藝術家駐留週記《阿拉斯加》1

藝術家馮捲雪參與阿拉斯加州 Island Institute 舉辦的駐留計劃 ,獲邀請到阿拉斯加州東南部進駐創作,並與一眾藝術家交流、探索自然、生活、文化與歷史。

關於馮捲雪

2016年3月28 – 4月3日

在飛機上向下望,雪山比高樓大廈多,是真的到了阿拉斯加了。下了飛機,在Sitka逛了一圈,第一個感覺是,好像三年前在冰島小鎮Olafsfjordur的駐村啊!緯度相若,氣候相像,也是一個捕魚的小鎮。

我沒有看過這樣的風景,平滑如鏡的水面上點綴大大小小的島嶼。藝術家看見新鮮風景,總是會為視覺思維帶來衝擊。就算在遍地好風光的阿拉斯加,Sitka的美貌也是薄有名氣的。

我很喜歡在駐村的第一天早上到處逛。在灰濛濛的毛雨下走石灘,一走就是兩個小時。不時遠眺群鳥,不時瞪著天色發呆。感覺越發和冰島的時候一樣,那時候我也是住和海邊距離一分鐘的路程,常常到我最喜歡的皇座想事情。有的時候是真的在想東西,更多的時候是看著海水出神發呆,不過回到工作室以後頭腦總是更加清晰。

早來了幾天,為了省下之前租工作室的費用,一張四呎長的畫就打算在這幾天就地畫了。開始的時候還想可以畫幾張不同大小的,很快就發現根本是癡心妄想。Island Institute大佬Peter Bradley的家客廳像是歌德式教堂的尖塔,斜斜的牆上貼滿了從各方朋友得來的作品。我在想像,搭著女朋友肩膀躺在中間的沙發,聽著黑膠唱片(沒錯,他的家有一部播黑膠唱片的唱機),好有電影感!

我很快就發現這個地方原來和冰島的小鎮根本不一樣,雖然人口只有八千人,這裏是卻是全省第四大城市!對於一輩子都住在人口百萬以上的城市人來講,當然是小鎮。不過,我居然很快就嫌棄這裏太多建築物。在冰島駐村的小鎮八百人口,是名副其實的小鎮。在那裏我們的活動範圍除了工作室以外,就是游泳池和四周的山。

這次的駐村是流動式的,我們一行十人將會探訪阿拉斯加東南部的九個社區,跟本地的居民分享我們關於氣候變化的作品。我自己這個月有兩個目的,首先和學生設計我作品寶綠達的建築,另外希望會為我的獨腳戲劇本帶來頭緒。

星期四是出奇的暖,早上我跑到了一間私立學校做分享,這是我見過最特別的學校。創辦的老師是一對結了婚二十年的女同性戀者,而她們現在有十三名助養的孩子,正在準備收養第十四個。她們第十三個孩子才二十二個月丁大,白天卻待在學校,不時跑出來課室,讓學生好不開心。這羣六歲到十九歲的學生,是我遇到最有創意的小藝術家。第一間學校就把標準定得那麼高,以後的學校實在很難跟上。

因為天氣如此的好,下午我不顧一切往山跑,直上了二千公尺。在山上的頂端還有未融化的雪。在山頂向下望,實在不難明白Sitka的風景為何有名。

星期五,是我們藝術家的重頭戲「表演」。同行的劇作家Chantal Bilodeau即場演讀她兩幕戲劇,在七十年代的挪威,是石油興盛的日子。籍著爸爸抱著孩子的喃喃細語,當中對未來慈祥美好的盼望,延伸至第二場孩子長大了的落差。我聽得好感動,戲劇本來就是應該反映人生。裝置藝術家Alison Warden還會rap,即場就把她本來一百分鐘的獨角戲抽演了一段,描述北極熊媽媽帶孩子游出浮冰,孩子卻在中途不支。Alison本身就高大,聲音和表演都是那麼的強而有力。相比起我分享了茫亡膠海的繪畫裝置,動畫以及寶綠達,安靜得多。這天晚上的答問環節非常踴躍,流連和藝術家交流的觀眾也是不少。全球暖化對於阿拉斯加來講是非常真實的問題,環境改變對於很多世代依賴大自然維生的居民,不是一個遙遠的未知之數。很多人一輩子只吃家人和朋友打的海魚,卻因為商業捕魚過量,以及海洋污染和暖化令他們近年獲魚量減少。自從七十年代起,阿拉斯加就沒有經濟的壓力,由於產油豐盛,這裏的省民沒有省級入息稅,每年政府還分紅,秋天每人都收到兩千美元的支票!近月油價急跌,本地的學校醫療等公共服務受到腰斬,本月底政府就要決定接下來的財政政策,是不是從此以後阿拉斯加居民就要跟以往美好的經濟揮永別之手。

轉眼間第一個星期的駐村就過去了。短短的六天,卻比在家的幾個月要完成得多。我提醒自己藝術家為什麼要駐村,第一是離開平日的生活,毫無雜念地專心創作;另外,創作實在很難在一個孤島上,和其他想法相像的藝術家交流,會感覺世界如此的大,也提醒藝術本來就不應因為種族分隔。(碰巧我們三個的作品裡都有加拿大原住民神話裡的海洋女神Zedna!)而觀眾的感官和心靈受到衝擊以後,是特別容易打開心窗交流。

我在拼命地看,看四周的景致,看阿拉斯加的本地文學,看這裏不同原住民部族精緻的藝術以及他們與自然和諧的哲學;我也使勁地聽,聽同行藝術家的理念,聽居民擔心的現實,聽孩子沒被羈絆的幻想世界。

現在我們坐在輪船上,享受著兩旁像明信片一樣的雪山。我在想,在下一個小鎮,有什麼驚喜等著我們?


 

Invited by Island Institute in Alaska, Michelle Kuen Suet Fung participates in an overseas artist residency program in Northeast Alaska, to explore the nature and for cultural exchange with other artists.

About Michelle Kuen Suet Fung

28 March – 3 April 2016

I looked down from the plane. Yup, mountains everywhere and not a building in sight. Welcome to Alaska! Island Institute director Peter Bradley gave me a grand tour of Sitka after we picked up my bags from the airport. Isn’t this just like the small fishing village Olafsfjordur where I went on an artist residency three years ago? These islands both feature similar latitude and climate, and they are both small fishing towns!

Sitka is well-known for its beauty, even with the Alaskans who are seasoned connoisseurs of natural beauty. I had never seen anything like this, a smooth mirror-like water dotted with islands, large and small. I finally understood Island Institute’s logo and was equally taken by this place as everyone I have talked to.

It is my habit to stroll around on my first day of residency in a new place. In a feather-like drizzle, I sauntered on the rocky beach until my water-resistant coat was heavy with moisture. I stared out onto the grey sky decorated with ducks, seagulls and birds I couldn’t name. The Listhus Art Space was also a minute away from the shore in Olafsfjordur—I used to sit by the ocean in my favourite spot. Sometimes I went to think through a problem. Sometimes I just lost myself in the salty breeze, yet I always came back to the studio feeling more acute.

I arrived a few days before the official programme. In order to save myself from renting a studio before this trip, I decided to make a painting in these extra days. The painting of course took longer than I thought it would. It is accelerating to finish a large painting in such a short span of time.

The Island Institute’s director Peter Bradley has the most mind-boggling living room. Think gothic cathedral tower. The walls, decorated with artworks from his artistic friends all across the country, are slanted to meet at a point. I looked at the couch, the centrepiece furniture in the room, and thought of Pulp Fiction when I imagined Peter listening to his vinyl records with his girlfriend. Yes he has an extensive collection of vinyl records. Sorry no picture.

My disillusion of the similarities between Sitka and Olafsfjordur quickly disintegrated. Sitka may only have eight thousand people, but it is the fourth largest city in Alaska! For someone who has lived in metropolitans of over one million people all her life, needless to say, Sitka is a small town. It was funny that I became rapidly weary of “so many buildings” in town. In Olafsfjordur, we confined our activities to the studio, the swimming pool and the mountains. In that town of eight hundred people, there was one post office, one bank, one swimming pool, one restaurant and one supermarket.

For this residency, a dozen of us will tour nine different communities in Alaska, sharing with the local communities our works on climate change. I have two main goals—to come up with the architectural design of Polluta through workshops with students and to research for the series of monologues I am about to write.

Thursday was as warm as summer. Two thousand feet and six miles later, I was standing in the snow and understanding why Sitka deserves her reputation as a beautiful town. Before I did that, I had a most unforgettable experience with The Seers School. The school is operated by a lesbian couple, married for twenty years. Currently they have thirteen adopted children and are in the process of adopting the fourteenth. Their thirteenth child is twenty-two-month old and stays at the school during the day. Sometimes she would wander into the classroom and get all the attention a toddler would ever want. Having been prepped by a staff at the Institute, I was slightly worried about the age gap (aged six to nineteen?) on the one hand, yet I was also prepared to be pleasantly surprised. Well, I certainly did not expect to be blown away. These have got to be the most creative group of young artists I have ever taught. They came up with a kitty whose legs were washed away by the acid rain and a runway for the flying elephants.

Our focal point in each town is our “artist performance.” Playwright Chantal Bilodeau read from her play—In the 1970s Norway, a young father cradles his newborn and dreams of a good life with the oil boom. There is no more fishing in the ungodly weather. In the following act, we see the baby as an adult and the reality of that dream comes true. I looked at her on the stage and could see the daughter and her father. I was so touched. Drama IS supposed to reflect life. Rapper and installation artist Alison Warden acted a part of her 90-minute one-person theatre. A polar bear mother swims towards the ice with her two cubs who eventually doesn’t make it. Alison is not a petite person and her theatre was larger than life. I, along with the whole room, could not take our eyes off her. By comparison, my sharing of my drawing installation “Plastic, plastic, every where!”, animation-in-progress and performance work “Polluta, Floating Artist Colonies in the Sky” seemed much quieter.

It was a full house. The community asked us many intelligent questions and stayed behind to chat some more. Here, climate change is not in the distant unknown future. It is an immediate problem for these people. Many local fishermen have a pescetarian diet but pollution, overfishing and global warming is driving their food source away. Alaska has had a free ride on oil money since the 70s. Not only is there no state income tax, but each Alaskan would get an annual cheque from the oil dividend. With the recent plunge in oil prices. things are going to change. Alaskans are facing schools being shut down and medical budgets being cut. At the end of this month, the State will decide whether this is the point where Alaska will kiss goodbye to the good old days of strong economy and adjust to a new reality.

The first week drifted away like snow with traces in my mind so fresh yet so vivid. In only six days, I accomplished more than I can at home. I reminded myself of why artists should go onto artist residencies. First of all to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily lives and throw ourselves wholeheartedly to our work. Also, no art is an island. The interactions with other artists is as essential as creating the work. There IS a larger world out there, and the arts CAN transcend culture. We all got a giggle out of it when we discovered that all three of us, one white American Canadian, one American Iñupiaq and one Hong Kong Canadian, have used the Inuit ocean goddess Sedna in our work. After their sensations have been stimulated and hearts touched, the audiences are much more likely to open their hearts.

I study. I study the landscapes around me, study Alaskan literature and study the exquisite Native American art and philosophy with nature. I listen. I listen to the ideology of my fellow artists, listen to the frightening reality of these local communities and listen to the uninhibited imaginative world of children.

We are now on a ferry enjoying the snow-capped mountains fit for a postcard. I can’t wait. What surprises await us tomorrow?

#tidelinesjourney

 

 

 

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