Umeå Volcano, 2006

Verkligheten Gallery, Umeå, Sweden


The project Umeå Volcano provided for the construction of a 15-metre volcano-shaped mound. It would rest on a system of steel supports arranged into a circle and forming a cone. It would be covered with planks over which concrete would be poured to create a surface similar to coagulated lava. Inside the construction there is a chimney ending with a large hearth, and at the top – an opening serving as the chimney outlet. A number of skylights with coloured panes are set into the sides, and several irregularly placed openings lead into the construction. Once inside, you can sit on a comfy bench and light a fire in the hearth using wood stored inside. The main function of the Umeå Volcano would be to create a place where people could meet without any special reason, out of home and the public places where human behaviour is largely ritualised – like the pub, the restaurant, or the cinema. It would be a place where the ways of relating towards other people would have to be invented. The Umeå Volcano would become ‘active’ when the people inside decided to light a fire in the hearth – the construction would start emitting smoke. The volcano was also supposed to be the beginning of a ‘new narrative’ about the town of Umeå, a narrative filled with exoticism and a desire to leave this, as its inhabitants themselves call it, ‘end of the world’, or, conversely, to bring the world closer to it. It was an effect of the author’s profound sympathy for this place, her dismay at the self-isolation of the people living there, and, finally, an attempt to manifest the tension generated by that isolation. The project was carried out in consultation with the people of Umeå. On 11 November 2006, a meeting took place at the town’s public library where those present discussed the volcano’s construction, function, and, above all, its location. It seems that the best idea was to locate the construction on an existing stony hill called Hamrinsberget, near the town centre, a popular beauty spot. The idea was put forward by Amir, an Iranian-born engineer based in Sweden since the mid-1980s. What the participants of the library meeting were most interested in were the volcano’s practical functions – whether it could be used as a toboggan run, a meeting place, a landmark. Though it was mentioned that the town needed a sign, something that would make it special, the meeting’s participants didn’t speak about the need for a place where people could meet for no specific reason, nor, for that matter, about the Umeå inhabitants’ self-isolation and the resulting sense of tension, widespread alcohol abuse, and so on. The fundamental question of what the volcano would actually be for Umeå wasn’t discussed either.
computer renderings
video documentation of public meeting and interviews with inhabitants of the town of Umeå