There are so many things I don´t know about Telavag / Bergen
November 12th – 16th 2018
Text: Ana Soto
There are so many things I don't know about. Even when I learn about them, I still don't fully understand them. I didn't know anything about the Traffic of The North, which sounds like a story that would certainly work on cinema; I didn't know anything about the Televaag Tragedy, and it's so called memocide. What is the ethics behind memory and remembrance? This seems like a retaliation adinfinitum. Telavaag is in the periphery of Bergen, its remoteness somehow debatable. During WWII this location proved quite useful to support the resistance by getting people out of the occupied Norway to the uk, to join the allied army. Until, of course, High commanders from the Gestapo found out and punished the resistance by trying to catch them. No luck then. Gestapo ofcials die. Retaliation. Memocide. Men are captured, killed, sent to Sachsenhausen. Women are detained alongside children and the elderly. Retaliation. In 1942, this deserted but idilic, somehow remote place in the periphery of Bergen, this quiet village is completely erased, it is the victim of a memocide. Or at least that was the intention of the Nazis when they blew up all traces of human life.
The built environment, which was built to protect the inhabitants of Telavaag, was simply erased. Retaliation.
But after the war, those who survived (the majority of women, children and the elderly, and about half of the men), supported by the Estate, rebuilt their houses, barns, schools, ports, boat house. Retaliation. Obliteration of the memocide. Memocide of the memocide? New houses, same inhabitants (and more), making new memories.
The North Sea Maritime Museum opened in 1998 to keep these memories alive. The ethics of remembrance. You shall not forget. People shall come and visit this idilic, somehow remote place in the periphery of Bergen, and remember the tragedy of Telavaag. We shall not forget.
Over two days we occupied the deserted, remote, ruined village of Agios Sozomenos. We invaded it with installations, Russian whispers, strings from other lands; quiet dialogues with the landscape, rituals of some sort. And food, and songs, and walks, and talks, and memories. Other memories from afar and from not so far and yet a diﬀerent land, a diﬀerent language, a diﬀerent other that makes me reﬂect on myself. Does that count as co-othering?
We come and go, nomads when we walk, when we talk and when we think and remember. Over two days we occupied the idilic, somehow remote village of Telavaag, in the periphery of Bergen, in the middle of Norway, the North Way, straight from the south, covered by the Saharan dust. Over two days we drove slowly, we listened, we talked, we drank nice cups of tea and comforting pancakes. We walked up and down the hilly landscape that always takes you to the water, those temporary paths or permanent creeks (or was it the other way around?), that always facilitate the access to the sea (or the Atlantic Ocean? We couldn't fnd a clear boundary on the map. Walks that remind you (or make you remember) that the sea was the way to freedom, the pathway of resistance. Retaliation. This attempted memocide to erase Telavaag from history by erasing its built environment has promoted another form of memocide, a narrative that adds a constant tragedy to this idilic, somehow remote village in the periphery of Bergen. Telavaag seems to be forced to remember this tragedy, and this makes it rather difcult to thrive, to enjoy, to live, to collect happy memories. Is it ethical to make happy memories in a village of tragedy?
What is the ethics of remembrance? All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory (Nguyen, 2013). What should be remembered? How and by whom? Who owns memory?
Mi casa es su casa, they usually say in Mexico. I always wondered what the right translation is: my home is your home, my house is your house, or is it my home is your house? If I visit Telavaag over two days, and I get a warm welcome, a dry and homely space, a nice cup of tea and a pancake. Are you sharing your house or your home with me? Can I take part in your remembrance and support the narrative of victimhood and resilience, punishment and defance? Am I disturbing your home with my presence, tracing back those walks that led the people from Telavaag to death, concentration camps, non-places? How do you feel when I visit, and then I go, not leaving a trace behind, or perhaps taking a couple of rocks with me , quite a few pictures, the air that kept us breathing, and perhaps even a tree?
The ﬂy fishers international code of angling ethics explains the importance of ethical behaviour. The catch and release philosophy is the hallmark of this federation. Catch and release. Is that the ethics behind nomadic dialogues? Do we catch, or even anchor for a while, certain memories, and then release? Are we demonstrating some sort of skills or techniques which can be applied to diﬀerent locations, topographies, context? In certain lands people catch with artifcial ﬂies, but they do not release the fish aferwards. It would be cruel to let go of that damaged fish. It is more ethical to eat it for dinner. Kant explained as part of the Categorical Imperative: do the right thing for the right reason, because it is the right thing to do. Duty based ethics. Deontological. It is our duty: Artists are voices, the voices are a kind of freedom, with freedom comes responsibility.