Book including: photographs, interview, protest slogans, prediction, and proposal | 2010
Click an image below:
This small publication is the result of a year spent researching and responding to the town of Göteborg, Sweden. My initial interest in the historical uses of its canal system was heightened after experiencing the community’s protest of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. In fear of rising water levels brought on by global warming, huge crowds of people were screaming to their government officials, demanding stronger automobile restrictions. It sounds better in Swedish, but one of their slogans was, “Gas in the ground, his hand on the wheel! Soon Gothenburg is completely under water!”
This fear has been growing for the past four years. Göteborg is a coastal city full of canals and due to its low elevation level it has suffered from flooding caused by several severe rainstorms. I approached a city planning official and interviewed him about the relevance of this issue. He mentioned two of the town’s proposed precautions; building walls around the city and gates at the mouth of the canals. I thought that this was remarkable, because both of these precautions had been taken by the city hundreds of years ago, but for different reasons. Canals and water gates, which were once built to protect the community against invaders, were now being proposed to keep out rising waters.
The idea of using historical methods, to deal with current issues excited me, so I decided to look even farther back into the ways that this community has coexisted with water. And in Scandinavian mythology I found Skidbladnir.
“Skíðblaðnir was the ship of Freyr. It was big enough to hold the whole of the army of Asgard, and whenever the sails were hoisted, a fair wind followed. It could travel over both land and sea. Skíðblaðnir was made of so many parts and with such ingenuity that it could be folded like a cloth and carried in one’s pouch.”
If the Swedish government wouldn’t listen when mobs of protesters called for help, perhaps the army of the gods would listen when individuals took time out of work to pose as the figurehead for their mythological ship. Gothenburg might need this sort of help if the waters continue to rise.
Along with these figurehead portraits the book contains a proposal for the construction of a modern Skidbladnir, by Gregory Witt, as well as a prediction written one hundred years ago, by a sixteen year old boy. His prediction describes Gothenburg’s harbour in the year 2000, which after an industrial boom would deepen, widen and be full of ocean steamers. This once optimistic idea, given the negative impact of today’s oil barges, weighs heavy in hindsight.