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。
Juneau附近的Mendenhall冰川離市中心只有十五分鐘車程。我們趕在上船之前匆匆一探冰山美人的真面目。美是不在話下的，讓我震驚的是，冰川比我相像中小。我想起十一歲是在看見的加拿大的Columbia Icefield，眼睛看到的都是白愷愷的雪，直到幾年前有一半都變成了啡色的石頭。同行的藝術家Teri Rofkar在阿拉斯加生活了一輩子，她說，去年，那塊圓圓的石頭還是埋在冰雪之中，今年已經露面了。不知道下次我能什麼時候來到Juneau，來的時候冰川還在嗎？
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
10 – 18 April 2016
Petersburg is a fishing town of three thousand people. Every year, they export 1,000,000 pounds of fish. In one of our casual chats, a local resident said, a few fishermen look the same as everyone else but make over a million American dollars a year. Owing to these families’ generosity, the town gets a lot of amenities.
Our ferry arrived at the ungodly hour of two in the morning. The Southeast Alaskan ferry system has to take the tide into account when they schedule ports. I have seen the tide transform a rocky beach into an ocean and vice versa. Petersburg is tugged inside a channel sitting on the north side of the Mitkof Island. It is not the easiest place to get to. As a result, tourism is virtually non-existent here. It is worlds apart from last week’s Ketchikan that makes its living more or less on tourism. Without the need to please the tourists, Petersburg’s harbour is as practical as it gets. Although it is as beautiful as the others with the fishing boats in the foreground and snow-capped mountains in the background, I could not find a viewpoint designated for photo-opt! The vintage points I found were either beside three cargo-sized (very) noisy refrigerators, or the view was obstructed by multiple wires.
Its population comparable to that of maybe two or three highrises in Hong Kong, Petersburg showed us its passion for culture. It was the most enthusiastic crowd we had seen on this trip. Not only did we have a full house, but the level of sophisticated questions blew me away. I thought to myself, the calibre of the speaker is often reflected in the Q&A session even more than the prepared speech.
After Petersburg, we arrived at the State capital Juneau, a big town of 30,000. On our ferry ride, we got wind of news that we may stay in bed until six in the morning! That may not sound like good news until the alternative is to get up three hours earlier. However, when the ferry arrived in Juneau at 3am, a stern voice woke us up through the loudspeaker and told us to leave the boat. Shortly after, there was vigorous knocking at the door.
We escaped from the ferry as fast as we could. In the east, a silver lining was just emerging behind the mountains, staining the royal blue sky with light. This was when someone said, “The Northern Lights!” There it was! A ribbon of shifting green light shooting skyward. We quickly situated ourselves in a pavilion where we would not be disturbed by stray light. Watching two of the most beautiful natural phenomena in the same sky, waking up three hours earlier was definitely worth it.
That was not the end of our surprises though. To get to the cabin we were staying, we would walk through a small woods. It was still dark so everyone had a flashlight in their hands. All of a sudden, we heard some shuffling noise in the eleven o’clock direction. I looked and saw a small mammal scooting past. My first porcupine in the wild! Poor little porcupine must have been scared silly by our entourage and in a moment disappeared into the protective foliage. As we arrived, a most beautiful sunrise greeted us. The cold nightscape quietly merged into a purplish one and then turned white.
A state capital, Juneau is highly cultured. After our performances, we chitchatted with our audiences. I found that these people are as busy as the other Americans in the lower 48 states. They are either flying home or flying somewhere over the next few days. The locals we had met in small towns were busy, but they were busy picking berries and making them into jam for the winter, or they were busy fishing and then smoking and canning the fish.
However, the Juneau library and its glacier left the deepest impressions on me. The downtown library sits loftily on top of a four-storey parking lot. Four storeies are of course nothing in Hong Kong, but it definitely is a highrise in Juneau. To clear some work, I spent two afternoons there. I thought to myself, if all libraries have such million-dollar views, the people would of course be all nurtured into readers! The librarian told me, you picked a good time to visit the library. In the summer, your view would be blocked by a cruise ship. You can only look into he cabins. As I was walking downtown where I couldn’t see a soul except for drunken men on a Sunday afternoon, I was savouring the complex love affair between Alaska and its cruise industry. Of course tourism brings in huge profits. However, seeing all of downtown closed until the cruise season, I was beginning to taste the bad taste in the mouths of those Alaskans.
Mendenhall Glacier is only fifteen minutes away from Juneau. We made a mad dash for the glacier right before our ferry departure. Beautiful? Of course. Yet, I was stunned by how small the glacier was. When my eleven-year-old self first saw the Columbia Icefield in Canada, everything in sight was covered in snow! When I revisited a couple of years ago, half of that has become rocks. Fellow artist Teri Rofkar has lived all her life in Alaska and she commented that the round boulder on the right of the glacier was still submerged in the snow last year. And this year it has emerged clearly in front of the receding line. I don’t know when and if I will come back to Juneau. Will this glacier still be around?