AIR Træna is an Artist in Residency where creative projects are made throughout the year. The program is open for projects of all kinds, and every year we get loads of applications from professionals all over the world. Architects, photographers, visual artists, journalists, authors, film makers, you name it! This autumn we had the honour to welcome an anthropoligist to stay at Træna for a month as a residency-project. Consuelo Griggio is writing her PHD on the topic: islands, toursim and authenticity, and Træna became a field study.
We got an interview with Consuelo, right after the residency was over:
Hi Consuelo Griggio, you’ve been an Anthropologist-In-Residence at Træna, what have you done?
During September 2016 I have conducted anthropological fieldwork on Træna. With the help of many of Træna’s inhabitants, I have developed 2 cultural trails, still a work in progress. The first one is concerned with how the island’s architecture is related to its culture and how buildings can help us uncover the place’s history and culture. The second one relates to local gardens and how they incorporate ‘authentic elements’ of the archipelago’s culture. The results of the project can be used to develop and strengthen tourism development in the archipelago as well as a sense of pride and awareness among islanders in addition to serve the municipality’s current effort to catalogue and systematize the archipelago’s buildings and create a new, complete, and efficient cadastral plan. The main concept behind my research was to identify features of authenticity in the archipelago. What do people consider authentic and why? How do they think those authentic features ought to be used for future social and economic developments in the archipelago?
In addition to interviewing islanders and doing research for my project, I have also had tons of fun on Træna! In the spirit of my discipline, I engaged in participant-observation, that is, I became integrant part of the social substratum of the place by helping in the local library (thanks Jorid!), by presenting my research to the public, and by turning into ’a local tour guide for a day’ when a Hurtigruten cruise ship landed on the island.
What was the most interesting things you found?
Træna is an amazing place where history and culture abound. The place is known as Norway’s oldest fishing settlement with a century long history of commercial exchanges between the North and the South. Here, different cultural patterns have evolved over time, from a strong fishing culture to the more recent identification as havfolket through the world-reknowned Træna Festivalen. Unterestingly, however, many islanders seem to find it difficult to identify what elements they consider authentic to their place today and why. Many of Træna’s inhabitants seem to have a very strong local identity but a weak awaress of what makes their place unique at global level. This is a very fascinating topic that I would really like to further study…
What will happen now, after the project?
As I mentioned earlier, my project is still one in progress. If I had the opportunity, I would like to return to the archipelago next year and continue developing the trails by including more building, gardens, and information. I would also love to collaborate with the local administration in developing a sustainable tourist plan. There is still so much to do…
Did you learn anything from being in-resident in Træna?
As an anthropologist, it was exciting for me to somehow play ‘the authenticity hunter’ , trying to uncover those special features that might help the archipelago become more vital socially and economically. The potential is huge on Træna! But there are also strong social, economic, and environmental hinders that can slow down the archipelago’s development. Nonetheless, I am very positive and I think that most islanders are ready to invest more for a better future!
As a human being, I had the opportunity to savor a lively social life as well as the opportunity to be alone to reflect. I think that Træna’s nature and culture can offer to both visitors and perspective islanders a relaxed and free life in conjuction with a warm and embracing social life. What else can one ask for?
Who would you recommend as an Artist in Residence-guest at Træna in the future?
I know it’s gonna sound like I am feathering my own nest…. I would like to bring my husband to Træna. Thomas is professor for Atmospheric Science but also an accomplished carpenter. I see him building small public libraries on several of the archipelago’s islands to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike! We did it this year at our place on the island of Gotland in Sweden and it was a success! People can take or bring a book anytime! Those libraries (the concept is American) can be placed anywhere and are usually architecturally very interesting. They could become a new attraction on Træna and serve the people on the outer islands at the same time. The project can also be extended to the local school with children designing and building the libraries! It would be a great project!