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!
Alexia is informing about the project at the Unicorn Union infodesk at the ROOTS festival.
People of the community are getting more and more involved as we are at the last week of the project time. To make this project a statement of the village and create a physical meetingpoint we are arranging a party tonight at the Not Quite Café. Participants and others interested in the project era invitede to meet, see the pictures of the project, hear Alexia Mellor present her experience of Fengersfors and her ideas with the project. We are doing a creative group exercise about our common spaces in the village and have time to talk toghether about our ideas. There is already different ideas of how the collected information can be used. Some are also interested in continuing the work dedicating time to administrate the hompage etc. We want to create a meeting in a creative atmosphere and are curious about the outcome. – Let´s see what comes out of it!
This Saturday the new Unicorn Union booth was set up at ICA Fornanders, our local grocery store, to spread information about the project and to find new participants.
Aleixia Mellor and I Karl Hallberg as the project manager from Not Quite has been working with the implication of The Uncorn Union, for a couple of weeks now. We started off with identifying and listing different points of contact of the community. – Wich occations, spaces or connections would be suitable for getting participants of the Unicorn Union? We have been in contact with representatives of the different local associations and have found an interest from several of a future collaboration where we could make an artistic take on regular local activities, such as the estate auctions, or hot air ballon flying. To have a wider ppicture of the community Alexia has adressed the individual habitant of Fengersfors, using our initial contacts with the associations as the starting point of reaching people.
It is very intresting to experience how an unexpected question can create many possibilities. Alexia has with her question, describe a place that has a special meaning to you, and her genuine interest in the answer, given the opportunity to people to take time, chose carefully their spots and in the same time reflect on their current situation. Many of the participants have experienced their home in a renewed way.
The collection of stories is starting to tell us something about how people feel about Fengersfors and why they chose to live here. There has been many great meetings and the discussion is spreading in the community. There is many ideas of how this information can be used, that will be our next step in the process. We are now working on a collaboration with the choire for this.
Karl Hallberg – Not Quite Fengersfors
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.
“Alexia Mellor is an interdisciplinary artist using humor and performative strategies to investigate issues of security, displacement and identity in an increasingly corporatized world. A graduate of SUNY Geneseo and a recent MFA graduate from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Tufts University, Mellor transposes familiar gestures and objects that culturally define us into unfamiliar contexts to deconstruct social norms, consumer culture and notions of place.
She was recently featured in the Boston Globe as one of the six graduate students to watch and is co-founder of the WRMC Collaborative and ProjectSoya. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, and has most recently been included in the Woman as Photographer: Picturing Life as a Woman, Mpls Photo Center, Minneapolis, MN, Mash-ups, Lake Forest College, Illinois, New England Photography Biennial at the Danforth Museum of Art, and at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art. Mellor organized and chaired MIND THE GAP, a multi-media and multi-platform art initiative with a panel at ISEA2011 Istanbul at Sabanci University.”