Jonas Myrstrand is the next guest on our Memory of Water podcast. He describes his dual role of artist and film-maker on the project. Over the course of two years, Jonas has been interviewing artists, community participants, local experts, and residents at all events during the international residency programme and city labs. He has been commissioned by our Swedish partner, Intercult, to document the team in six countries and to produce a final feature-length film of our interconnected activities.
I continued my process of gathering footage to tell the story of our two-year journey of discovery together. This includes documenting the projects by the other Memory of Water artists. I am shooting one film in each city, so now I’m starting to edit the film for Gdańsk, but I will gradually stitch the shorter films together into a longer feature.
This was our second Memory of Water residency in Gdańsk, but I have been there several times before. I am always so glad to see the cranes in the skyline and the shipyard still working. The schedule was intense with many parallel events going on, but for me the hardest part was walking the vast shipyard with the camera equipment! My brief was to cover the artists’ process and activities throughout the week as well as the partners’ meetings.
I didn’t have a resolved visual concept before arriving in Gdańsk. The main focus, of course, was the thematics of the Memory of Water project. In Levadia, I started and finished in the River Erkyna itself. The camera (GoPro) emerged from the water to witness the actions, and then returned, submerged back in the river. In Gdańsk, I got the idea of walking – tracing my steps – through the Shipyard, up from the river, feet walking around the events, and then down into the water again at Martwa Wisła quay, where local artist, Czesław Podleśny, has installed a group of steel-robots sculptures at the water’s edge. There was a lot of walking! I had great assistance from local film-maker miss Anna Domanska over three days who helped me to cover parallel events. Each of the artists is working on separate projects so I’m trying to connect them spatially through the film for the audience.
At the same time, during this week and the whole experience in Gdańsk, I was collecting “good examples” of developing shipyard heritage. To show how culture and the art scene can grow and evolve with regeneration. I have the opposite experience unfortunately in Gothenburg, where the shipyard disappeared over ten years and nothing of the tangible or intangible heritage was saved.
There are many exciting things happening to protect and rethink shipyard heritage in Gdańsk, like with Stocznia Cesarka, for example. These sustainable approaches are here to stay! For one thing, the shipyard area is now more accessible for locals and tourists. I think a mobile application with archival pictures, maps and guided tours would be a popular idea.
This was my first visit to Govan and the River Clyde and it was an eye opener for me in many ways. I had just visited Edinburgh and in contrast Govan seemed poor and under-resourced. We heard dark stories of the dangerous river with underwater currents, suicides and poisoned waters. It was not a friendly way to look upon the river, even many buildings didn’t have windows toward the water. We learned that the city had a difficult time after the shipyard industry declined. It never really recovered from that.
But it felt very hopeful for the future. We explored the river by bike, on foot and even by row-boat and canoe. Dr. Alan Lesley and Ingrid Shearer shared the fascinating history and geography of the river when we visited the Clydesdale Rowing Club. We met many innovative organisations and people supporting local crafts people and cultural operators as well as social enterprises. We met the team at the Kinning Park Complex, a truly unique and pioneering organisation for the local community. There, I screened my first film from Levadia in Greece for everybody for the first time.
The Urban Lab was really inspiring with lots of examples of projects, events, and cultural heritage research that are flourishing there. It really sparked ideas and gave us deeper, insightful perspectives to develop ideas. We were also invited to the astonishing City Chambers in Glasgow for a civic reception where we met the Lord Provost – she was Swedish too! The building was constructed by slaves back when the port was an important trading route for goods and slaves.
The artists met regularly at the welcoming home of community activist Helen Kyle, and on the first night Liz Gardiner invited us to try the traditional Scottish Haggis – unforgettable! We also took part in ts Beall’s performative walk: The Strong Women of the Clydeside. The Fairfield Heritage Museum had a huge impact on me as it resonated with the history of the Gothenburg Shipyard and I plan to go deeper into archival research for my next visit.
The weather was exactly as I expected… our first gift was a umbrella! The shipyard area, the Govan Dry Docks, the River Clyde and Doomster Hill were very inspiring and I would like to explore the possibility of an Augmented Reality (AR) experience. Thanks to Liz, Hamish, Tara and everyone we met in Govan, I’m looking forward to the next time in Govan!
The Swedish artist and film-maker Jonas Myrstrand participate at the ArtCafe with a screening of his music documentary The Singing Raven (60 mins).
He did a “Spring Race” on the Erkyna river with some children and filmed it to make “A good Memory of Water”. Jonas also documenting and filming the hole process, actions and interactions of all the artists to trace the learning and impacts of Memory of Water in all the partner cities. Read More
The River Erkyna runs continuously through the city of Levadia. So many impressions, warm welcomes, and pictures … The camera fills with faces, meetings and conversations. Only now with a little distance and on a closer look at the pictures and clips, I realise the heavy stream of influence the river has here in Levadia. This stimulates our creative challenge and we are in the middle of the flow! The ideas begin to take shape, collaborations wake up, exchanges with the locals are investigated and begin to take form. There is so much to do – while the Erkyna continues to flow.
We also met a living legend, the sculptor, poet, actor, and philosopher Spyros Gourgiotis who recounted the myth of the river. Spyros made the statue of Erkyna looking up over the surface in the middle of the river. The model was his own daughter and he showed us a drawing in his studio where a school class had drawn pictures of the sculpture and wrote under that: “The Myth of Erkyna is Spyros’ daughter…” That’s the way to relate and mix all of our impressions of myths and reality, cultural heritage and local groups, in the spring flood.
– Jonas Myrstrand (Sweden)