Archive for October, 2021

Introduction Emke Naja

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Emke Idema is there
on Terschelling, The Netherlands

Naja Lee Jensen is here
in Fredrikstad, Norway

Østfold Internasjonale Teater invites Emke Idema.

In order for Emke to be here, Østfold Internasjonale Teater hosts Naja Lee Jensen.

Naja is Being Here

for Emke


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Dear Naja,

I have chosen to work on a site that – as I presuppose – doesn’t contain so much beauty-in-the-way-we-know-it. I was told that it is an area which is rapidly being gentrified, in which people with money live in newly built apartments at the riverside. It seems to be a site that has changed or is changing character. Or….I wonder….what is the character of this site? That is my question, I want to find strategies. 

Today I would simply like to go there. Open. Intuitive, without forcing anything on a place that I have never been to before.


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Dear Emke,

Today you arrive at Trosvikstranda a bit past noon
The sky is grey and the air feels quite damp
Autumn has arrived
You enter your area
from a car bridge that crosses Glomma
The sound under the bridge
of tyres on wet asphalt
is intense
and it follows you
as you walk into Trosvikstranda

What strikes you upon your arrival is the lack of tall new buildings and the feeling of money
Instead there are parked cars on a gravel site
a turquoise wall with the word fear written on it
on the river is a raft
in green and blue colors
floating carefree on the surface of the water

You decide to take a walk
as a strategy to map out the area
and see if you can find its’ changing character
But what you find is a pile of Euro pallets beside a shop selling stuff for boats
One of the shop windows
facing towards the riverside
is broken
In another
two large sized men in checkered shirts sit very close
each working on their computer

By the quay
five smaller boats are tethered
hitting the water with their hulls
In one of them
yet another man
standing in the wheelhouse
behind glass
misted by his breath

While you try to figure out whether it is a tiny fishing boat or not
the city ferry docks at the other side of Glomma
just beside the gigantic recently build football stadium and the high school
A diverse crowd of people board
and take off

You take a break
– like the area
the parked cars
and the dilapidated buildings –
waiting for something to happen

Your eyes wander off to the other side of the water
taking in the newly built condominiums
used for living and working
these buildings are taller
than the factories lying alongside the river

Sitting on the quay at Trosvikstranda
you can easily imagine
how new architectural plans could fit here
Creating a whole new residential area in glass and concrete
– with soundproof materials the people living here might not even hear the cars
only see the water

You wonder about Holmen
the area behind Trosvikstranda
an old working class neighborhood with cosy wooden houses
today one of the poorest areas in the city
Will there be a lot more shadow there
if the city development plans are realized?

Somehow Trosvikstranda is filled with future money
It is just not visible yet
– to you anyway

What you see is:
one car shop with an auto repair shop
a place that sells kitchens
a co-operative called Rebel
one open space with three benches and two tables
a tall white empty building – you look through the window
a lower yellow building where somebody might live (fake flowers in the window)
a hidden wooden house where somebody might live (looks cozy but no windows on one side)
some trees
piles of wet yellow leaves
a lot of men
some doves
295 parking spaces
and one parking space for disabled people

You wonder if knowing more about the past and future of Trosvikstranda is interesting or not…

As you finish off your day
you take a walk around your area
1000 steps precisely
and you are back where you started


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Dear Naja,

Yesterdays exploration was interesting. The place felt quiet in a way, breathing in before manifesting something. I enjoyed looking at the old buildings, in the way a tourist does, because they are different from my ‘normal world’. 

Today I would like to look less from the outside with my tourist eye. I would like to find out whose fear is sitting on the turquoise wall. Like in a detective: Who wrote it? What is the perpetrator afraid of: what is the word on the wall telling us? Is it coming from the man in the wheelhouse? From someone living in Holmen? Probably I won’t find the direct source, but looking for it in the most serious way will hopefully facilitate a different way of moving through the area.

Fear, as I understand, is always in between the now and the future of something, probably related to a history of loss. Trying to find the source of fear I hope to get to know the character of the area better.

I would also like to take care of the fear in a way, don’t know how yet, maybe with a small ritual?

ps: I also realized that I was the only non-man walking there, of the human beings, maybe there were more amongst the doves.


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Dear Emke,

Today you are talking to people to get another entrance to the area.

Inspired by yesterday’s discoveries you follow the blue wall to figure out if anybody knows how the word fear ended up there. Since not a lot of people are using the area in their daily life, you decide to enter some of the smaller shops to talk to people that actually spend a lot of time here.

First you enter a boat shop. Behind the counter there is a man. He looks friendly but also a bit hesitant. When you open your mouth to ask him about the wall he changes to looking scared. You are wondering if it is you, your language or the situation that causes his fear. You decide not to follow up, since you feel it would be too confrontational to ask the reason for his fearful look. Instead you leave the shop.

Outside you notice a laminated paper attached to one of the small boats. To read what it says you have to stand fairly close to the quay. It is a message from the commune informing that the boat has been parked illegally and that the authorities have the right to remove it at the expense of the owner. Did this message hang here yesterday?

You wander off to a yellow building with the world’s lowest fence guarding the only lawn in the area. Two men are having a chat in front of a car. One of them has a lot of tattoos. The other not. You ask about the wall and the tattooed guy recommends you to go inside and talk to Emil. You do as you’re told.

When you arrive at the top of the staircase Emil is on the phone and you get a possibility to take a look around in the space. It somehow reminds you of an office at a creative tech company in the valley with a pingpong table, plants and a big sofa and tv setup.

Emil hangs up and tells you that The Rebel Collective is a co-working space for smaller companies. He himself has been wondering about the blue wall. Why it is there and the history behind it, but he doesn’t have the answer although he seems to have a lot of knowledge about the area.

Emil’s optimism and enthusiasm is infectious. He hopes for Trosvikstranda to be a place for families with children to hang out and that the area gets rid of its status as a forgotten part of town. He is dreaming of a festival next summer, a wall that people can paint on and something about parkour routes, as far as you can understand. This summer they had a food truck but no one came by except the alcohol abusers who usually hang out under the bridge.

You follow Emil down to his shop on the ground floor. Sustainable t-shirts and some tired locally grown plants on sale. It is difficult to run a shop in a forgotten part of town. Through the broken entrance door you can see the well-kept lawn. When asking Emil who broke the door he replies: ‘the area’.

Leaving The Rebel Collective you notice a man standing beside the small boat. His energy is nervous and that somehow makes you curious. You stop and pretend to take a phone call to see what will happen. It seems like your stopping makes his pacing back and forth even more edgy and you feel like your presence is causing someone to feel bad. That is not a good feeling so you decide to go and visit the car shop instead.

Here, a middle aged man excels in understanding Danish and communication is no problem. He tells you that the blue wall is a remnant from a building worthy to preserve. When you ask him what happened to the rest of the building, he says he doesn’t know. He also doesn’t know who wrote fear, but he guesses that it is just regular tagging.

Beside the wall, an autocamper is parked at the gravel site. In five years he says, everything will look different. The building of the car shop will be torn down, that is certain, but as far as he knows the shop hasn’t got a plan for its future. He doesn’t seem afraid, but resigned, and says that ‘it’s more realistic’. They are just waiting.

What surprises you when you enter the kitchen shop, is that it is a woman who is running the store. She says that the blue wall has been built as a support for a little yellow boat house at the quay, since it was falling apart and the building is worthy of preservation. She corrects herself, was worthy of preservation. Today the foot of the boat house is completely rotten. Now the kitchen building is the only one that is going to be preserved when the area changes.

This information makes you wonder about the information you got earlier. The stories of the people with whom you have talked almost feel mythological: what was here before, what is going to happen and what is going to be preserved – everyone has their own interpretation.

The woman in the kitchen shop doesn’t know who wrote fear on the blue wall and she doesn’t seem very interested in neither the tag nor the term. Instead she lets you know that the area burned down 40 years ago. She was a kid then, but she remembers. Before that, there were a lot of smaller shops. After the fire, Trosvikstranda was more or less forgotten in the public eye. 

Upstairs there is a cake shop where you can order cakes for your wedding or other celebrations. The woman in the shop doesn’t know anything about the wall, the fear or the area in general, but tells you that each Friday they sell cupcakes in this store. You ask her if they have enough customers and she says yes – people with allergies who love cupcakes know where to go.

On your way to your bike you have the feeling that fear isn’t so present with the shop owners in the area. In the conversations you had you were met with hopes, wishes, realism, gossip, autonomy and resignation. Despite that you decide to try out a small ritual to take care of the fear. You place yourself where you met the doves yesterday and take five deep breaths while you feel how the pace of the world slows down.

Passing the small boat on your way home, the laminated information from the commune has been removed and you think you know who did it.

Other Senses

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Dear Naja,

Yesterday was a day filled with stories about the history and the future of Trosvikstranda, told by the shop owners. Not one of them recognized the fear on the wall, most of them were not even interested. They seemed to be very different characters, yet sharing an unconcerned feeling about the future. The fear belongs to someone else.
I had presupposed that the imminent changes of the place would come with all kinds of difficult feelings, but, at least with the shop owners, these were absent. Almost automatically I make up myths about future (mainly) and history, and before entering these myths again – I would like to understand what the place is NOWI would like to get to know it better without projections. I need to go there again, be present. As a strategy to enter another character layer of the place, I would like to use other senses besides sight and hearing: I would like to feel the touch of the place, smell the smell and taste the taste of it. In order to catch all these things I will probably be moving around very differently, probably closer to the ground. I might need suitable clothing.

Other Senses

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Dear Emke,

The sun shines and Trosvikstranda feels quite warm despite an actual drop in temperature. Compared to the other days, the area seems buzzing with life and not that forgotten.

Trosvikstranda has become a part of your daily routine – like drinking a cup of tea in the morning. Today you notice how your body recognizes the geography of the place when walking the 1000 steps. Due to your longing for knowing the place from other angles you open your senses: smell, touch and taste and end up with these impressions:

Hard unsteady // car oil // Sundays

Organically soft // something you might eat // sun rays

Soft hollow // old lake water // cold mud

Black hard // autumn death // organic mouth

Hard long // exhaust hug // no taste

and you’re back

You write not under fear on the blue wall with your index finger and have the urge to write a lot more in visible ink but you don’t have a pen. Instead you sit down by the water in front of the little yellow building (no longer?) worthy of preservation. 

Although you have decided to use your senses of smell, taste and touch, you cannot stop looking at the stones that are lying here. They look like conglomerates with seaweed growing on them but when you touch them you are surprised. The seaweed is small, pieces of metal curled up like permanent hair from the 80’s. You take another look at the place and realize that the stones are residues from the past, held together by a brown compact mass of unknown origin. Porous metal and glass are peeking out into the presence. 

You try to break a ‘stone’ to do an archeological study of what has been, but they are too hard… you need some tools that you don’t have yet.

The small boat from yesterday has gone. You don’t know who is responsible but you sit down next to the blue and green raft. You place your feet on the raft and feel the breath of Glomma as it moves past you and Trosvikstranda. You breathe in and out together with the river as time goes by.


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Dear Naja,

Oof, that was a nice day in Fredrikstad yesterday. I had the feeling that I really ‘landed’ in the place. I enjoyed simply being there, with my feet on the raft. This morning I woke up thinking about the stones. I am so curious what they are made of. I felt it was a mysterious moment: the moment that I discovered that they were not what I thought they were, that they consisted of something else.

Imagine that they are not the only things around that appear to be something, but are made of something else. That other parts of history – maybe even of the future – are clumping together in something that looks like a stone, a moss, a flagpole, a rain barrel!

Today I would like to do an exercise. I would like to try to re-see/re-imagine Trosvikstranda in this way. To carefully re-see some of the things there. What snippets of history or future could they also be made of? And how would I discover these? The ‘stones’ changed when I touched them. They felt different from how I expected them to be based on my sight.

To inspire myself and collect ‘possible material’ I might feed myself with some reading on the history or future of Fredrikstad, but, as I know me, I should keep it extremely limited! This could be something to spend too much time on. (Plus: history is so much more than is testified about.)


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Dear Emke,

Today Trosvikstranda is a labyrinth. Despite the beautiful autumn weather, you feel quite tired when you first begin.

Sitting in the atelier you wonder what it means to re-see and re-imagine a place and how one could do that through other means than the ones of a city planner or a historian? You take a look in a book that tells you that Trosvikstranda was one of the first streets that got an official name and one of the first areas of the western part of town that was populated. In the end of the 18th century a shipyard was founded here.

You close the book and with this in mind you cross the bridge and enter your area. You decide to taste the taste of the place and visit the cake shop for a sugar-free low-carb cupcake with vanilla (the caramel ones are sold out). 

Sweetened by the pitstop you decide to listen to the past while looking at the presence. You find a sound clip of boat building and go for a walk in the area. With the sound in your ears you try to re-imagine the place but the soundscape quickly turns into uninteresting white noise and your re-imagining becomes imagining because what is the woman hiding from the police doing and why is she hiding…? 

You stop walking and (maybe) then something happens between the sound and the space. The place suddenly deepens and a presence of something absent arrives. After a while you change track to a sound clip of playing children with their families and somehow you have the same feeling. The future and the past intertwine with the presence? Or is it just the many hours of research on site that fucks with your brain….?

Before you go, you for some reason want to visit the empty white building again. At the container in front of the entrance door a QR code is placed. You pick up your mobile phone and scan the code. A test page for Norwegian recycling comes up. Dead end. 

A white feather falls in front of you and you look up and suddenly you see all the doves that usually hang out at the open square, sit on the roof. The sun rays make the green/purple spot on their throat shimmer and you find yourself captured by the beauty of the colors. A seagull eases from the roof and then another and it feels like the birds have a secret life up there in the sun.

As you are ready to leave, you notice one dove walking a couple of meters from you. Is it the one with the thin neck that stayed with you the other day when all the others took off? You decide to stand still to see what she will do. Slowly and quite hesitant she walks around you in a circle and you feel part of a choreography you haven’t made. If you move she will fly away but that might also be a part of the dance.

On your way back, you pass the stone sculpture in front of the white building. Micro 80 it says in black granite. You pick up your phone and google Micro 80 Fredrikstad. The white empty building was a software developing company with its heyday in the 90’s. Later the company was acquired by Visma – Europes’ leading software company. It seems like Trosvikstranda was not only first mover on official street names, it was also quite hightech in the 90’s. 

You leave the area with an image from the local newspaper in mind. In ‘city planning language’ this small area with the circumference of a 1000 of your steps is a tenderloin. 


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Dear Naja,

I noticed that I found myself in Trosvikstranda with a lot of thoughts in my head yesterday. I had a plan to begin with, but I got slightly carried away by the philosophical implications. Past, future, now. The birds offered some consolation.

I’ve been exploring Trosvikstranda in different ways during the last few days. Again and again I am reminded of my expectations and assumptions, as things appear differently to what I initially believe them to be. On the first day I have expectations about the ‘changing place’. On the second day I had an assumption about the fear, but the reality was different, I didn’t find fear of the future there. Then I discovered the past of the place in the ‘stone’ by touching it – something so different to what I had been looking at.

Although a part of me loves to keep my meandering mind, my open presence, I feel that I found something when I saw the stones: a thought in a physical form. What if more ‘things’ that I see around me are in fact made of a material other than what I assume? And the material comes from past or future? The stone as merely a metaphor of the place. I would still like to do an exercise where the expectation, the assumption, the past and the future come together in the now. 

Today, I imagine a walk through the area, passing different ‘objects’ that I’ve come into contact with during the past days, that seem one thing but could be another. Trosvikstranda as a 1000 Steps Museum – ‘I am also something other than what I appear to be’.

And now, thinking of the immediate future: tomorrow, when there will be a shared moment at 2pm. This might be a tryout for the future audience?


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Dear Emke,

Today you have been at the 1000 steps museum of ‘I am other than I appear’ and you feel excited. It seems like the last days of exploratory and imaginative work has created a new map of the tenderloin of Fredrikstad.

Since you are going to share your process with guests tomorrow (the weather forecast predicts rain and gusts of strong wind, so you are hoping there will be guests…) you decided to re-see the area in the optics of the days that have passed. Through a short explanation you turn each thing into something other than what it appeared to be.

As you take a round, you name the objects in your museum as they are now:

Car shop // A building that will disappear

Trosvikstranda // One of the first official street names

Granite sculpture // Software Company elected company of the year 1994

Empty white building // Home of mould

Parking space // One of 295 parking spaces

Low bushes // Shortcut for someone to somewhere

Open square // Dinner table for doves (possibility to dance with birds)

Pavement // The river Evja (running under your feet)

Terrace in front of the boat shop // Hang out for people who like sun with others (occasionally a place to meet the police) 

Blue wall // Somewhere to write your inner hopes and fears in invisible ink 

‘Stones’ // Remnants of the past

Green/blue raft // The movement and passing of Glomma and time

It didn’t get as sci-fi as you might have hoped for and maybe not a novelty for people knowing the area more intimately but you still feel quite excited.

Attracted to yesterdays’ sound clips you find a sound bite of houses being demolished. The sound is so vivid that you decide to bring it with you into the museum. Sounds of the future that will accompany the guests’ last steps in the area as the circle is being closed.

To be Here Now

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Dear Naja,

Today I woke up feeling the excitement of yesterday.

During the week I had been wondering: what is my role here? What can I offer, being a stranger here, now, in this place? What can I add?

I feel that the most authentic gift is to offer a portrait of the area as I experience it now, with all its twists and turns, and I guess that is exactly what I am doing. Let’s see now how the weather twists the area again (or not).

For today I would like to see if it is possible to document the 1000 steps museum that Trosvikstranda is, so that it can be a gift to future inhabitants. So that in their now, our now can resonate. Maybe it’s too big of an extra task, then I will drop it ofcourse, because today I would like to minimize stress in order to enjoy as much as I can. 

I would like to be here now, be present during the presentation, and also before and after it, as much as possible. That is my biggest longing for today.

To be Here Now

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Dear Emke,

The weather gods are with you today and although cloudy, rain doesn’t fall from the sky. You start the day hanging out at the 1000 steps museum. Due to the weekend day and the clouds you have the museum to yourself and enjoy wandering around looking at the past 5 days.

At 14 o’clock a small group of people gathers in front of the car shop – the starting point of the 1000 steps museum. James makes an introduction. Afterwards you take over. During the introduction the number of cars passing by is intense and the noise pollution measures up to big city scale. You cannot help but think of the ears of the people who might live here in the future. Is this actually the tenderloin of Fredrikstad?

You share with the small group of people that we are going to experience the 1000 steps museum and name the 12 objects that right now are a part of the museums’ collection. Before you start walking, you give some background information on the future transformation of Trosvikstranda and you tell people that what they are going to experience is a tryout. 

In retrospect you regret that you didn’t specify a try-out within the specific working method developed for ‘Being Here for You‘. Furthermore, you wish that you had handed out the written exchange between Naja and you since it has been (a big part of) the process.

You feel a bit uncomfortable – it seems too early to open the doors to the museum since it was just created yesterday at noon. Luckily a child is a part of the small group of people which adds a much needed informal atmosphere to the moment. During the 1000 steps you take impulses from the child to put some physicality into the museum. In the end it becomes an inconsistent attempt, maybe something to do with the physicality and the naming, since you end up missing rituals and signs stating the names of the twelve objects. Next time, you think to yourself. This is a tryout.

You begin at object number one: A building that will disappear. To name it, you ask the people to put their palms on the wall of the car shop and lean in. The object is named and this somehow feels good.

Object two is the longest object in the museum. It is One of the first official street names. Here you stand in the middle of the street and kneel down, touching the asphalt with your feet as if they were your hands. The object is named.

Object three is the most sculptural in the museum. It is Software Company elected company of the year 1994. Inspired by the child who is climbing through the holes in the sculpture, you ask the grown-ups to use the negative space to touch the sculpture and thereby the object gets its name.

Object four is the tallest object in the museum. It is the empty white building which is Home of mould. You ask people to use their noses to smell if the mould is to be detected from the outside. Where you stand, you don’t smell anything – not anything noticeable anyway – but the object is named.

Object five is One of 295 parking spaces. You ask people to gather in the rectangular marking. The physical gesture you have planned for naming the object, you for some reason have forgotten. Afterwards you decide, if you are doing something like this again, you want people to walk in a row along the sides of the square. To mark the space. Despite your forgetfulness the object is named.

Object six is the most organic of the objects. It is Shortcut for someone to go somewhere. The child intuitively takes the shortcut between the low bushes and you ask the grown-ups to follow him. The object is named.

Object seven is Dinner table for doves (possibility to dance with birds). Luckily two doves and one gray collar are using the dinner table as you and the group arrive. You invite the people to dance with the birds and not surprisingly the dance ends with the birds taking off. Ethically you feel a bit bad. This dance felt more like an assault than a choreography, but the object is named.

Object eight is invisible. It is The river Evja (running under your feet). You ask people to feel the water running under their feet. The object is named.

Object nine is the most trashy object in the museum. A broken terrace and garbage from yesterdays’ party. At this object you feel grateful for the gray weather since the sun loving crowd is absent today at Hang out for people who like sun with others (occasionally a place to meet the police). The child studies the old bottles lying around, which makes you and the rest of the group eager to move on. Maybe the contrast is enough to give the object its name.

Object ten is the most turquoise object Somewhere to write your inner hopes and fears in invisible ink. It is the wall with the visible tag fear and the invisible word not written on its surface. The father takes the initiative and asks his son if he wants to draw something in invisible ink and suddenly the group goes to the wall and starts to write with invisible ink. The object is named.

Object eleven is Remnants of the past. To get there, you and the group have to walk around (human?) poop but somehow this feels in sync with this object. The “stones” at the river side are lying as if nothing has happened since your last visit (which probably is true) and while the past peeks out of the brown matter, we touch the “seaweed” and the object is named.

Object twelve is the most liquid The movement and passing of Glomma and time. Sitting at the quay with our feet at the blue and green colored raft, we feel the water beneath the soles of our feet. We are almost at the end of the 1000 steps and the object is named.

Before the circle is closed, you play sounds from the future demolishing of buildings. The volume of the speaker is quite loud and you somehow feel the presence of the (maybe not so) imaginary future. 

In silence you and the group leave the gravel site and walk back to where you started at the car shop. The try-out of the 1000 steps museum is over. People hang out a bit before leaving and you return to your atelier with a lot of thoughts, which you take as a good sign. You are happy with the 1000 steps museum-test.

What the future will bring to Trosvikstranda – of museum guests and change – nobody knows.