Nowhere, now here. The Arctic trajectories of travel: re-exploring Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard

Ny-Ålesund / Norway / Svalbard /
Team: Milena Sontowska /

The first time Ny-Ålesund was found on a map was back in 16th century as the northernmost location of whale hunting. From that on, it was constantly changing and its existence was depending always on the restricted function. But never gained a clear identity, never became a place.

Contradictions on Svalbard and Ny-Ålesund are piling up and creating entanglements that echo around the globe. Different dominant actors throughout history, from explorers and miners, and a sudden shift to dedicate the whole place to scientific research.

However, the same time the temperature keep increases causing stronger thaws, melting of the permafrost, disappearing of glaciers, water moves stronger, gases are released, alien seeds are brought with people’s shoes, arctic deserts becomes arctic jungles, cultural heritage or cultural wasteland, a place from where big things were achieved in mysterious landscapes, now big data is harvested every day, filling the servers, informing the world, feeding the predictions, and yet – it is a radio silent place. Visitors are obliged to be completely offline, even within themselves in relation to phone – smartwatch or switching off GPS location in the camera, while being a constant part of the hyperconnected world with extents expanding uncontrolled.

Ny-Ålesund has also very strict territorial restrictions to not disturb research instruments and data – it consist of 1.5km long loop.

And still, at the same time, Svalbard remains relatively simple, as natural forces will always be stronger there than humans.