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Olga Krüssenberg

No trees grow on Svalbard and the air is dry and cold. The absence of trees makes it hard to estimate the size of the mountains, while the dry air makes visibility possible over long distances. Half of the year the sun never sets on Svalbard. It circles its orbit without ever disappearing past the horizon. In winter, everything is in the shadow for months. What was visible is hard to see in the long night.  

Something happened with my gaze in the constant darkness of the polar night when I first visited Svalbard. My eyes were constantly deceived by my surroundings. What initially appeared to be a house revealed itself as a fence upon closer inspection. A mesmerizing blue glimmer in the ocean, reminiscent of shimmering jewelry, turned out to be bioluminescent algae. The environment—already in a state of slow collapse—was like a mirage: shapeshifting, hard to grasp. To prevent disorientation, my mind created narratives of the unknown which didn’t agree with reality.   

In my attempt to find a sense of safety in an environment that appeared elusive and prone to misinterpretation, film offered a means to structure narratives. Film’s ability to manipulate time, space, and perspective could mirror the fluid nature of narratives in such an unstable place—both those made by visitors and those made by people living there. Film became an excuse to approach the inhabitants and adjust my vision through their perception.  

I didn’t find familiarity—the archipelago’s phenomenological limitations to familiarity are part of its nature. Instead, I constructed narratives that became a framework in which I could navigate. After a long and persistent journey with this material, I did feel safer. But I know that if I return, I will lose myself all over again, searching for clues in a near distance.  

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Mirage Peak (detail) (2023) Styrofoam, 340 × 300 × 120 cm
Isblink (2024) Video, 14:18 min
Installation view from Too Close Too Far, Galleri Mejan (2023)
Mirage Peak (detail) (2023), Styrofoam, 340 × 300 × 120 cm