Two Sides of the River

landscape performance

This initially started as a project commenting on a time of a global pandemic, social distancing, and closed borders - a collaboration between Tine Surel Lange and Pavlo Grazhdanskij, curated by Neal Cahoon from Pikene på Broen for Barents Spektakel 2022. We wanted to create direct communication and build bridges between people by sending loud sounds to each other across the Norwegian-Russian border at the Pasvik River. Pavlo on the Russian side of the river, close to Nikel, working with the sounds of two WWII sirens as a sound source, and Tine on the Norwegian side of the river, at Utnes, using field recordings of a foghorn from Sund Fiskerimuseum in Lofoten - a sound known to coastal communities across borders that have always led people into safe havens in rough times.

The day festival started the Russian-Ukrainian war started as well. Unexpectedly, heavily, through the snow, following the incessant messages and video of attacking troops from Ukraine, with a hard feeling of injustice, up north. Very first days protests against the Russian invasion of Ukraine gathered and were suppressed in all big cities. On the contrary, in a small northern town Nikel, no one even talked about the war, not a single word. We made the choice to follow our plan originally programmed as no matter what. My intent has changed: to make these people hear the war siren while they are far from the war, to fill with sound rocky expanses of the north associated with cold quiet beauty.

At the very last minute I was informed that my part of the performance is canceled by the Ministry of Emergency Situations because of the «snowstorm». This must have been some very local snowstorm, because on the Norwegian side of the river, with Nikel in sight, nobody could not see it. The weather forecast showed no surprises.

Standing in a small group of people we heard from the direction of Norway foghorn ambients, so exciting and so unusual that it was hard to believe that this was actually happening. On the other side of the river a huge crowd of people came to see the performance. Some of them were holding banners in support of Ukraine. They listened together in silence for the parts where it should be heard sounds in response, on the other side of the river.

Where do we go from here? This was the theme of the Barents Spektakel 2022, and it coincides with the moment with extraordinary accuracy. The last decade for the Russian cultural context can be described as the inscription of silence as a tradition. This work marked the difference of cultures through the direct witness experience of the viewer.

Concept, composition and performance: Tine Surel Lange & Pavlo Grazhdanskij
Curated by: Neal Cahoon
Commissioned by: Pikene på Broen
Created for: Barents Spektakel 2022
Premiere February 28th 2022, Utnes, Norway / Nikel, Russia

Photo: Ingrid Fadnes, Katerina Sokolovskaya, Anna Naumann