Vinderup Stories, an urban story hunting project
by Vilja Itkonenen (FI) and Marije Nie (NL)
Local contact Sara Holm Strandby (DK)
We are two artists, Vilja Itkonen from Finland and Marije Nie from The Netherlands, and we are travelling story hunters. In September 2019 we will visit Vinderup with a project around Urban Storytelling called Vinderup Stories, a project about choosing your own ways of seeing the world – and thus also what stories we tell about ourselves and our surroundings.
The aim of the project is to build a collection of Vinderup stories, as told by it’s people. Urban storytelling will be explored in talking, writing, moving, photography, video, audio recordings. We believe that storytelling is a powerful technique of building social and cultural experiences. It carries the possibility for change, empowerment and inclusion. Telling urban stories is an active and interactive way to affect the identity of our neighborhoods.
The project starts with the arrival of two curious strangers, dressed in yellow raincoats. They want to discover Vinderup and it’s inhabitants. A natural starting place for their quest is the archive. From there they move to the main street and start knocking on the doors, one by one, always asking the question ‘What is Vinderup for you?’. In a series of “Yellow Meetings” they invite people to tell their stories. The two strangers also make explorations of their own using urban research techniques like drifting and collecting.
Vinderup Stories will be visible in different ways. We are of course interested to connect with any local media, like newspapers, newsletters and facebook pages.To connect in a more organised way with the community, we would also love to meet with local “hot spots” of Vinderup, like the local board, the library and activity centers. Together, we would like to develop some ways in which we can share the project and it’s results with the citizens of Vinderup.
The research project in Vinderup will culminate on Sunday September 22, with a festive public event.
What is a story
The first job for a hunter is to know and recognize what she is hunting. Is it mushrooms? Is it bears? Or is it stories?
We are story hunters, searching for different stories around us, and told by the people we meet. A story can be many things. It can be shared in many ways. It can be a memory that really happened in someones life, or a wish that never came true. Stories are the things we remember about our lives. A story can be found in a building, on a street, or hidden in a landscape. It can be told by an old man sitting in the corner or a strong woman biking through the Jylland weather.
When put together, all the narrative elements build a web, that tells who we are and how we connect to each other.
Stories help us to discover the hidden structure of an unknown village. What do people remember here? What happened to them? What are they dreaming of? How are they connected and divided? How do they tell about meaningful moments in their lives?
To catch a story one needs very simple elements. The one, or ones, who wish to share it and the one who is there to receive it.
The story behind the yellow raincoats
As this is a storytelling project, there is a story also about our yellow raincoats.
Two years ago someone gave us a tip. There is a special person, we should meet. 45 minutes drive to the coast takes us to a little village, where a artist lady from Copenhagen has bought two of the houses. She has founded a small state there and named herself the Sheriff.
The Sheriff invites us to her mini-state and offers us a cup of tea. She tells us about a concept she has invented ”The yellow table meetings”. These yellow table meetings gather together a group of humans from different backgrounds, who enjoy thinking and sharing their thoughts. Yellow table conversations can be deeply philosophical or a softer analysis of human characteristics.
We leave Sheriff’s lands with a yellow memory in our mind. Yellow truly is a special color. Yellow gathers light and provokes attention.The first flowers in the spring are yellow and animated suns are yellow. Yellow is easily connected with joy and with festivals. But yellow is also a alarm color telling that danger is around near. It appears on electricity signs, traffic warnings and wasps.
And now in our minds, yellow is also a color of meetings, that become meaningful by open humanity and shared stories. Meetings with strangers, that can hold unexpected elements.
The raincoats are taken in use in September 2017, when we do our first Local Transformation project in Gullestrup, a suburb of Herning. At first it is a joke; why not wear something very Scandinavian, very easily recognizable and funny? Why not wear yellow raincoats everywhere we go? People would easily spot us and definitely we would not look too official. The yellow raincoats could also be in invitation to gather around, just like the yellow table. The coats are bought and we become like two fishermen, ready to catch small and bigger stories.
We get very quickly convinced by the Danish weather that we have made a right decision. Raincoats and Jylland are like lovers, they go so well together. Denmark is a perfect spot for the one who is a friend of rainy days. The rain can fall here in so many different ways. It can be a few huge drops on a sunny afternoon, it can be a hard September shower that will leave you soaked in a minute, it can be a smooth fog or a choir of sharp little drops. Especially in the Danish autumn, it seems to rain everyday. And if it doesn’t, the rainclouds are hanging somewhere close in the horizon, just to remind us that the yellow raincoats are an excellent choice.
Now these coats are our trademark. People quickly know, that these two yellow spots walking around the village are not wasps, but harmless storyhunters. They are strangers who you can actually talk to and invite into your life for a moment