SEARCHING FOR THE SAMI
       

MFA Thesis Show, 2005 - 2006, Times Square Gallery, Hunter College, CUNY

       
Sami Sami Paintings - detail Table 1 - gallery view
Table 1 - detail Table 1 - detail Table 2 - detail Table 2 - detail
Searching for the Sámi/COOKBOOK, 2005
Variable dimensions
Installation: chairs, tables, panel, wall text, CD, and recipe book
       

Searching for the Sámi/COOKBOOK

Finding oneself
How to define one’s location is both geographic as it is psychological. Upon arrival in New York I chose to survey my physical “location” through the use of a GPS device which I then applied to my family and my friends. This device had a history of previous locations which I had visited with my family. I organized these readings in relation to my current location in New York City.
Walking through the city, I used the average walking speed to translate into the distance between destinations. The distance be­tween me in New York City and my family in the Czech Republic was, for example, coded into walking 24 hours a day for 60 days. The physical space transformed into an emotional one as the language of numbers began to represent the incomprehension between my experiences and theirs.

Finding another
My second project was a virtual one designed to locate the Indigenous people of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola Penninsula called Sámi. I have been interested in them since I spent time ice fishing on the frozen islands of the Baltic Sea in Finland. There are about 100,000 Sámi in the Nordic countries and half live in Norway speaking languages related to Finnish, Samoyedic, Estonian, Hungarian, and Turkish. There are also about 30,000 people in North America with Sámi ancestry.
Using simple logic I decided to use the process of searching for a man with that of searching for a Sámi. The Sámi and the man of my dreams became one object of desire. I started my search through the Craigslist.org, and decided that if those that responded were not Sámi then I could at least educate them as to who the Sámi were.
I gave them my time they gave me theirs. I gave them information – an explanation – and requested something in return. I re­quested a recipe. Food recipe. I wanted to know what they like. What would they serve me. What would they cook for me. What food would they pick. I wanted to have something from them. I wanted them to share something with me. I met 12 men. They were all different, from different places, of different origins. I received 12 recipes: appetizers, soups, salads, fish, meat, desert. I cooked the reci­pes. I ate the food. I personally experienced the food, therefore a part of the men I met. I also met a Sámi, my Sámi, who fit perfectly into my characterization.
As I found myself at the end of my journey, my goal was fulfilled as the object of desire was sitting in front of me. But something didn’t work. He was the right man based on my demands, but he wasn’t MY right person. Sámi and I talked. He gave me a recipe for a Sámi desert and shared the history of Sámi in Alaska and the United States. As I became interested in his people’s history, my own interest turned away from the man towards the Sámi history transforming the project into one which engaged social and political relationships. I contacted the Sámi community in Alaska and began to work with them. I started my Fictitious expedition to Alaska which became my own personal adventure.

Finding continuity
The Search and the Expedition are both introduced and described in the book – COOKBOOK. An installation is including sound, food and drawings that originated during my search and which I link to each recipe. As the Sámi used pictographs as a symbolic language to represent spirits and animals, my own drawings are pictographs, which represent the food from the recipe cookbook.
The centerpiece of the installation are tables, small intimate tables for two people, as if on a date; one sound is a record of the date, the second of cooking the recipes; the food and the relationships commingle to form the history of my adventure. The result turns the foreign into the familiar. The installation illustrates the story attached to the cookbook and through it my social relationship to history, to my history, to my desires and my aspirations. Narration has always been a central theme in art. The tales I tell attempt to expand the relational senses to include the oral as a way to pass-on and ingest the historic.

       
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