and again that the  cessation of movement means death.

All things come and go, and only the movement stays.

I think about this as I walk up the hill to Ann Andreasen and Ole Jorgen Hammeken’s home from where a new whorl of my life miraculously unwinds every single morning. Even though the walk is quite short, the magic of Uummannaq obliges you to focus on the journey and not the destination.

Nothing has changed here from yesterday, yet everything is new. Wrapped in scarves and wearing the oversized seal gloves, I feel like an astronaut on the dark side of the Moon, watching  my own breath as it enters  and  leaves my body, while dogs, icebergs and occasional snowflakes are floating by.

On this road I learn to notice the smallest things, the nearest things and to love them as they change.

Yesterday, this very flat sapphire iceberg was a living incarnation of the white loneliness. Today it turned into a hot spot, overcrowded and rainbow colored due to the efforts of Cool(E)Motion that installed  here this afternoon two humongous sculptures that are seen from afar. The change of the landscape is so dramatic that the entire population of Uummannaq is out to the shore or at least to their windows to watch the happening first hand.

If you have not heard of Cool(E)Motion you should look at their work at  These strange people –  the Dutch artist  Ap Verheggen and his international team –  proudly call themselves Cool(E)Motion, but after meeting them in person, living with them side by side in Uummannaq and sharing   not only a life of cold, but also the one of intimacy and true comradeship,  I have to admit that they are indeed quite cool. 

Their project is about climate change, yet unlike many others they choose to not blame anyone or anything, instead they just observe and  make notes. There is a lot of coolness into that. Their main motto is “The sculptures will travel through the arctic, leaving a trail online”.

The big  and quite revolutionary change they made today to Uummmanaq’s landscape is impermanent and everyone knows it. Otherwise, Cool(E)Motion would  have never reached the shores of Uummannaq  and would not have received the warm welcome and support from such people like Ole Jorgen Hammeken and Ann Andreasen who are the true and ardent guards of  Uummannaq’s  identity.

Everyone here knows that no matter how beautiful, sophisticated and inspiring, the sculptures will die leaving nothing behind. Or better say, almost nothing.

Made out of pure iron, they will disintegrate together with the iceberg they are currently planted on and eventually become the food for plankton, fish and other inhabitants of Uummannaq waters.

The Coo(lE)Motion artwork can be viewed ‘live’ via webcam until the iceberg melts and the sculpture is buried into the sea. This might be a lengthy funeral and the journey may end as far as on the east coast of the American continent.

Other than being talented and very artistic, Ap and his friends are  truly smart  to not talk about  the “art for eternity”. They clearly understand the impoverishment of materialism and the beauty of impermanence. In other words, they are pragmatic idealists, the part of that very special crowd that is being attracted to the shores Uummannaq from year to year.

On the side of Uummannaq Music, everything changes daily too.  Ulla and nine other musicians of the Ummannaq Children’s Home orchestra performed yesterday on the main city stage at prime time. Joel Spiegelman conducted.  More than 200 people attended. For Uummannaq, this is a huge gathering! When Joel was playing his Angel of  Uummannaq  – little children surrounded him and  touched him all over. They were literally trying to “touch the music” with their hands. And they did. Needless to say, for Joel Spiegelman it  was his own Cool Emotion moment that he will never forget.

No matter how you look, these two events – Uummannaq Music and Cool(E)Motion  are very much interrelated. Both, like good internists, come up with a diagnosis that may sound very unpleasant , even  ugly, yet both also say: nothing is ever lost; hope dies last.
Both are trying to suggest a hope. Both understand that the main thing for any  artist arriving to Uummanaq is this one:  do not harm. Entering Uummannaq is  like entering the Temple. Be silent.  Be respective. Behave. Share. Learn. And, as Ann never ceases to    remind, clean after yourself. 

1 comment:

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