The Office of International Cooperation
Syvärauma Bay and The Rauma Art Museum, Rauma, Finland
While in Rauma, Mackenzie Bristow and I had two main projects investigating nostalgia. For our first project OIC planned to interview Finns and recent immigrants living in Rauma and Helsinki and ask them “If you could select one object to identify you and your home, what would it be?” We easily met and were invited to the homes of the immigrants. We had great discussions, meals, and took some great photographs, but we were not finding it easy to replicate the process with the Finns. Further cultural research found that it would take more time before Finns felt comfortable with having a stranger in their house, let alone to take photographs of their prized possessions. As a solution we created the Office of International Cooperation (OIC). Located in a building in old town we held office hours where locals could draw the item for me that they would take if they were ever to leave Rauma. The OIC worked much better and created more opportunities for interaction. At the same time, we could also complete our second project related to nostalgia by recording childhood stories from the locals who spoke using Rauma dialect.
While living in Rauma, reviewing the drawings locals made, and remembering their stories, it became apparent that sea life was a central theme. I also noticed as my residency came to a close that I was becoming rather nostalgic about Rauma. It was almost like my project had turned itself back on me. I did not want to leave all the people I met, so I decided to take them with me. I had embodied the quote by the famous Rauma dialect writer, HJ Nortamo, “we feel best in Finland, and we cannot forget”.
I posted an ad in the local paper under the OIC, and an older gentleman who used to be a fisherman donated his boat because he could no longer care for it. The vessel was in need of love, it had several holes, and paint was peeling off, but we did not want to change it completely. Instead, we only repaired the severely damaged areas using chrome printed bandages and fitted it with a new motor built from photographic decals of individual components from US classic cars. Using boat lacquer, we attached the drawings made by Finns on to the inside of the boat. Finally, two coats of marine grade polyester resin were applied over the entire boat to preserve its history. The boat first appeared in front of the Rauma Art Museum for the opening of the Rauma Biennale Baalticum and then took its maiden voyage in the Syvärauma bay as onlookers watched. Powered by a paddle crafted by one of the local historians and expert Rauma dialect speakers as well as the stories we had recorded, the boat successfully traveled the bay. It returned to the museum for the duration of the exhibition, accompanied by four photographs to document its journey in Syvärauma Bay.