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A0020 – Webster, Skidbladnir’s Figurehead

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This pocket-sized book documents a series of performances in which Brindalyn Webster asked Gothenburg shop owners to pose as the figurehead of a mythic Scandinavian ship. In the Norse Eddur, Skidbladnir is a magical vessel that catches the wind whenever its sails are raised, folds to a size so small it can be carried in a pocket, and expands to hold all the gods of Asgard. In Skidbladnir’s Figurehead (2009-10), the boat, transported into Sweden’s present by references to Gothenburg’s steadily rising waters, becomes a symbol of escape and a metaphor for the ship of state. The book contains nineteenth-century photographs of the city’s canals and steamers culled from Göteborgs Stadsmuseum archive, protest slogans used during the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference, an interview with a landscape architect about plans to build protective walls around the city, and a proposal outlining a contemporary reconstruction of Skidbladnir. Fantasy and protest exist side by side, suggesting that a problem as abstract as climate change requires not only loud voices and a long historical memory, but also the production and resuscitation of tangible, inhabitable fables.