I've spent a lot of time thinking about the remote Danish rural community of Thy-Lejren with whom I was sent from inner-city Sydney to engage. The camp, an experiment in alternate lifestyles, continues after more than 40 years with about 40 inhabitants, many of them little children. People live in all kinds of imaginary architectures, like a village in Middle Earth. A few of the inhabitants work very hard building sustainable infrastructure and systems, planting common garden spaces, organising events and excursions, and keeping a viable shop going through volunteer rosters and a general consensus of operating principles. Years ago, the children of the camp decided that sweets may only be sold on Saturdays, and the camp supply store proudly abides by this rule. (which I discovered when I went for chocolate on a Friday!) The camp is holding itself together with grit and hope, struggle and hard labour.
But what does a monolingual ultra-urban woman from the other side of the world have to offer this closed Danish community? Am I batman? Have I been parachuted in here as an anthropologist? How can I build meaningful relationships with people who are negotiating conditions whose challenges are evident to any observer? What do I even have to offer them?
My first visit of the spaced 3 project is four weeks long, but by the second week it is dawning on me that I would need to be around, making myself useful, for many months to make honourable connections with the camp. Otherwise I can't see how to build the necessary (mutual) trust to propose a process with the aim of co-creating exhibitable work.
But I do start a tentative friendship with camp denizen Eliza, a glamorous older woman who is a glass artist, working as a volunteer guide at the nearby Kirsten Kjaers Museum, in whose guest house I am staying. She takes me on an adventure to the strangest place I have ever seen: a beach littered with the remains of WWII concrete bunkers. It's like a set from a movie about the end of the world. But local people have counter-colonised this reminder of violence and conflagration, playing on the beach and messing with the forbidding structures. We swim among the ruins in the cold North Sea and I feel myself to be flotsam, floating in the great wide wash of history.