藝術家駐留週記《阿拉斯加》3

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4月10-18日

Petersburg是一個人口三千的捕魚港。每年出口的魚量高達一億磅。閒聊之間,一位居民輕輕地說,這裏用大網打魚的漁民收入每年過百萬美金,雖然看起來他們和所有其他的漁民沒有分別。有賴這幾戶富裕的家庭,捐獻了許多社區的建設。

Petersburg的位置偏遠,我們這艘輪船到達的時間是凌晨兩點。阿拉斯加東南部的潮漲潮退非常明顯,會讓一大片海洋變成一片石灘。由於這個原因,輪船的班次也要遷就海潮。由於交通不便利,Petersburg和上星期的Ketchikan有很明顯的分別,前者靠捕魚吃飯,後者靠遊客。由於Petersburg基本上沒有旅遊業,它的海港都是極度實際,在碼頭,我找不到為遊客而設的觀景台。在岸邊看風景,要不是在停車場站在非常嘈吵的巨型雪櫃旁,就是有許多電線有礙景觀。

在這個人口和香港兩三棟高樓大廈的住戶人數相約的小鎮,參與我們表演的熱情的居然比所有之前的地方要濃烈,當晚不單座無虛席,問答時間,舉起的手更是此起彼落,問題的內容也是經過有深度的思考。

離開Petersburg後,我們來到了阿拉斯加的首都Juneau。人口三萬人來說,實在是一個大鎮。我們得到小道消息,可以在船上逗留至早上六點,怎知道在三點到達之後,我在睡夢中被不講人情的廣播叫醒,我們已經到達Juneau,請所有房間內的乘客離開。隨即便有工作人員來狠狠地拍門,生怕我們真的賴床。

我們睡眼惺忪地跑下船。在東方,日光在山頂的邊緣滲出一條銀線,慢慢染亮寶藍到發黑的的天空。這個時候,有人大叫北極光!我們向手指的方向望去,果然有一條綠色的色帶在西方從地面發射上空,並且迅速移動。我們在阿拉斯加東南大學的校園裏找到一個小亭子,視線不受街燈阻礙,我看著一個天空,有著白天與黑夜最美的景色,心想早上三點起床還是值得的。

驚喜卻不止於此。我們路過一個小小的森林到我們下榻的小屋,天色尚暗,我們需要用手電筒,一下子在十一點方向我們聽到竪竪之聲,我下意識趕望過去,聲音卻已經跑到九點鐘方向,是一隻箭豬!可憐它看見我們一行多人,早已嚇怕!我卻興奮得很,因為在此以前我只看過在動物園的箭豬!走到小屋,看見日出最盛的美景,藍色的夜景漸漸變成紫黃色,再發白。在海水和雪山的襯托下,這是我見過其中最美的日出。

Juneau貴為省都,文化氣息以及人民質素當然都是高的。在我們表演完畢,和觀眾在台下閒聊時,發覺這個地方的居民和美國其他省份的人一樣,忙得不得了,他們明天要坐飛機,後天要坐船,下星期要回東岸。這兩星期我們在小鎮遇到的居民當然也是忙,可是他們忙的是要摘梅子過冬,製作果醬,要打魚打鹿,再把魚肉冷藏入罐。在阿拉斯加他們常常會把自己省份和美國其餘四十八個省拿來對比,在這裡住了短短幾星期後,我也不難明白其原因。

Juneau讓我印象最深刻的是它的圖書館和冰川。市中心的圖書館高臨海岸,在一棟四層高的停車場的頂樓。在香港四層當然是低樓,不過在 Juneau來講,就一定是高樓。為了趕一些工作上的死線,我在這裏逗留了不短的時間。這裏背山面海,我想,風水一定很好。我坐在落地玻璃前,工作了兩個下午,心想,如果所有圖書館都能有這樣的景色,一定能培養居民的閱讀氣氛。臨行前我和圖書管理員搭訕,不忘讚美這裏難忘的風景。他微笑,是的,你來得正好,假如夏天來的話,整個窗都會被停泊的郵輪擋住,你就只能看到每個船艙裏的風光了。我離開圖書館後,心裏不斷在想阿拉斯加與郵輪旅遊業千絲萬瞜的關係。遊客無疑帶來巨大的金錢收益,然而本地居民卻對如狂風般的遊客又愛又恨。我在除了醉酒鬼以外就沒有其他人的市中心散步,幾乎全部商店在郵輪旺季以前都乾脆不開門,實在不難明白為什麼阿拉斯加人不願讓遊客牽著鼻子走。

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?

#tidelinesjourney

 

 

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