In social debate, the figurative meanings are less interesting. Wind is central to something that concerns many people in Västernorrland – wind power. A question that may seem fairly straightforward at first glance but has major implications, which explains why it has become so important.
The resistance to wind power may seem strange to an outsider, considering the potential to reduce our dependence on Russian gas and oil, and wouldn’t it be great if we could replace all fossil fuels with renewable energy sources? Everyone agrees about that, but the fitters and technicians who build the wind parks are not locals, hardly any staff is needed to run them, and the electricity they generate is sent to plants far away. What Västernorrland gets is environmental damage, limitations in the freedom to roam the forests, uglified vistas and further encroachments on an already struggling reindeer farming industry. This pattern is familiar from the mining and forest industries and the hydroelectric power plants in the north. Money and job opportunities are siphoned off and northern Sweden is left mainly with the drawbacks. The question is what these wind parks can offer the region in exchange.
Wind power is all about resources, who owns them and who exploits them. It is a matter of silence, nature, sustainability, environment, but also of the distribution of resources between urban and rural areas, between north and south Sweden, and ultimately, between inland and coastal areas. This is partly what makes the question of wind power so crucial.
The history of wind power goes back 6,000 years, when people first began using sails on their vessels. This technology was dominating until steamboats took over in the mid-1800s. Many expressions and similes relating to wind come from when shipping depended heavily on winds and weather conditions, and we can still relate to them today. As the saying goes: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.” [G3] That’s probably sound advice. Although, sometimes it can be good to drift with the wind, since that way of getting through life can lead to many new experiences. But we need an overarching vision of where we are heading.
Where can we find that in Västernorrland, with its multiple identities? The inland forests, the Sami land, the dramatic high coastline, fishing along the coast, shipping to and from the businesses and industries in the major ports, and the network of railways, bridges and roads inland.
As the climate crisis closes in on us, the interest in wind power and other renewable energy sources is growing. The tendency is a return to wind, water and sun – while fossil fuels will most likely be seen as an unfortunate historic parenthesis linked to the 20th century. This going back to the roots is strong in many areas, not least in the field of art, where we have seen a renewed interest in craft skills and traditional techniques over the past decade. There is also a greater focus on the rural districts and smaller communities outside the major cities. So, the future for Västernorrland could be looking up.
Thus, the theme of the Triennial is Wind, since it is so deeply connected to the current social debate, and, thus, to the development of Västernorrland and Norrland in general. This creates a broad potential for artists to interpret and design within the framework of the Triennial. Together, they will be a wind that blows through the tops of the firtrees in the north and south of Sweden the inlands and the coastline. A wind that is felt everywhere. A wind that carries a message of a new era and new possibilities. It supports our backs and resuscitates. This wind is the air we breathe, that fills the lungs of the trumpeter who blew the cease-fire signal in Ådalen [G4] in 1931. It is a wind that tells of sacrifices made on the way to the society we live in today.
We are now organising the first Triennial in Västernorrland, and the concept holds an inherent commitment to future major art initiatives in the region every three years. This raises hopes for change, a forward-looking and evolving arts scene that has its eyes on the world – while drawing attention to Västernorrland. Harnessing the wind is an excellent way to get the process going. We put our finger to the air to feel where the wind blows. But first, maybe we should ask ourselves: where do we want to go? The Triennial offers no clear or simple answers to that question, but art could show us the way.
Together with artists who live or have lived in the region, or who have other ties to it, all those involved in the project and myself as its curator, we have had the opportunity to look back in time, scrutinise our heritage, track movements in the past and the future. Now, we hope that everyone who visits the exhibition will begin to see the place where we want to go, to understand the winds that are blowing, the winds that will take us there and the winds that hold us back.
-Björn Norberg, 2022