Tromsø March 2013

Tromsø sits on the faultline of vast changes as Arctic opens up to commercial shipping and commercial exploitation of oil and gas reserves. But this is a society accustomed to a managed approach with regulatory codes on both the environment and citizen involvement as the meetings at the municipal offices and the university law department on the waterways bore out. Deep snow brings a cautious step to life. Anomalies exist in understated ways. In particular, in a wealthy city ordinary people find it hard to cope with the high cost of living and with the acute scarcity of affordable housing.
Operating through the institutional base of an art academy brought approaches through 'out-of-the box ideas relating to existence and co-existence in a city'. Creative ways to evoke the shared resources of the commons tradition symbolically draw out the Tromsø Commons. There's surplus in this affluent land so salvaging waste food through dumpster diving and communal eating is one strategy. Ways to create autonomy without relying on external agencies. Another was to turn to alternative traditions, with the collective building of a mongolian yurt using wild sheep wool. An yurt as a habitat to explore the possibility of escaping to the waterways in a city that projects its future as an Arctic boomtown, a 'Dubai of the North'. But the future hints also of other possibilities as the clear effects of global warming were explained by the visit to the research institute Holt BioForsk.


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