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Coble/Riley on ice (Riley takes a plunge)

Posted: February 12th, 2012

Today we returned to Holmsund and were able to turn many of our dreams into reality.

* Dream #1.
Helena (one of our Iaspis hosts) picked us up in her car. It was so nice to take a break from walking.

* Dream #2.
We went to a spot where we can walk all over the ice without having to worry about falling in. This spot is by the old saw mill. There we met ice fisherman/women (Dream #3), saw an old abandoned boat in the ice, and daredevil snowmobilers and ice motorbikers! We asked one of the fisherman what is the secret to the sport. He joked, “I have been wondering the same thing.” He followed up by saying that a good spot is important as is patience. After this conversation Mary felt like she too can ice fish and win a competition (she is coordinating our first excursion as we speak).

* Dream #4.
We went to the furthest point of Helena’s inlet where we are planning to shoot our video.

At this point, Mary got to watch Blithe fall into the ice, in a way that was not life threatening and amusing (one leg only, shin level). After Blithe’s fall, Helena took us back to her house to swap clothes, and have coffee and lunch. Here we also met Helena’s husband, Åke.







* Dream #5.

Helena and Åke informed us that they had an isborr, or an ice drill. We went out to the ice and dug our first ice holes. We saw how thick the ice was, and how deep the water is at different points along the inlet. This process was fascinating and inspiring (and a workout). We were able to also do a quick test of one of our ideas, and found out it will work! We are getting much closer to beginning to shoot.

* Dream #6.
We got to ride on these ice skate sled thingys that we have seen people in Holmsund using to get around. They work exceptionally well on the ice. We think this might be come part of our video, or at the very least be used for carting around our gear!

Dream #7.
Helena and Åke offered to let us use their house and their storage shed as a home-base when we are working on our project.  This is an extremely generous and means that we will have a spot to rest and take a break from the cold.

One final unexpected treat was going to Helena’s studio in a wonderful old school house close to the harbor. Her studio is huge, and we were able to here a little more about her practice as well. Here is a link to the Delta project that she did with her collaborator Gerd Aurell. This project also explores the waterways around Umea and Holmsund and the lives of the people that live there.

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We found the Boj!

Posted: February 11th, 2012

Today we got on the bus, on a quest to JULA (the Swedish Home Depot meets WallMart) looking for buoy’s, or boj. Most of our ideas have surrounded the ice, how to measure its depth, the pace of the water underneath, safe zones and pathways for travel. We are planning to use a series of buoys on string as markers, as ways to delineate parts of the ice, help convey the tension of where and where not to travel, and to frame the landscape.

Blithe with boj


Yesterday we thought through ways to make our own buoy’s. We collected styrofoam from building sites around the university, and talked to various people about tools to help us shape the material into balls. As we were planning,  we started to feel the time constraints. We are now on week 2, and things take time here. Stores close at 3 on weekends, or are not open at all, and we are mostly on foot… although are now getting a hang of the bus system.

For the sake of our project we have also decided not to travel to the mountains (to a region called Saxonus). We are torn making this decision since everyone tells us how wonderful it is there. But today, we realized that this trip was placing another time constraint on us and adding stress. Mary reminded us that we need to make sure to have fun while we are working. It was nice to be reminded that should also be a priority.

So today we decided to suck it up and buy a lot of boj. We have plans for modifying these objects to make them our own. It is important to us that they stand out on the ice, so we are planning to paint them.

Final boj purchase

Tomorrow we return back to Holmsund, to the sea, where we will see some other areas that we did not go to initially. We will also go back to the ice, and do some measuring of distance. We will begin our first rounds of tests for the video camera.

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IASPIS Seminar & buoys

Posted: February 10th, 2012

Yesterday Coble/Riley Projects spoke at the iaspis seminar.   The day long seminar was full of interesting insight into various formulations of collaboration in the arts.

We ate lunch at Sävargården, which serves traditional Nordic food and is in a beautiful historic mansion.  There and at dinner and drink afterwards we had the great opportunity to talk with the other seminar participants and our iaspis hosts

Today we planned to see the ship and fishing museum however they are closed for the winter so we longingly looked at the displays through the windows.

We spent time brainstorming and came to the conclusion that we could not fight the pull of Holmsund and the frozen sea.  We are now in search of buoys (or “boj” in swedish) and are considering constructing them ourselves if we cannot find what we need.

A night stroll in the forest finished off the day. Tomorrow more searching and deciding…..


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The Sea

Posted: February 8th, 2012

Today we went to the sea. Helena, a local artist and one of the hosts of Iaspis invited us to come to Holmsumd, where she has a house on a small inlet that leads to the ocean. We were told that people had been seen crossing the ice there.

We took a walk down one side of the inlet hugging the bank. We occasionally walked on the ice, but felt nervous to walk out fully because there were cracks and jagged peaks. Apparently the ice has been unpredictable this year due to changes in air pressure. When the ice is also covered in snow, it is also nerve-wracking as you can’t see what is underneath. We are interested in this tension.

Walking to the Sea

We planned to reach the outer most point, but quickly realized that it would take too long in the cold. We did make it to a secondary point.  This landscape opened up a whole new dialog for us. We are talking about feeling both simultaneously open and constrained, there is a promise of being able to walk anywhere (to islands, to Finland!) but the reality is foreboding and even life-threatening. We found some spots that we will most likely return to.

Out on secondary point

The light changes so quickly here. We talked about how this will effect the perceptions of the environment on video, and the challenges of splicing together a recorded performance with these drastic shifts.

On our walk back we met Helena on the ice. She told us that an ice fisherman had been sitting in the middle while we were on our walk. We went to the spot where he had been sitting. Mary investigated the fishing hole, and found the ice was a little less than a foot thick. With Helena’s help, we got the courage to walk to the other side of the inlet. We now know there is one spot we can cross.

We ended the day back at Helena’s house with delicious traditional Swedish waffles, strawberry jam, tea, and a salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, kiwi, and oranges. We all walked back to the bus, exhausted and elated. We feel so lucky to be here.

Swedish Waffles

Tomorrow we will talk about our work and practice as part in the Iapsis seminar about artist collaboration at the Västerbottens Museum.

iaspis seminar

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Talk & Studio Visits at the Academy

Posted: February 7th, 2012

We presented both our solo and collaborative work to the students at the Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, who in turn engaged us with many of good questions.  This talk also gave us the opportunity to look back upon and discuss our collaboration in a way that got us excited about both our past and current projects.

Studio visits filled the afternoon. We talked about topics that ranged from pushing your own comfort zone and taking risks, to the exploration of narrative, art & activism and performance.

Studio Visit #3


Views from student’s studios… not too shabby.


Tomorrow we are going to the sea, where we will follow a guide to a spot where we can walk on the river.

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Artist talk at the Umeå Academy of Fine Arts

Posted: February 6th, 2012

We are looking forward to giving an artist talk tomorrow (Tues. Feb. 7th) at 10:00 at the Umeå Academy of Fine Arts followed by an afternoon of studio visits.

Umea Academy of Fine Arts

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Walking Umeå

Posted: February 5th, 2012

We have explored over 13 miles (21 kilometers) along the Umeå River including two small islands off its banks.

Journey around Umeå

The cold continues. Yesterday -6F, Today 5F!

Umea Signs

The river and surrounding islands are very accessible by foot. We’ve been walking on cleared pedestrian foot and bike paths almost entirely. 

Path along Umea River










Despite the cold temperatures, the river is still too cold for us to cross. Evidently though…. some critters are.

Animal tracks onto Ume River
View from Pedestrian Bridge

Path to Ume River

Forest at the end of the island

Meeting Umeå Artists!
Yesterday we were invited to a dinner at an artist-run space called Verkligheten Galleri, where local artists held the first meeting of the newly formed artist association in Umeå.  There were over thirty artists present. We had many interesting conversations about what it was like to work in Umeå, and in Sweden in general. We talked about the pros and cons of government support of the arts. It was a great opportunity to connect with the community here.

Umea Artist Association Dinner 






All of this exploration has generated many ideas. Tomorrow we will take a break from the outside and hopefully start to formulate the beginnings of a project plan.

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Hardcore Forest

Posted: February 3rd, 2012

Looking to understand a bit more about Umea, we started  the day with a visit to the Västerbotten Museum, which houses various local exhibitions of Swedish culture. We were lucky to get an appointment with Karin, who runs the “popular movement archive.” The archive houses various ephemera from Umea popular culture, which includes everything to membership logs from alcoholics anonymous groups, to church accounting books from the 1800’s. Currently Karin is working on establishing an archive of the Umea Hardcore scene that gained international recognition here in the ’90’s (and which she herself was active in!)

Hardcore History in UmeaBlithe and Karin

After our visit we toured the rest of the museum, we were especially drawn to the old skis and snowshoes and this photo of this Sami storage shed.

Sami Shed

Today the temperature averaged around -8F. (Right  now -15F, but the weather channel says it feels like -30.) We are told that this is even cold for Umea. Luckily, we came prepared. So far our gear seems to be working.

We then came back to the apartment and had our first brainstorming session. We let ourselves speak freely and without judgment. We talked about “the problematics of seduction/ nostalgia of beautiful snow.”  More on that soon…

Then we went for a beautiful seductive nostalgic walk in the snowy forest on the trails behind our apartment. It was 3pm, so the sun was starting to go down. It cast a firey light on the trees as we were walking. On the property, there is also a re-creation of a traditional Swedish village (that is part of the Västerbotten museum). It simultaneously feels magical and artificial.

Snowy Wonderland

Umea Forest

We ended the day with a delicious dinner at a restaurant in the town center with our gracious IASPIS hosts. We enjoyed the company of new friends. Apparently on Mary’s last visit to Umea she scared the locals by her desire to walk the river. Everyone continues to express concern and strongly suggests that we do NOT walk on the river now, which is “not quite ready.”

Tomorrow… we are going to the river.

Mary Falls (for Louise)

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We arrived in Umeå!

Posted: February 2nd, 2012

We had a great welcome at the airport by Brita (a curator from the BildMuseet) and Micael (a professor at the Umeå Art Academy), both whom are representatives from the IASPIS Residency Program who invited us to Umeå.

Today we got a tour of the newly constructed Umeå Art Academy, where we were introduced to a few students and staff and were shown to the office that we’ll be able to work in while here.  The academy sits directly on the banks of the Ume River which immediatly caught our attention as it’s totally covered in snow and has the potential to freeze solidly enough to be walked across.

Then we walked around the city center where we discovered how incredible cold it is here as Mary slid down a slide made of ice which was part of a huge snow castle and Blithe’s eyelashes became tiny frozen icicles.  We also noted that walking a lot in snowboots is difficult.








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