Underwater ridges – below and above the water surface

It’s tempting, the way scientific explorers have thrown themselves into the unknown. It’s certainly frightening, what happens when something entirely different surprises us before we know what it is. But it’s also powerful – to be in the space where the world constantly unfolds and reveals itself from a new perspective. Many believe that the unknown is a problem to be solved, that longing is something to overcome. How can one hold onto uncertainty and find knowledge within it?

Islands allure. Partially because they’re defined by something as fleeting as water. It’s easy to forget that what is now a mountain peak once lay on the ocean floor, and in our deepest seas lie our future islands. These islands – drawn under the guidance of Jon Brand – still rest far below the surface of the sea.


From May 7 to June 5, 2023, I travelled across the Arctic Ocean. As the artist aboard the icebreaker Oden, I was part of an expedition invited by the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat. During the journey, I engaged in conversations with the person I later came to call Jon Brand. It is his theories formed the basis of my drawings of underwater islands.

My perception of Jon Brand is taking shape. Some things I know, others are vague, and sometimes imagination takes over completely. History books can tell the story of a ship that set sail in May 1773 under the British flag with the intention of reaching the North Pole. Onboard was Jon Brand. He was not esteemed by his contemporaries. His official title was an assistant, but his presence was more about providing companionship to an older biologist. Without any demands from the scientific world, Jon Brand could devote time to his own studies. It was the depth he sought.


Jon Brand wrote several letters onboard. These letters were signed “Joanna Brand.” In the late 18th century, assuming the role of a boy was the only way for a woman to participate in an expedition. Through logbooks from the late 18th and early 19th century, historians have managed to identify about thirty-five women who, disguised as men, participated in various expeditions. Joanna Brand is not among them.


With Jon Brand, I see not only water or mountains. I see life in what is considered dead; I see how the ice is affected by the tides, how the distant clouds’ hints of darkness suggest an open sea beyond a vast expanse of ice. It’s about possibilities, about memory, about history, about who gets to take up space.

Instaling at Verkligheten in Umeå
Installation view from gallery Verkligheten in Umeå
Installation view from gallery Verkligheten in Umeå, September 2023
The icebreaker Odin’s route across the Arctic Ocean during the ARTofMELT 2023 expedition.
  • October 22nd, 2023