virtual reality project VR glass; archive images dimension variable
Äskhult Halland County Sweden

The interactive virtual reality installation aims to recreate the dimensions of an archive by using VR technology. The project developed during the ART INSIDE OUT artist in residency: “SHIFT ÄSKHULT - digital and textile storytelling in Äskhult Village” program [3 Sept. -11 nov. 2018] in Sweden, with the generous technical assistant and support of the DLC Digital Laborativt Centrum, Högskolan Halmstad. The project addresses the following questions. :

Would it be possible to transmit the immaterial cultural heritage with interactive technology?

Connecting the immaterial cultural heritage and virtual reality has a lot of potentials. People’s lifestyle, stories, memories [1], and different techniques and knowledge [2] are just a few examples of the cultural heritage which are immaterial. With the applications – available today – we can record and store them in a virtual space and we can use this technique to protect and share this knowledge. Augmenting cultural heritage with new technology therefore might help us to understand better ourselves and our history through new figurations and interpretations of the past.

With virtual reality, it is possible to recall a space or visualize a period of time. When VR glass is connected with archive images, the viewer’s own body steps inside the virtual space and the movement creates interaction. By digitalizing archive materials, it is possible to recreate the spatial view by uniting them. In this way, a panoramic view surrounds the observer who is placed in the center. The created interactive archive allows experiencing the documents in a 360° view, covering the entire perception.

How – the artistic use of – new technology can engage with history?

Using new visual technologies – as an artistic medium – is research of perception. Considering the effects of technology, we can say that perception itself has undergone the most significant change. Since new technologies are mostly developed for industrial purposes, discovering them as a creator can redefine the way of looking at things. The view of space; time; memory or social issues are all perceived by the technological tools we use. Some technology even influences the classical concepts of time and space, and therefore it could even support access to history. We can see multiple places at the same time – for example  by following social media. It is crucial since we can participate at different levels in contemporary society.

In this flow, there has never been a greater need for critical engagement with the role technology plays in society.  As a reference, the great novel: The Tale of the Big Computer: A Vision (1968) [3] by Olof Johannesson doesn’t paint a bright future of a society ruled by technology. In his vision – which really resembles the world we live in today – the body, for example, (as something personal) is not important anymore, and one can be anywhere using the wearable devices such as the „teletotal” and the “minitotal”. With the tools available today, we are already able to create a virtual context where the body partly disappears, but memory can become almost tangible. In the end, our role in the ongoing technological development is not to decide whether what’s happening is good or bad, but to try to find creative ways to push it in positive directions.

SPECIAL THANKS to: DLC - Digital Laborativt Centrum, Högskolan Halmstad; Per Österberg (DLC); Art Inside Out residency program;  Petra Johansson (artistic director Art Inside Out); Wendela Sanne Örhnell (head of Äskhult and Naturum, municipality Kungsbacka); Davor Abazovic (producer AIO), Jesper Norda (artist; university adjuntus in Design vid Högskolan för Design och Konsthantverk Gothebourg); Hanna Bergman (graphic designer); Henrik Sputnes, (AIO journal); Kristina Meiton (film maker); Hallands Kulturhistoriska Museum, Varbergs; Elisabeth Fahrman (archivist Hallands Kulturhistoriska Museum)

ART INSIDE OUT is a nomadic institution for artist-in-residence in all art forms and genres. Artists are invited to explore the possibilities for their own art, as well as exploring new collaborations, with the county of Halland as a playing field. Through an open process that leaves room for the unforeseen there is the opportunity for new discourse, where art generates creative solutions and new ways of seeing the world. Art Inside Out is operated by Region Halland, together with the municipalities of  Falkenberg, Hylte, Kungsbacka, Laholm and Varberg. 

ÄSKHULT VILLAGE - situated 15 kilometers southeast of Kungsbacka - is a unique historical place in Sweden. In the 18th and 19th century, the Swedish cultural landscape was fundamentally changed. The reform of the great partition divided the villages and we got farms with alone lying houses. Äskhults village is a non divided village, and as such a unique historical place in Sweden. There was a settlement on site in the Bronze Age, and an ancient road went straight through the village. The preserved houses in the village gained their present appearance in the period 1750-1850. Äskhult consists of four farms – Göttas, Jönsas, Bengts and Derras (meaning ”neighbor”), the farms are tightly assembled on a stony courtyard. The village was preserved for the afterworld by forming a foundation in the 1960s, after the death of village’s last inhabitants. By the end of the 19th century, the village had about 40 inhabitants. Around the turn of the 1900s most of the village youths traveled to America. Many of these were never heard of again. But some of the emigrants returned and lived the rest of their lives in the village, until the mid-1960s. In the 1990s, the whole village with all the surrounding properties was bought by the West Coast Foundation to be protected as a reserve. It was followed by a reconstruction of the landscape back to as it was before the 19th century's major changes in agriculture in Sweden. During the same period, major restoration efforts were made on the settlement. Aeskhults village has an interesting history, linking to questions and issues that are relevant even today.

[1] Stig R. LARSSON,: Äskhult 1700-talsbyn I Halland och dess sista invånare, Stiftelsen Äskhults Gamla By, Sättning: Fihnsättarna AB I Kungsbacka, Tryck: Högsbo Grafiska AB, 1993
[2] Hans HELANDER,: Äskhults by, Där historien möter framtiden, Åkessons Tryckeriaktiebolag, Emmaboda 2013, Författarna, illustratörerna, CAL-Förlaget, ISBN 978-91-979149-5-6
[3] Olof JOHANNESSON: The Tale of the Big Computer: A Vision (1968) Olof Johannesson was a pseudonym of Swedish plasma physicist and author Hannes Olof Gösta Alfvén (1908-1995) (Sagan om den Stora Datamaskinen, En vision. Bokförlaget Aldus/Bonniers Stockholm, 1966; English Publication (Gollancz, 1968), Introduction of the teletotal” “minitotal p.53-54

PHOTO CREDITS: (visible photos, right to left from the entrance road): ‘BENGTS’: Albertina Johansson (1867-1924), photo around 1900 from private collection | Bengts barn, built around 1600 | Hanna Göök (1901-1958) photo: Stig Tornehed around 1940 | Bengts house photo: Lena A:son Palmqvist | Anna-Lina Pettersson | Göka-August / Johan August Andersson (1860-1949) photo: Stig Tornehed | DERRAS’: Derras house photo: Lena A:son Palmqvist | Derra Gottfrid / Gottfrid Pettersson (1897-1964), photo: around1940 | Derras barn, photo 1942 John Andersson | JÖNSAS’: Johannes Andreasson (1870-1953) photo: Olof Behm around 1930 | Jönsas barn | Äskhult village with Jönsas house around 1940 photo: Stig Tornehed | Anna-Britta Andreasson (1866-1958) photo: Olof Behm around 1930 |GÖTTAS’: Göttas house, photo:Lena A:son Palmqvist | Aron and Albin Larsson, photo around 1900 | Göttas barn around 1930 photo: Nordhallands Hembygdsförening | Göttas barn after reconstruction | Göttas barn photo:Lena A:son Palmqvist | Nils B. Brogner, photo: John Andersson

‘POINTS’ PHOTO CREDITS: (non visible photos appears by interaction, right to left from the entrance road): ‘BENGTS’: Map of Äskhult village, 1825 Förlanda Sk | Albertina Johansson with the children: Fritz, Axel, Gustav and Hanna (Hanna Göök), photo around 1900 from private collection | Hanna Johansson (Hanna Göök) | Anna-Lina Pettersson | Göka-August / Johan August Andersson (1860-1949) photo: Stig Tornehed | DERRAS’: Derras house | Derra Gottfrid / Gottfrid Pettersson (1897-1964) photo: Olof Behm, around 1930 |JÖNSAS’: Anna-Britta Andreasson (1866-1958) and Johannes Andreasson (1870-1953) photo around 1940 by Stig Tornehed | Äskhult village with Jönsas house around 1940 photo: Stig Tornehed | Jönsas house after the fire with Nils B. Brogner, photo 1953: Nordhallands Hembygdsförening | Jönsas house map from 1980 by Nordiska museet Förlanda | ‘new’ Jönsas house | Jönsas house corridor | GÖTTAS’: Church road between Jönsas and Göttas house, photo:Lena A:son Palmqvist | Göttas brothers “American brothers”| Göttas interior photo:Lena A:son Palmqvist | Nils and Lisbeth Brogner photo from a private collection

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