Although I may have left Fengersfors, I am pleased to say the Unicorn Union lives on! Wednesday marked our first planting of a Unicorn Union post marking a special site. We chose Knarrbysjön lake as our first location because so many people selected it as their special spot, and because of its accessibility. This is the first of several spots to be marked over the coming weeks, so keep an eye out!
While taking Gaby’s photo today, we talked about the beauty of community in a small town where everyone knows your name. There’s something really comforting about that feeling of home.
The Unicorn Union is starting to paint a wonderful family portrait of Fengersfors! Check out Gaby’s post and all the others!
Recent comments from people who have graciously participated in the Unicorn Union project:
“I’ve really enjoyed participating in your project, a fantastic project, I think! Thank you for that!”
“I really love the idea! Simple in the context but with a “long” impact.”
Thank you to everyone who has joined the movement – there is still time for more members to get involved! 🙂
When considering what makes “community,” my thoughts go to the people who come in and out of a particular location and the impact they have on the place. This could be small, or quite significant. With this idea in mind, I have been interested in hearing the stories that are held in Fengersfors by the people who live and work here. In asking people to relate stories about particular places in the area I have hoped to gain a better perspective of what is important to the individuals telling me the story as well as perhaps paint a proverbial picture of the community itself.
I have been overwhelmed by how open and generous community members have been, sharing their time, their special locations, and their stories. I think there is something about me not being from here that has made it easier for me to engage with people across the board. On one level they are curious about me and what I am doing here, and on another there is the feeling that I don’t belong to any one “camp” and hold no biases – I am here as an observer, as a facilitator. It has been crucial to me that the Unicorn Union project be driven by the community itself. I am not here to impose a project on people, rather I see my job as a facilitator, offering people the opportunity to look at something they might take for granted: the little things and little places that are important in life but often overlooked. The project provides a reason and a structure for stopping for a moment to consider what makes us who we are, and what is it about the places we live that are important to us.
I think the success of the project lies in the fact that it is devised to allow the community itself to make it into what the people want. In meeting with people, I explain the goal: to collect the stories of the community, to map these special places, and to create a collective forum for the community to learn about their fellow neighbors. Through the process of meeting, talking and the journeys to visit the locations, a rather profound experience occurs. We start with talking about the place, but the conversation grows to include so much more: our fears, our hopes, our dreams. It is not only the person I am “interviewing” – I don’t really like that term, because it isn’t an interview, it’s more of a conversation – but I find myself also becoming vulnerable and sharing my own feelings and experiences of place that are similar to the stories they are sharing. The social practice aspect of the project makes it apparent to all involved of the power of art to serve as a catalyst for conversation, for understanding, for community building.
I look forward to seeing where it all leads and continuing to include people from all parts of the Fengersfors community!
It’s a rainy Sunday and I’m taking advantage of the weather to catch up on recording some great moments from the past week.
I met with several people this week to talk about places and experiences that have somehow marked them during their time in Fengersfors. Although I didn’t have any particular agenda or expectations about the places or the significance of the places people would select, I have been so surprised to see a common thread throughout all of the locations. Whether it is a particular view from a favorite chair in the kitchen, a doorstep, or a floor built upon the remains of an old workshop in the forest, all of the people I spoke with this week expressed the desire to find a place in which they could really be themselves; a place that allows us to connect to that central part of ourselves that so often gets ignored in the daily grind.
While talking with fellow Not Quite visiting artist, Elie Bauduin, we happened to hear some beautiful sounds of a flute coming from the installation upstairs in the factory building. We followed the music, and found Benkt Diehl, a photographer who had been to Not Quite to photograph remnants of the factory. He brought his flute into the Ulla Vioti installation and played in reaction to the artwork, and in collaboration with the acoustics of the space. It was really quite incredible and such a special moment to stumble upon!
Following these interviews and experiences with the Midsommar celebration was quite timely. There is something about a traditional celebration that offers us a moment to step back from our normal routines, to connect with friends, family, and new friends, and to consider what is important to us. It was so wonderful to celebrate my first Midsommar with the Fengersfors community! I assisted in decorating the stäng with flowers, joined in on the traditional dances, and had a wonderful meal with new friends. I guess I’m creating special locations, myself, in this project!
We have begun to set up the Unicorn Union website where the interviews will be stored. Check it out as we continue to add to the stories of the community.
“Everything you are, I was; everything I am, you will be” – Stig Clausson
Talking about what places mean to us, inevitably the conversation turns to other ways we mark experience. In a wonderful discussion of this with Johan Wijk at Not Quite, he mentioned the above quote from the author Stig Clausson, a sentiment I found really fitting and poetic. Taken from a conversation between an older man and a younger man, the quote reminds me of not only our shared experiences but the cycles of time and place that we all encounter.
This week marks the beginning of the first stage of the project collecting stories after having met with several people to explain the project. Already there are a variety of responses to the question of which places hold a sense of significance: from the first time climbing the heights of the hills to see the vista below, to an “A-ha! Moment” where the realization sinks in that you know exactly what it is you want to do. I have enjoyed participating in these reflections with people, and reflecting on and sharing significant times and places in my own life.
The weekend is the Midsummer celebration –I’m really excited to experience my first Scandinavian Midsummer! I’ll be heading down to the lake to take part in the town’s celebrations and meet more people. This community has been so warm and welcoming, and I look forward to meeting more residents!
Photos to come!
After arriving very late on Thursday night, I have spent a busy few days getting acquainted with Fengersfors and the community. Karl Hallberg, Tom Russotti and I met with members of the Not Quite community, students at the Steneby art school, and even attended the Sweden v. Ukraine UEFA game at the Fengersfors football club.
In an effort to better understand what forms and bridges communities, I am creating Unicorn Union: a participatory project that maps the collective and individual relationship to place. Meeting with members of the local community, we discuss their relationship to Fengersfors: what brought them here, what is special about particular places, what memories they have. Linking these personal experiences to the physical space, I will place markers in the locations identified. A QR code on the marker will point the viewer to the project website where the stories will be captured and shared, creating a virtual community that mirrors the physical one.
I am excited that the project is underway! The first phase involves introducing people to the project, leading to the second phase of working with individuals to identify special locations and record the stories behind those locations over the next few weeks.