Litten Nystrøm www.littennystrom.com
In her proposal for the artist’s residency at Fort Dunree, Litten Nystrøm writes of a temporal landscape and that term has proven to be exceptionally rich and complex. As a term temporal landscape captures features of time created by human-imposed systems such as the ‘working day’, the ‘weekend’, domestic time or work time, private time or public time. Temporal landscape captures how we encounter and describe more abstract notions of time such as the cyclical time of the return of the seasons and day/night or the linear time of past/present/future. Within the term temporal landscape there is the argument that time is intrinsically spatial, while space is intrinsically temporal.This complexity is visible at Fort Dunree where one sense of time is encountered in the enduring landscape, its natural history as a sea-cliff hilltop peninsula – the “Fort of the Heather” as it original Irish name ’Dun Fraoigh’ states; and a further sense of time is encountered within the dereliction of an abandoned military barracks and decommissioned weapons onsite.
Litten Nystrøm's residency proposal also speaks of exploring how Fort Dunree as a site is remembered and experienced through mind and body and how the senses and memory defines and re-creates a place over and over again. That conjoining for the artist of time, repetition and the body is important here. The mind and body onsite at Fort Dunree engages with the notion of cyclical time made apparent in the natural history of the landscape such as the sun rising daily, the tides, the seasons, and this repetition of the same again after time has passed through its certain cardinal points. An experience of being within these environs would engage with some over arching sense of order or time or system of time in the recognition of such repetitions and the encounter with the passing of moments cyclically.
The notion of time’s arrow, of entropy, is also apparent at Fort Dunree. The ruins and the remnants onsite, the abandoned military barracks and the decommissioned weapons, function as signs of a now redundant past and a sense of time that is not cyclical but in which there is neglect, decay, and gradual collapse. The term ‘disjecta’ had initially come to mind for this kind of detritus of ruins and abandoned spaces that remain in Fort Dunree. In fact, ‘disjecta’ should not function as a standalone word (I know the word as the title of Samuel Beckett’s collection of unpublished writings) and the full correct term is disjecta membra, Latin for “scattered fragments” or scattered limbs, members, or remains. The term refers to surviving shards of ancient Greek pottery, or ancient fragments of ancient poetry, manuscripts, and other literary or cultural objects, including even fragments of ancient pottery. Thinking of that notion of disjecta membra at the Fort Dunree site is useful as it foregrounds the theme of how the mark-making of a prior time-period and its images and signs are made visible at a later time-period through an encounter with ruins, remnants and fragments.
The artist’s residency will use a technique in her Fort Dunree residency which engages directly in the reproduction and re-creation of mark-making, a technique which she has adopted across her practice: by the use of a simple reproduction technique of a hectograph, developing drawings into a series of artists books.
The hectographic or "gelatin" duplicator is a 19th century invention which involves duplicates being made by a simple process of writing or making marks with a special ink on a sheet of paper, then pressing that sheet of paper upon the hectograph – a flat gelatin sheet – which takes the inked markings from any image pressed upon it. The hectogaph then transfers that image onto any additional sheets which are pressed upon it. As an early duplicating method the hectograph was especially useful as it was very portable, able to be erased and re-used, with ‘Hecto’ meaning one hundred and so suggesting that the method could at best make roughly a hundred copies. A 19th century advertisement selling the kit of ingredients to make a hectograph had the striking strap line Every Man His Own Printer. The method was used by Russian Futurist and German Expressionist artists experimenting with printing methods and making artist’s books in the early 20th century, and it was widely used as a samizdat technique by Russian revolutionaries of the period. Orwell writes in Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936) of how in his schoolboy years he encountered an unofficial monthly paper called the Bolshevik, duplicated with a jelly graph. Even Lenin’s correspondence features passages which demanded that certain speeches and records of events should be duplicated by hectograph and distributed. A contemporary resonance with this history is notable here, in the context of Litten Nystrøm using the medium of the hectograph as a technique for making artist’s book. Key activist artists of recent years such as Lucy Lippard have discussed how the artist’s book as the medium can still function for artists as a tool of independent activist thought, can act as an alternative space for artists with a high degree of artistic autonomy, can act as a means to engage with a broader audience –by being portable, relatively permanent and by letting the reader or viewer play a much greater role through being able to interact with the art object directly. Litten Nystrøm will in fact push even further this sense of engagement for the reader or viewer by inviting them to be a participant, by offering workshops in the techniques of hectographic print-making and artist’s books to all onsite at Fort Dunree.
The process of resesearching the notion of a temporal landscape and artists books as a medium has uncovered the concept of the chronotope, the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin’s term which unites the two categories of space and time(chronotope meaning literally ‘time-place’). The chronotope is a recognition of the specific fusions of time, space, and emotion which as a matrix govern all narratives, which define genre and generic distinctions - so that a chronotope of the road would function in the ‘genre’ of any and all road stories from Don Quixote to Lolita, to On the Road. Indeed, the artist’s residency itself could perhaps be understood as a particularly dynamic narrative pattern or genre of artistic practice. Litten Nystrøm has described her residency at Fort Dunree as exploring the notion of entering unfamiliar territories- and Artlink’s interaction with its artist residencies has developed a character and distinction for Fort Dunree as an unfamiliar territory– situating Fort Dunree as a dynamic in-between space somewhere far from the neutrality of anonymising white cube galleries of cities and developing a diverse and vibrant artists’ practice in a radically unfamiliar site.
Litten Nystrøm is from Aarhus, Denmark and since 2011 has been living and working in Seyoisfjörour, Iceland. She has exhibited widely in Scandinavia, as well as managing an artist’s residency program in east Iceland and working on art projects in rural areas as part of artists group RoShamBo.
Text by Declan Sheehan, Independent Curator and part of selection panel for the 2017 residency programme.