After a good month moving around Europe to collect raw material for the walking piece I was going to produce in Moskosel, in northern Sweden, I made it to my destination.
I had managed to squeeze in a week in The Netherlands, during which Natalia also was able to come over, after a conference in Perugia, Italy. The three of us, joined by my mom, amongst other things, visited the Keukenhof, which turned out to be my very first time.
Some time last year, after Natalia had come back from another conference, she brought back COVID, and gave it to a couple, and their baby, we visited shortly after. Now, it appeared that, coming back from Perugia, she again brought the gift of COVID and handed it to both my mom and myself. We tested negative, but the symptoms were there, including my losing my taste for a few days.
So, I felt a bit rough making my way north, such that I decided that I wasn’t going to spend my 9 hour layover at the Stockholm airport, but get myself a real bed in a hostel, even if that meant the night was going to be short.
In the morning, waiting for my flight to the far north, it was easy to spot people chewing tobacco in little pouches, snuz. I had truly arrived in the north.
My flight brought me to Lulea. There, at the bus station from where I had to embark on my last leg, the bus station was selling prepackaged ice creams ‘at half price’.
It was literally snowing and freezing.
A few hours later, I got to the residency space in Moskosel. It is stunning. A former vocational school which has been completely turned into an artist space, with several cabins erected on the grounds to host the current artists in residence, it’s both beautiful and tranquil. Still, I was given a former classroom in the school itself, perhaps because the cabins were occupied at the time, which came in at about 10×10 meters. Quite a luxury.
The building is filled with classrooms converted into exhibitions, recording rooms, a few rooms to lounge in, as well as a few studios and apartments.
The village officially has around 250 inhabitants, but in practice it’s perhaps only half that. However, most of the residents I met had strong international connections. For example, an older lady I bumped into while she was walking her dog, spoke perfect Dutch, after having lived in The Netherlands for 11 years.
The exception appeared to be the few people who worked at the 1 cafe. The village has a gas station which is run by a cooperative. Until recently, it was managed by a major oil company, but they decided to shut it down for the venue not bringing in enough money.
A few locals decided to run the station themselves, as a cooperative, and now buy gas from the supplier that’s willing to sell it to down the cheapest.
They also run a cafe, next to the gas station, which sells good meals, fresh coffee, and pastries, during the day on weekdays. And, it’s a success; Plenty people stop by for a lunchtime meal.
And there’s a small supermarket, without which it would have been impossible to do the artist residency. The supermarket is not staffed, and so open 24/7. You can only get in by first identifying yourself with a Swedish bank account, or with a special key that we, as foreigners, had access to. Then, the small, but well-enough stocked supermarket, has a self-checkout for you to pay. By card only, of course.
By the time I left, the weather was lovely, crisp with clear skies. Still fresh at night, but often up to 20 degrees during the day. Even though, when I arrived, nighttime temperatures went down as low as -12.
Apparently, spring arrived late this year. Jerry, a local who helps out in maintaining the facilities commented on this: “This year, it stayed cold very long. If we are very lucky, we will have two weeks of summer.”
I’m very happy with the outcomes of my residency. The other artists were great, the facilitators were awesome, a little festival, with 50, or so, visiting artists, during the last weekend of my stay, was amazing, and I’m very content with the work I put together.
When I left, I noticed that most, but not all, snow had disappeared. The trees that were not evergreens had finally started to bud. The layer of ice had disappeared from the surrounding lakes. The sky a brilliant blue.
The village has a train station, but trains run infrequently. I had to take a replacement bus to a town some 8 hours away, from where a night train would take me to Stockholm.
For the first 200km or so, plenty of moose were on, or near, the road.