The title of this series is a misunderstanding. Or a mistranslation, to be exact. I navigate between languages. My mother tongue is Finnish. In my work I function mostly in English and French. I understand some German, and a bit of Spanish and Italian, too. I lived for years in a Swedish-speaking town in Finland so I believe I can manage all the Scandinavian languages, at least in the written form.

The Norwegian performance artist Kurt Johannessen, my self-appointed guide for a big part of this series, has written dozens of miniature books of something he calls øvingar, exercises. I carried them in my pockets and in my head while working in Norway. One instruction reads Havbunnen to netter på rad. Seabound, I thought, two nights in a row. How beautiful. That’s me! I was in the outer archipelago and was drawn to the sea all the time, day and night. Bunnen sounds like the Swedish word bunden, which means bound. Only later I learned that in Norwegian it signifies bottom. It was too late: Kurt is talking about the seabed, but I already had my photograph in the red coat, the second night, sitting by the open sea.

But as John Cage says, nothing is a mistake. I got a title for the picture, for the series, and for the book, in a process that was guided by chance and filtered through lived life. I wanted to tell you this anecdote because this is how art often happens. You just accept the things that are catered for you.

Seabound was commissioned by the Tangen Collection, Kristiansand, Norway, 2018-2019. The book Seabound was published in May 2021 by Kehrer Verlag, supported by AKO Kunststiftelse.

by Elina Brotherus