The Mobile Oasis Project (2018)
installation - approx. 320 cm x 160 cm
’1 litre of melted ice extracted from the hump of an arctic camel’
The work plays with the idea of a camel as a mobile machine, providing drinking water to desert travellers. In a broader sense, it is also referring to the commercial way in which we are treating flora and fauna and the mythification of exotic animals. The work is taking a camel farm on the remote Norwegian island of Sørøya as a starting point.
During a residency in the Arctic Circle, I was surprised witnessing the surreal presence of two Mongolian camels, in the middle of an arctic and snowy landscape. Although this seems like the last place where a camel would belong, the animals deal very well with the cold, harsh environments, since it can get to -40 degrees in the desert. This is due to climate change much colder than the Arctic Circle gets most of the time nowadays. Geographically, even the poles are considered deserts, since it hardly ever rains there. The surrealism of camels in the Arctic has a lot to do with the stereotypical way in which we learn about these animals; a camel is always strolling through the desert in children books, and his humps are filled with water which accompanies him on his long trip. They are, in the minds of most people, inevitably connected with the hottest places on earth. It so may come as a surprise that they do not even originate from these regions. Long before camels were ships of the desert, new evidence suggests they were cold-weather beasts that roamed the frozen wilds of northern Canada. Scientists discovered camel fossils on the island of Ellesmere, which has the same latitude as Spitsbergen.
A camel hump withholding water is nothing more than a myth. The camel stores fat in them: up to 35 litres in each. This fat is vital for surviving in harsh weather conditions; which apply to both the Arctic as the Gobi desert. Sticking with the fictional idea of water being inside the camel hump, imaginary the animal becomes a walking oasis.