17.06.2023 – 01.10.2023

I Love Seagulls!

an exhibition about living together

A man looks through a telescope out of a window

What is it about?

In 2016, Tromsø Kunstforening got some new cohabitants out of the blue – a flock of seagulls occupied the façade of the old museum building in Muségata 2. We learned that these were kittiwakes. A species of seagull that normally nests in the steep cliff walls of enormous mountains far out at sea. The kittiwake is, like several other seagulls and species of seabirds, highly endangered. Huge colonies of nesting grounds along the coast are not merely on the verge of extinction anymore – they have gone completely quiet.

In the following years, the colony on our façade and in the rest of the city has grown, and the same is happening in other populated and urban areas along the coast. The reactions from people and news media in Tromsø have been very extreme and characterized by a wish to – as quickly as possible – get rid of the problem that this poses for us humans. But other voices have also made themselves heard. Scientists and artists have said: Hey, listen! The kittiwake has important things to tell us. The kittiwake is a climate refugee – and brings with it a message about an ecosystem in imbalance, which needs our attention. It is the actions of humans that have caused these birds to seek shelter among us.

The beginning of the breeding season of 2022 marked a transition in the debate and the local effort. Tromsø municipality took action, and in dialogue with the seabird researchers, Tone Kristin Reiertsen and Kjell Otto Jacobsen at NINA, they erected temporary nesting installations for the kittiwakes.

For the next season, the municipality gave Kjeld Nash, at AT Arkitektur, the task of coming up with mitigating measures, and in collaboration with the artists Lawrence Malstaf and Kåre Aleksander Grundvåg and in close dialogue with the previously mentioned researchers, they developed the mobile kittiwake hotels that can be found outside TKF's long-term premises today, where the kittiwakes are now incubating their eggs, which at the time of writing are in the process of hatching.

We were proud to present an exhibition that collected artistic, activistic, and science-based practices that have actively related to these issues, a long time before we and the city of Tromsø got to know the kittiwakes. From different angles of approach, the artworks dream of a better coexistence between people and birds, in poetical, practical, and long-term ways.

The project was realized with the support of Tromsø municipality, the Ministry of Culture and Equality, Troms and Finnmark county, Bildende Kunstneres Hjelpefond, Arts Council Norway, KORO, and NOFI.

Curator: Kåre Aleksander Grundvåg and Camilla Fagerli
Designed and built together with: James S. Lee, Ruth Aitken, Olga Gry Becker, Amalie Holthen, Robert Julian B. Hvistendahl
With Ingvild Austgulen, Eva Bakkeslett, Kåre Aleksander Grundvåg, Søssa Jørgensen, Geir Tore Holm, Irene Kaltenborn, Gabriel Johann Kvendseth, Lawrence Malstaf, Kjeld Nash (AT Arkitektur), Camilla Renate Nicolaisen, Georgiana Dobre, Kjersti Vetterstad, and Elin Már Øyen Vister.
A man looks through a telescope out of a window
Scaffolding creates a frame for a projection screen. On the screen reads 'The KILLER seagull. Bird spotted dragging pigeons to Hyde Park lake and DROWNING them'
A scaffold bench stands in the middle of a gallery. Drawings hang on the wall, and there is an old tv in the background.
A large black and white print of a bird cliff hangs against a wall
A minimalist mint-green table supports two nests made from down and feathers.
A TV screen shows a baby gull behind two seats made from tyres and yellow netting.
A women and child sit together on the floor, listening to headphones
A bench built from scaffold sits in front of a screen.
Many people looking around in a dark gallery.
Kittiwakes nest in a tripod-shaped bird-hotel.

Photos by Mihály Stefanovicz

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