23 October 2023
I’m back in Sweden, 11 years on. Four days of planes, trains, buses, and 30 odd kilometres on foot to arrive at Björkö-Arholma skola, my home for the next two weeks. Ami is waiting on the roadside when my bus pulls in and we seal the moment with a selfie.
It is autumn and the red wooden houses stand out amid the yellowing birches and the green pines. My first walk starts out politely down the gravel road from the “short walk” path Ami had indicated. It is a bit of a rural street, homesteads here and there. A dog runs out from one of them to bark at me, but I stop and speak politely to it. It approaches and gives me a jump on the leg, still feigning power with a show of teeth. I keep my hand out of reach. As I continue walking the dog’s mistress calls out in Swedish. I turn to see if the dog is following but she gestures me off, thinking I thought she was telling me to ‘come here’ if that was what she was saying to the dog (turns out it wasn’t).
The gravel road ends soon after the dog and I turn back. Before reaching the path to the repurposed schoolhouse where I’m staying, I launch myself off into the forest. There are no tracks, but small hills of moss-covered granite offer vantage points here and there. I film a 360º of this cocoon of wilderness. So quiet, the dense vegetation creates a soundproofing. I continue ducking under branches, jumping across small creeks, perching atop rocky masses. Small birds play the leafless branches above me like a treble clef. A bus rounds the corner of the narrow road. I wave and the driver waves back. Brown bracken fern, red berry, tiny pine cone, bleached coral lichen. Triumphant young pine stands ready for Christmas dressing amid fallen branches and side-combed grasses. I press my hand into the soft moss, hook a finger through an iron hold set into the rock. I wonder why it’s there. What support required by what? A promise of cantilever. I return across the road to our schoolhouse. Locate my bedroom window from the outside then am stuck motionless trying to identify movements in a tree above me. Come across a variety of relics of human play—a large nest atop a tripod of birch branches; a makeshift bow hanging in a tree; a rusty chair in backward tilt; a curtain of drawings under a tree rotunda, a prayer in a hiding spot.
There was also secret behaviour.
Talking to the pine tree before touching its fronds; arms outstretched calling hello atop a rocky perch; watching James through the window getting on a bicycle.
24 October 2023
The big walk (3.5 hrs or around 10 kms) around the island with curators Anna Viola Hallberg and Ami Skånberg and artists James Cunningham, Gerhart Kowald, Jordan Rowe, and Heather/Hey There Kapplow.