It has been a couple of days since I arrived in Drammen to take up my post as the artist-in-residence for the Drammen Kommune at the Union Live Centre. The residency is managed as part of the arts and culture program delivered by the Drammen city council, which is part of the Buskerud region. For the next three months, my home base will be by the Drammenselva (Drammen River). The residence is situated in the arts precinct in the same building as some of local council. The building was originally a paper mill and was restored a few years ago.
The residency will give me some time to work on a number of projects, including Waters of the Past, some research into Nordic sustainability programs as well as to present some work at Balance unBalance in Plymouth and RIXC Open Fields art science festival in Riga. Aside from all that research, my plan is to also spend plenty of time in nature, collecting little treasures and making some art.
It feels quite strange to be based in a town which is so close to where my ancestors came from. This morning I walked slowly through the cemetery, hoping to find clues. I did not expect to find anything – but maybe I will have some luck when I go to the Hurum Kirke where Anton’s family was recorded in the parish book.
I have learned some very interesting facts since I have been here. For example, the translation of the word Drammen from Old Norse is ‘wave’, which is kind of magical considering my long held love of water. The other interesting thing which I will investigate is the rune stones in the area, some with ancient drawings of whales and other sea creatures. I also found out the Drammen has the best water in Norway, because the source is high in the mountains before it becomes the river. That sort of reminded me of Canberra as we also benefit from beautiful mountain water straight from the tap!
Over the past couple of days I have done quite a bit of walking around to try to gain an understanding of place. It is a very pretty little city with mountains on either side of the river. In winter there are two downhill ski field – so close you could walk there from town! My walks are also an opportunity to learn more about the local plants, which I would like to experiment with to make natural dyes.
I also noticed along my river walk yesterday that there is lots of graffiti and street art around. From what I understand the Drammen Kommune has put quite a bit of support for street art projects to enliven some of the old buildings around town.
I was also very taken by these old river houses, which were built around the 1850s. What I thought was very interesting is that some of the houses we on stilts – not unlike the Queenslander style of architecture. To see these features on the buildings feeds nicely into my theory that Scandinavian migrants had a big impact on developing the Queenslander style – timber houses, use of panelling and VJs and now stilts – very practical in river country.
Anyway – lots more to learn and explore 🙂