Cooking Azolla Rice Crackers [September, 2017]

[The Azolla Cooking and Cultivation Project at Agoramania. Photo: Erik Sjödin.]

On Saturday September 30 at 14:00 I will be cooking Azolla rice crackers in the Agoramania exhibition in Paris. Also looking forward to sharing a video message from philosopher Ségolène Guinard who will be commenting on Azolla in the context of multispecies communities in space exploration.

Azolla is not eaten today but because of it’s fast growth rate and nutritional content it has been suggested as a potential food stuff for settlements on Mars. Azolla does however have a long history of being used as a biofertilizer in rice paddies in Asia. By cooking and tasting Azolla rice crackers we will explore if Azolla has potential to be used as a nutritional additive in rice based food such as rice crackers, rice bread, and rice noodles. Asides from nutrition and taste, if this is a good idea is assuming that Azolla does not contain any toxic substances, which might be the case but needs to be further researched.


 
 
 
 


Settlers in Drangsnes [August, 2017]

Settlers, Exhibition in The Old Library Art & Culture Project in Drangsnes, Iceland 2017

[Exhibition in The Old Library Art and Culture Project. Photos: Erik Sjödin.]

During the village festival in Drangsnes, Iceland in July I showed a selection of videos from visits to beekeepers in Iceland. The video were shown in the old village library, which is now a space for art and culture activities and for selling local produce and craft.

To display the videos I used tablets borrowed from the middle and upper school in Drangsnes. I used all of the seven small tablets the school had, which is about one for every student in the school.

[Apiary at Íslenski bærinn. Video: Erik Sjödin.]

The videos, like the ones above and below, are work in progress from Settlers, a project that explores the context of beekeeping in Iceland. They show apiaries in Iceland with comments from beekeepers on the particular circumstances of beekeeping on Iceland.

[Apiary in Hveragerði. Video: Erik Sjödin.]

Beekeeping is for various reasons not yet established in Iceland (it could be the weather). However an increasing number of people are making efforts to import and keep bees. This summer a new shipment with seventy something bee colonies arrived by airplane to Iceland from Åland, an island group in the Baltic sea. If these bees survive and reproduce it could mean that beekeeping is established in Iceland. If they don’t it will be one of several attempts to import bees that have not succeeded in creating a sustainable honeybee population in Iceland.

Thanks to Marta Guðrún Jóhannesdóttir for arranging the exhibition in The Old Library Arts and Culture Project during the village festival in Drangsnes, and for opening up the school in Drangsnes as a residency during the students summer leave. To Bjartni for leaving the bottle of home made dandelion sherry open during the exhibition. To the beekeepers who have let me interview them and film their apiaries, and to Nordic Culture Fund, Nordic Culture Point and the Swedish-Icelandic Co-operation Fund for supporting my travels to work with this project on Iceland.


 
 
 
 


Northern Bumbling, Norway Gathering [August, 2017]

Northern Bumbling at Losæter, Oslo 2017

[Northern Bumbling at Losæter, Oslo. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

Using the bakehouse and the surrounding grain field at Losæter as a model for a shared multi-species space, the self-organised Northern Bumbling art, research, and design network presented recent research and work in progress followed by a discussion around their various projects and practices.

Marius Presterud (Norway) presented functional art pieces used in his practice Oslo Apiary & Aviary.

Erik Sjödin (Sweden) presented ‘The Political Beekeeper’s Library’, an effort to collect, organise, and activate books where parallels are drawn between how bees and humans are socially and politically organised.

Thomas Pausz (Iceland) showed ritualistic artefacts to interact with nature beyond utilitarianism.

The Northern Bumbling network, and the individual work of the participants in the project, is supported in part by Nordic Culture Fund, Nordic Culture Point and the Swedish-Icelandic Co-operation Fund, Office for Contemporary Art Norway, and the Norwegian Culture Council.


 
 
 
 


Northern Bumbling, Sweden Gathering [August, 2017]

Northern Bumbling at Slakthusateljéerna 2017

[Northern Bumbling at Slakthusateljéerna, Stockholm. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

Opening up the project room at Slakthusatljéerna for a one evening only exhibition the participants in the self-organised Northern Bumbling art, research, and design network presented recent research and work in progress followed by a discussion around their various projects and practices.

Erik Sjödin (Sweden) presented promotional material from the bumble bee mail order industry, making visible contemporary human – insect relationships in agriculture.

Thomas Pausz (Iceland) presented work investigating real and imaginary overlaps between human and insect architecture, from scientific enquiries creating artificial conditions for interspecies collaborations to the dystopian imaginary of insects invasions in films.

Marius Presterud (Norway) presented work in progress from his ‘Nature as History’ series, where he uses the Northern marches surrounding Oslo as a springboard for speculative interventions.

The Northern Bumbling network, and the individual work of the participants in the project, is supported in part by Nordic Culture Fund, Nordic Culture Point and the Swedish-Icelandic Co-operation Fund, Office for Contemporary Art Norway, and the Norwegian Culture Council.


 
 
 
 


Northern Bumbling, Iceland Gathering [July, 2017]

Northern Bumbling at The Nordic House, Reykjavik 2017

[Northern Bumbling at The Nordic House, Reykjavik. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

Using the public greenhouse and the surrounding wetlands at The Nordic House in Reykjavik as a model for a shared multispecies space, the participants in the self-organised Northern Bumbling art, research, and design network presented recent research and work in progress followed by a discussion around our various projects and practices.

Erik Sjödin (Sweden) has been immersing himself in the context of beekeeping in Iceland and presented a selection of video material recorded while meeting with beekeepers on Iceland, highlighting both problematic and hopeful aspects of beekeeping in Iceland.

Thomas Pausz (Iceland) continued his work on Animal Architecture and presented work imagining crossovers with the modernism of Alvar Aalto, the architect of the Nordic House, and the building methods of specific insect species.

Marius Presterud (Norway) presented work from his ‘Nature as History’ series, using the Northern marches surrounding Oslo as a springboard for speculative interventions.

The Northern Bumbling network, and the individual work of the participants in the project, is supported in part by Nordic Culture Fund, Nordic Culture Point and the Swedish-Icelandic Co-operation Fund, Office for Contemporary Art Norway, and the Norwegian Culture Council.


 
 
 
 


Dome and Tunnel Greenhouses [June, 2017]

Thomas's Greenhouse, Iceland 2017

[Thomas’s geodesic dome greenhouse in Iceland. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

Above is Thomas Pausz‘s geodesic dome greenhouse in Iceland. About an hour outside of Reykjavik. The dome has a nice vibe, and can handle snow and heavy wind. It’s not completely sealed and seems to regulate the climate well, not getting too hot or cold. Potentially wild bumblebees could learn to fly in and out on their own.

Below is a set of photos from the construction of a tunnel greenhouse on my dads old farm in Fellingsbro. Saving an old glass greenhouse for commercial growing was the original plan. But it’s too much work now that my dad is handicapped by an unknown arthritis like disease. The tunnel greenhouse fits on the foundation from the former glass greenhouse and has a good ceiling height.

Building a Greenhouse in Fellingsbro 2017

[Building a tunnel greenhouse in Fellingsbro. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

Both of these greenhouse are quite simple to build and much cheaper than glass greenhouses. What’s missing is a harmless biodegradable transparent plastic of some sort. How the plastic used in these greenhouses will fare over time remain to be seen. At least the micro plastics it might break into when UV radiation degrades it and it turns brittle won’t end up in the ocean. Hopefully the greenhouses will last for a decade or two and give some good tomato harvests.


 
 
 
 


Book Release: The Political Beekeeper’s Library [April, 2017]

Book release at Konstfrämjandet in Stockholm
April 27th 2017 at 18:00 – 19:30
Free admission.

The Political Beekeeper's Library, Photo: Erik Sjödin 2017

The Political Beekeeper’s Library is an effort by artist and researcher Erik Sjödin to collect, organise, and activate books where parallels are drawn between how bees and humans are socially and politically organised.

The library currently includes a selection of 26 books about bees, written between the 4th century BCE and present day. In addition to dealing with questions about behaviour and social organisation the library also deals with anthropomorphism and zoomorphism, and with questions of science and philosophy in general.

The Political Beekeeper’s Library has now been complemented with a book which will be released and presented at Konstfrämjandet followed by a conversation between Erik Sjödin and Jacob Bull; beekeeper and researcher at the Centre for Gender Research at Uppsala University.

The presentation and conversation will be in English.

The Political Beekeeper's Library. Pocket book by Erik Sjödin 2016.

The Political Beekeeper’s Library has previously been presented at Art Lab Gnesta and Under tallarna within the project Utlöparna produced by Konstfrämjandet in 2015. With support from Konstnärsnämnden Erik Sjödin has during 2016 edited the selection of books for The Political Beekeeper’s Library and compiled a book and a website which serves as an introduction and index to the library.

Erik Sjödin is an artist and researcher whose practice is concerned with interdependencies and interrelationships between beings, things, and phenomena, as well as philosophical and practical questions about how we live today, have lived in the past, and may live in the future. One of his focus areas is pollinators, and, in particular, relationships between humans and honey bees. His work on this topic has included building habitats for pollinators together with youths, facilitating a reading circle about human and bee relationships, and collecting, organising, and activating books where parallels are drawn between how bees and humans are socially and politically organised.

Jacob Bull is a social and cultural geographer. He is coordinator of the Humanimal Group at Centre for Gender Research, Uppsala University. Working with fish, ticks, cattle, and bees his work focuses on the role of animals in understandings of space, place, and identity. He is currently working with a project that investigates how beekeepers in the Nordic region are adapting to changing circumstances. He is also a beekeeper himself.


 
 
 
 


Beehives in Fellingsbro [April, 2017]

[Apiary in Fellingsbro, January 2017. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

These photos are from an apiary in Fellingsbro, a small town about 150 km west of Stockholm. They belong to a friendly and enthusiastic farmer and beekeeper. Although he was initially suspicious when I stopped by with the car for an unannounced visit in January. The farm is easy to get to and from and unfortunately he had recently gotten a lot of tools stolen.

The hives are worn on the outside but it seemed like the bees were doing well inside.

[Beehive in Fellingsbro, January 2017. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

[Apiary in Fellingsbro, January 2017. Photo: Erik Sjödin]


 
 
 
 


Swedish Folk High Schools [December, 2016]

Biskops Arnö 2016

[Biskops-Arnö a Swedish folk high school. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

Biskops-Arnö is a Swedish folk high school with courses in writing, photography, documentary filmmaking, song writing, global justice, and natural medicine. It’s located on a small island on the countryside outside of Stockholm and Uppsala.

Swedish folk high schools began to appear in the late 19th century, mainly on the countryside, to provide education to farmers and other folks who didn’t have the same possibilities to receive education as privileged city people. Folk high schools are initiated and run by one or several principal organisations. Biskops-Arnö is run by The Nordic Association which promotes cooperation between the Nordic countries. Other typical principals are unions, liberal education associations, churches, and sobriety organisations. The majority of the funding for folk high schools comes from the state and the schools principals. However, there is increased pressure for many schools to earn their own money, which is forcing them to develop businesses in addition to their core educational activities, for example by renting out their facilities for conferences.

Folk high schools provide basic highschool education as an alternative to the regular public school system. In the folk high school system this education is called the “common course”. The common course is less rule oriented and freer in terms of pedagogy than the regular public high school. There are fewer exams and no grades. However, students are supposed to gain the same level of knowledge as in the regular public high school, and the education gives university accreditation within a special quota.

Monday meeting at Biskops-Arnö. Photo: Erik Sjödin

[Monday meeting at Biskops-Arnö. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

In practice the common course often caters to people with special needs, but it can also be an option for people who just don’t thrive with the pedagogy in the regular school. Since many schools are located in relatively isolated locations they provide accommodation for students and can be alternatives for people who want to live and study away from home.

At folk high schools there is, comparatively, a lot of focus on letting students express their own creativity. Many teachers promote the “exploded classroom” i.e. that students learn outside of the class room. Students work thematically, are thought to learn by researching and exploring, and are encouraged to become active co-creating citizens.

Many folk high schools try to maintain a community feeling with little hierarchies between teachers and students. At Biskops-Arnö a flat culture is supported by a public school meeting on Mondays and activities which are open for everyone, such as yoga, floorball, and pottery classes. There’s also a school kitchen and restaurant, and a pub which is open on the weekends.

Global justice course at Biskops-Arnö. Photo: Erik Sjödin

[Robert Norman at the global justice course. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

In addition to the common course most folk high school have “special courses”. These can range in duration from a few days to several years, and they can be on a very basic level or on levels that are equivalent to university education. Sometimes, like in the case of Biskops-Arnö, schools are even labeled as elitist. However, they themselves would dispute this, arguing that there isn’t an elitist culture promoted by the school, but that students push themselves because of the school’s or a course’s reputation.

The special courses at folk high schools are often intended for the students personal development and enjoyment, which often means that they teach skills which are difficult to sell on the job market. This can be anything that has to do with art and other cultural production, but it can also be for example traditional wooden ship building or skills for ecological living.

However, there are exceptions, such as the global justice course at Biskops-Arnö. The course builds on an international perspective that began to appear among folk high schools with the 1968 movement, and has a focus on spreading core values like democracy and gender equality. Students at the course often already have university degrees in fields such as agronomy, engineering, or journalism. During the course they do internships abroad at NGOs and afterwards many go on to get jobs with international aid.

Song writing class at Biskops-Arnö. Photo: Erik Sjödin

[Mattias Björkas teaching a song writing class. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

On Biskops-Arnö the special courses are run almost as if they were independent schools. The course staff decide how they take in students, they appoint their own staff, and they develop their own curricula. However, courses share administration and there is formal or informal exchange between courses in one way or another.

For example the song writing class, which is relatively new, is set up pretty much like the schools well established writing course. Students are selected based on what they write and the teachers who do the selection strive to put together a diverse group where they look for unique artistic expressions and not for particular skills. The course focus is on developing the students existing practices and create identities as song writers, and not on shaping students uniformly. The course is centered around disciplined songwriting and group conversation. There is very little focus on technology and the program commits practically all of it’s resources to bringing in guest teachers. Students regularly write songs based on themes that teachers suggests, or they write freely. When the songs are done the students come together with a teacher to play the songs and read their lyrics. Everyone then gives feedback on what they have heard, with the teacher talking after the students, and lastly the student who wrote the song. This way the students learn to analyse their own and others work, and hopefully become their own teachers.


 
 
 
 


Azolla Bread in Amersfoort [November, 2016]

The Azolla Cooking and Cultivation Project. Installation view. Photo: Erik Sjödin

[The Azolla Cooking and Cultivation Project. Installation view. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

Last month I got some bakers in Amersfoort to bake sourdough bread with Azolla. The bread would probably have tasted better without Azolla, but it might be healthier with it. It might also cause brain damage. Though probably not, and only if you eat very large quantities of it over a long period of time. Which most people wouldn’t since it doesn’t taste that great.

It’s difficult to say if Azolla in food will become something. It could become a nutritional supplement if further studies prove that it’s healthy, or if people are forced to eat it to avoid starvation or malnutrition. Having worked with this plant on and off for more than six years now, I’ve come to think that Azolla has the most potential as a nitrogen sink and fertiliser in areas where it’s already growing. In India, for example, it’s not uncommon to see people collecting dirty water from small ponds or wells. Azolla could probably be grown in many of these ponds and possibly prevent evaporation, clean the water, deter malaria mosquitos from laying eggs, and be harvested and used as a fertiliser, all at the same time.