Exhibition11 : hus | hav – video by Amalie Smith
Mikael R Andreasen on Exhibition11:
“Some friends of mine recently recommended a book by Amalie Smith. I went to a book store and bought it. It’s good. However, Amalie does not only write good books, she also makes video projects. The one presented here was made in 2009. I did not discover it until August 2012, but liked it immediately. Having now watched it maybe five or six times, I am still not sure exactly why I like it so much. I tend to think that it has to do with the flow and intonation of the words, but as I said, I am still not sure.”
For those of you not understanding Danish, here is an English translation of the words in the video:
THE WEST COAST RETOLD
Here is the place. I came here every summer. Itʼs been three years since I was here last. I return in October. The place looks like itself. The experience is different. Iʼm filming. There is something Iʼd like to retain.
The place. We stay here for five days. We are a family but not like we used to be one. My brother and I are adults now. We arrive at the house some time in the afternoon. Since summer, itʼs been empty, but no dust has fallen, there is no dust in the air this close to the ocean. I think that time passes slower here; Iʼm used to measure it in change.
We open the house; we fill the fireplace with firewood and the pipes with water. Here, there is no chalk in the water. The windows are greased by salt. Perhaps, there are dead mice and butterflies on the floor in the attic. There is sand on the floor in the laundry.
We used to play a game when we arrived at the house. My mother asked me, if I could see how much closer the sand dunes had moved since last year. I told her that I could. But it was difficult; my body grew as well. The landscape was smaller every time I visited it.
Even the game we played gradually diminished. I could hear in the way my mother asked the question that the sand dunes were moving slower every year. Eventually, she did not ask how close they had come. The landscape had stopped moving.
A map is hanging above the table in the room where we eat. A copy of a hand drawn cadastral map from 1880. It has been hanging there as long as I remember. My mother points at our cadastral. The sea is far from it.
For many summers, she has pointed to the map, shown where the coastline runs, where it runs now, explained about the sea, which eats at the coast. Every year, I understood it in a new way. Then I forgot about it again.
I ask about the map, where it comes from, who has brought it to the house? My mother does not know. Perhaps, itʼs her parents, she says. Perhaps, the map hung in the house when they bought it in 1970. Now it is a part of the place, like the history of the landscape and like the distance to the sea.
I go for a walk along the beach towards the church on the cliff. Iʼve brought my video camera, and I film – waves, groynes, seagulls, houses. In this area, the sea has been eating of the coast. The church was in the middle of its parish. The bunker was on top of the cliff. The house was inside the country. Now, itʼs close to the sea. One would think that the landscape is in motion. But as said: itʼs stopped moving.
We go to the Coast centre; a half hour drive north. I discover that my parents do not know as much about the coast and the sea, as I thought they did. They have always said that the sea eats. It erodes. It moves material. Our sand is being moved towards the south to the coastal mudflats in the Wadden Sea.
I want to read the texts at the exhibit on my own, free from my parentsʼ comments. I have my hands full correcting my own voice, my own experience of the landscape. Of the groynes, for example. To me they are bridges going out into the water. They are places you can fish. They are a means to get into the waves without drowning.
The first groynes were laid out in a place, which is now 100 meters beyond the coastline. It was in 1875. They had hoped these would stop the erosion.
In 1974, the state made its first efforts, laying out sand to compensate for natural erosion. Through the eighties, the amount of sand was gradually increased. Now, every year, 2.5 million cubic meters of sand is being thrown onto the beaches along the west coast. I have seen it happen by our house. Their ships suck up sand from the seabed and move it onto the beach through long pipes.
The distribution of sand to compensate for natural erosion has brought the erosion to a standstill. It secures the landscape through a reversed movement. A staying retelling of the area as it looked when I was child in the eighties.
When I, during my vacations in the house, have looked at the sea and tried to imagine the landscape which used to be there before, I never considered including the first groynes, lying furthest from the coastline. Nor all the different beaches which have existed in different places, and in different levels. Nor all the phases of houses drowning.
The past is not just one landscape but many landscapes, that cannot co-exist – which would fill the world with material, if they did. Everything is in motion, the sand, the coast, the houses. To see through time would be to see a floating landscape.
I measure the distance between the house and the range of dunes. 26 meters. If the state hadnʼt fed the coast then today the beach and the dunes would have moved 40 meters inland. I work out that the house would have fallen into the sea the year I turned 16.