Pushing Upward Earth

By Alexander Holm


“As well as this presentation is a research in it self, namely a research in the potential of music to change the experience of the listeners surrounding environment, this is also simply a sharing of a sonic exploration of the area around Agerup, Tranebjerg, Besser and Filipsdal on the island of Samsø between feb 16th-28th 2021.

What you see here on the table are some shells I found on the beach the first day I was here. As you see they are moving silently because of the wind from the fan heater. With the contact microphones I can amplify the sounds from their movements, which is what you can hear in the headphones.

The other sound source comes from the video footage from a surveillance camera which is hanging in what I guess is an old chicken cage down in the Filipsdal house. Which is funny because the sounds, which are produced by the camera automatically following the smallest movements, actually sounds a little bit like a hen’s clucking. 

One of the things I like about listening to these two sources through the different types of technology, and also in general when I engage with places, is to experience the focus and the reinforcement of small details in the surroundings. Through experiencing these small and very specific details, I experience that I get a quite deep connection to a place, and it changes the way I experience my surroundings afterwards aswell. I find it very fascinating that these technologies allows humans to experience reality with enhanced senses.

This phenomenon is also described in this catalog  from 1983 of the artists Elsa Stansfield and Madelon Hoykaas’s work. In the introduction it says: 

“By making use of video, photography and film in combination with organic materials and objects, they have succeeded in combining different levels of reality in their work. Image and presentation of image are in continual dialogue with each other and demonstrate clearly that what we perceive as our physical reality is in fact no more than the cognitive construct that we make of it.”

One of the backgrounds of the Pushing Upward Earth project is an archive of old stories from Samsø, which I came across in connection with the preparations for the TERRA FORM residency. The archive is a collection of stories that in one way or another have been more or less sensational in the time it was written down. In several of the stories there are supernatural elements, such as ghosts, trolls and mermaids. It is not fairy tale, but rather everyday notes on an equal footing, with a description of a conflict that has been between a blacksmith and a priest, or e.g. the murder story that takes place here at Agerupgård, and which Cecilia will read to us in a while. I will now read some sections from this archive:

Old legends and strange events from the island of Samsø

Copy of an old, gray booklet of 34 pages (13×18) with Gothic letters.

Word order, word choice and general spelling are retained.

(In the present collection of old legends and strange incidents which have taken place on Samsø, these legends and incidents would occur between each other without any chronological order. The publisher has started the publication, although she has only collected a small amount of material for this. , but she hopes that quite a few samsings by reading the beginning might want to make the collection as complete as possible and thereby preserve from oblivion many a legend and a strange events from their birth island.)

Skodshøj Troll

On the east side of Nordby Hede in the so-called Skodshøj lives a mountain troll. It is his fault that no cattle at night will remain on the mound but always at the setting of the sun enters the heath (Thiele’s Folktale)

Master Mads of Tranebjerg

In the last century, there was a priest in Tranebjerg, who was called Master Mads by the residents, and who knew a lot more than to preach. In particular, he was adept at summoning ghosts, and the Devil himself sometimes had to obey him. A girl, who was serving in a farm in Permelille, had committed the horrible iniquity that she had thrown her own child in a blazing oven; therefore she had no rest in the grave, but went every night again to the yard where she had committed the crime. The people in the yard, who due to this haunting never had any peace, turned in their distress to Master Mads in Tranebjerg and asked him to free them from the haunting. Master Mads was immediately willing to do this and for that reason went one night to Koldby Cemetery to catch the ghost the moment it rose from the grave, which generally happens at 12 at night. Master Mads, however, came a little too late, so when he came to Koldby and wanted to go up to the cemetery, he met ghosts at the bell grave between the school and the cemetery wall. Now Master Mads could get no power over it for this time, and even had the annoyance that ghosts shouted at him that he had come too late. “I will see you another time,” replied Master Mads, and the next evening he took better care of himself, so that he stood ready at the grave when the ghost rose from it. When Master Mads now began to maneuver, the ghost reproached him that he had once as a boy stolen a loaf of wheat bread; but Master Mads hurried to throw two shillings into the grave, answering that with that the bread must have been paid for. When the ghost now knew nothing more to say to Master Mads, he began to make purchases and ask if it could not be released if it could go to Issehoved and back again while he was standing by the grave. But Master Mads continued to exhort without compromising the ghost, who also eventually had to go down to the grave, and from that time no more unrest was felt at night in the courtyard of Permelille. 

(Reported by P.).

The stories from the archive made me think of something that has interested me for a long time, namely modern ghost hunters. I do not know if this is something you have encountered before, but what characterizes modern ghost hunters is that they (unlike Master Mads a priest and exhorsist described in the Samsø archive) make extensive use of different technologies to get in touch with ghosts. The most well-known tool is probably the use of the so-called spirit box, which is a type of radio, that automatically searches through the frequency band, and stops if there is any activity. Here you may be lucky enough to come across something the ghost hunters call EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), which supposedly is a ghost contacting the listener. In addition to the spirit box, infrared video cameras are also used, which partially led to the idea of setting up a surveillance camera down in Filipsdal.

What I especially like about modern ghost hunters is that unlike old-fashioned ghost hunters they are not interested in expelling ghosts or chasing them away. But solely to get in touch with the ghosts. Another thing i like is that they connect technology and the supernatural beliefs (as very few does in todays western society). This was more common in the beginning in beginning of the 18th hundreds, back when Master Mads was around. As for example the danish scientist H.C. Ørsted who is world known for the discovery of electromagnetis. In his young days he supposedly wrote in papers about how he was experimenting with so called Chladni plates, a technology which he believed (quote on quote) allowed the deep reason in nature to talk to us …”

— Excerpt from the voice track of the Pushing Upward Earth audiowalk in Agerupgård 27.02.2021