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[a]cross the sea with ISER

By Janet Harron | Feb. 19, 2013

The Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) in the Faculty of Arts has a mandate to foster and undertake research into social and economic questions rising from the particular circumstances of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recently, German artist Rona Rangsch received ISER funding to complete her project titled [a]cross the sea, which features video works showing the relationship and perspective between the Old World and the New World. Shot as three separate videos in three different formats, the videos were realized between 2011 and 2012, while Ms. Rangsch was artist-in-residence at Terra Nova National Park and on Fogo Island.

Dr. Lisa Rankin, director of ISER, is delighted to see work in the fine arts being supported.

“Rona’s work is bringing the social history of Newfoundland and Labrador to the public in other parts of the North Atlantic world,” said Dr. Rankin.

The first video, terra nova, interprets immigration to the New World from the Old, as seen from Newfoundland. Fyrir hafvilu fram, the second video, draws a connection between Norway and Newfoundland along the Norse trans-Atlantic routes from around 1000 AD. The title refers to the Norse seafarers crossing the Atlantic without any effective navigational tools: it means "onwards, despite hafvilla", where "hafvilla" is an old Norse expression for "being lost at sea." The final video, face-to-face, interprets a more abstract, geographical connection as seen from both directions from Newfoundland and from Ireland.

Ms. Rangsch first came to Newfoundland in 2007 for an artist residency at the Pouch Cove Foundation.

“The experience of the wilderness and beauty of Newfoundland had a deep impact on my life as an artist and my artistic practice,” she explained. “It was in 2007 in Newfoundland that I shot my very first video.”

A major inspirational force for the videos is what Ms. Rangsch calls Newfoundland’s "extremely young spirit.” 

“The exploration and immigration from Europe are not that long ago and in my eyes people have preserved some sort of pioneer character that is long lost in Europe,” said Ms. Rangsch. “They are very aware of their European heritage while being proud of the specific Newfoundland character and culture. Moreover, the unspoiled nature of Newfoundland makes me feel like a pioneer myself as I can experience much the same today as the first explorers did centuries ago.”

The three works from [a]cross the sea have been presented at exhibitions and festivals in Norway and Germany with several more showings already scheduled in the near future. The project and Ms. Rangsch’s related interest in sea journeys and trans-oceanic concepts have also led to an international group exhibition on these themes currently being shown in Dortmund, Germany.

Demo/documentation versions of the three video works that are part of [a]cross the sea can be viewed at