Refuging in Rejmyre
In the summer of 2022, publics in the vicinity of Rejmyre were invited to come together to build a Refuging Pavilion. This work was part of Daniel Peltz’ (U.S. artist and co-founder of Rejmyre Art Lab) current project “Refuging in Rejmyre,” that began in 2018, and is an extension of his long-term artistic investigation of this rural, glass factory-town.
Peltz’ work takes the form of a proposal to bring a small-herd of unemployed logging elephants, from the teak forests of Myanmar to the pine forests of Rejmyre. As part of this work, Peltz enlisted the Danish futurist architect, Kristoffer Tejlgaard, to produce an architectural proposal for a 5000 sq. meter refuge for these elephants, to be built by, for and in Rejmyre.
The first stage of this work became a reality in 2022, through the building of a smaller, 120 sq. meter, pavilion that tests Peltz’ proposition of refuging through the communal construction of what he refers to as ‘a necessarily unnecessary structure’. The primary purpose of building this futurist architecture, in a factory-town full of disused buildings, lies in the act of building itself. Peltz’ insistence, on the value of building anew in this place, despite its economic irrationality, points to the urgent task of rebuilding social architectures that challenge and re-articulate the value of life and lives in rural, post-industrial sites according to other-than-economic logics.
PRESS RELEASE TEXT, June 2022:
This summer, a large-scale, social art project by the American artist Daniel Peltz takes place in Rejmyre, Sweden. The public is invited to take part in a ritual construction process that aims to develop a practice that Peltz refers to as refuging and, in the process, to revalue the people and place of a small glassworks town in northern Östergötland according to other than economic logics.
After two years of delays, due to the pandemic, building permits and other logistics, construction is now becoming a reality. But for Peltz, it is not the building that is important but the act of building itself. Peltz writes, ‘the building is a spectacular object sacrificing itself to the larger aim of effecting a transformation in Rejmyre’s understanding of itself.’ The project challenges conventional understandings of the value of architecture, claiming that sometimes, in some places, the act of a community building a new structure together, may be more important than what the building will be used for.
In dialogue with the Swedish choreographer Anna Asplind, Peltz has developed a ritualized, dialogic practice for how the act of building will be carried out. The construction ritual involves offering, inserting and affixing memories into the building, performed within a tightly choreographed space that redefines the norms of construction sites. The site is characterized by slowness, quietness, gentle touch and awareness of one’s own internal and external experiences, along with those of everything around you.
Inside of the project there is also a program of additional artist contributions. Meri Linna (FI) and & Anastasiia Sviridenko (UR) are contributing with food as a creative practice and aspect of refuging. David Larsson (SE) has created a system of colorful metal brackets, that can be used for quickly assembling furniture and props with available wood at the site. These brackets have been used for creating all furniture and props at the site that are needed, as the project evolves.
An invitation is sent to each household in Rejmyre inviting residents to come as they are. In the invitation Peltz writes, You are already part of this work; you are welcome in whatever state you arrive; skeptical, curious, depressed, excited, doubtful, wondering, despairing…you are welcome.
As you approach the site, you are met at the entrance by a member of the refuging group and given a felt bag with washers and nuts as well as three small, glass talismans, intended to remind you of the three guiding principles of the building site: curiosity, activity and passivity being equal and that nothing is unimportant.
As you enter into the build site, you are introduced to the refuging practice and offered a partner to build with you. You receive a box of carefully designed, mostly felted tools, to use in the act of building, as well as instructions for how to insert memories. You are instructed to work with memories of feeling safe, free or loved (as well as their opposing elements of feeling insecure, restricted or unloved, when they arise). Memories are offered and shared with your building partner and inserted into the structure with each bolt.
The architecture of the pavilion is by Kristoffer Tejlgaard (DK), who designed the Dome of Visions in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Copenhagen, as well as several futuristic pavilions for the Roskilde Festival and Folkemødet on Bornholm (the Danish equivalent of Almedalen Week on Gotland).
Peltz came across Tejlgaard’s creation Dome of Visions in Stockholm in 2016 while serving as a visiting professor of artistic research at Stockholm University of the Arts. The transparent dome was a temporary building on the Royal Institute of Technology’s campus with the aim of creating a visionary and inspiring meeting place for conversations about a sustainable future. From September 2015 to December 2017, research results, innovations and activities were shown in the form of exhibitions, debates, seminars and artistic events with over 45,000 visitors and 350 curated events.
Investing in new, large-scale architecture and extravagant meeting places in big cities is not unusual. We take it for granted that it is in these metropolises that visions are drawn up and that “investing” in the future of these places s worthwhile. Peltz began to imagine how this type of architecture and its symbolism would effect a rural, post-industrial society like Rejmyre, where confidence in the future and the feeling of being a “valuable place” is not as obvious. Peltz refers to the building as a “necessarily unnecessary” architecture. Namely; that its purpose is for it to be built, as a way to challenge and re-evaluate the position of sparsely populated areas and the people who inhabit them in contemporary society.
The geometry of the pavilion is a contemporary advance on Buckminster Fuller’s iconic geodesic domes from the 60s and consists of CNC-cut recycled polycarbonate sheets that participants can easily assemble, without technical construction knowledge.
The design is an experiment where recycled materials and modern technology are used to create a tropical climate zone in the form of a passively heated, transparent dome. An internal building constructed in wood, with a studio and meeting space, will also function during the winter months.
Upon approaching the project you are met by a large-scale construction fence, of the type that is often seen in expanding cities and towns, to advertise a new apartment complex or office building. There are no such construction fences in towns like Rejmyre, as the future of these places is deeply uncertain and investment in them, in terms of architecture, is considered commercially unviable. This is precisely where Peltz’ intervention sits, offering this language of futurity, in the form of a futurist architecture, into a place with a deeply uncertain future. Rather than advertising how many apartments will be built, the construction fence asks questions, including one that has become central to Peltz’ project, How does a factory town that produces glass, become a factory town that produces refuge? Here Peltz references and is responding to the appropriation of sites like Rejmyre as temporary refuges for newly arrived people, while ‘better housing’ was built for them in, implicitly, ‘better places’.
Peltz, who has been investigating the town of Rejmyre for over 15 years, challenges the logic of this articulation. He asks, What if this was actually a better place than many to do this thing called refuging? Here he performs a shift on our usual association with the word ‘refuge’, moving it from a noun, referring to people and places, to a verb referring to a set of actions. In this shift refuging expands to become a practice that encompasses everyone. The subject positions of the refugee who comes seeking refuge and the one who gives refuge collapse and we are left with a reciprocal state that we all might learn to perform and inhabit better. Further, Peltz makes a claim that sites like Rejmyre, that have been used up in the cycle of extraction, depletion and abandonment, are not just good enough places to house refugees but places that are uniquely well suited to developing the practice of refuging because they themselves are in need of refuge.
Daniel Peltz https://danielpeltz.cargo.site/
Anna Asplind https://www.annaasplind.se/
Kristoffer Tejlgaard https://www.atelierkristoffertejlgaard.com/
David Larsson https://www.davidlarsson.net/
Meri Linna https://merenlinna.wixsite.com/merilinna
Anastasiia Sviridenko https://proartibus.fi/anastasia-sviridenko/