History of the wider Bifrost initiative

Bifrost 2017 builds upon several years of collaborations between artists affiliated with the Zoopeople media collective and researchers in the Nordic Network for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies (NIES).

Scientific Ethnographies and Testimonials

NIES regularly brings together leading environmental scientists, scholars, artists, and ecological practitioners to reflect on the socio-ecological challenges facing our world. Since 2011 project Bifrost has worked together with this research network to film in-depth interviews with more than 70 of these experts in a distinct style that simulates direct communication with individual viewers. Because some of the interview materials are incorporated into Bifrost’s video installations, this stylistic choice helps to create an effect of immediacy, an invitation to the audience to enter into an interpersonal exchange.

Many subjects interviewed in the Bifrost video archive are among the leading figures in their respective fields. The interviews also feature testimonials from people living on the front lines of climate change impacts.

Interview subjects include artist Chris Jordan; climate scientists Michael E. Mann and Stefan Rahmstorf; environmental humanities and social science researchers Lawrence Buell, Ursula Heise, Bruno Latour, Kathleen Dean Moore and Donald Worster; indigenous educators, leaders and activists Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Aimée Craft and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (winner of the 2016 Children’s Climate Prize); and Nobel laureate in physics (and former U.S. Energy Secretary) Stephen Chu.

The insights shared in these interviews shed valuable light on the entanglements of nature, environment, culture and society in the twenty-first century.

Testimonials: Our Children’s Trust

Twenty-one youth plaintiffs between the ages of nine and twenty are suing the most powerful country in the world for its lack of appropriate action to curb the causes and harmful effects of human-caused climate change. In their efforts to achieve intergenerational climate justice, the youth plaintiffs in the case Juliana, et al vs. the USA have also taken on the richest industry on the planet.

The multi-trillion-dollar-a-year fossil-fuel industry joined forces with the US government by filing a motion to dismiss the case, contending that the youth plaintiffs did not have the right to be heard in court. Two federal courts denied this motion in 2016, paving the way for what is widely anticipated to be one of the most significant civil trials of the era. The outcome of the trial in 2017, which takes on even greater urgency in the wake of the recent US election, “could rewrite the future of climate policy in the United States” (Washington Post, 1 December 2016).

The Bifrost team has filmed testimonials from many people at the heart of this groundbreaking case. Some materials from these interviews will appear in a documentary short, now in production, showing at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm as part of an educational program in 2017 devoted to societal responses to climate change. The film and the fuller interviews will also feature on the Bifrost website launching in 2017.

Bifrost 1.0

Norrman/Birgersson/Hartman, 2011-12
Single channel triptych, 42 min
The first iteration of the Bifrost project was a multimedia documentary installation in a three-screen format. “Developing the Environmental Humanities” was produced by the Nordic Network for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies (NIES) and Zoopeople, in partnership with the Sigtuna Foundation.

Bifrost 1.0 premiered in Sigtuna, Sweden at the first international conference devoted wholly to the emerging field of the Environmental Humanities (2011). Exploring this interdisciplinary knowledge domain as one of growing significance, the work featured interviews with prominent scholars of literature and the environment (ecocritics) and historians of science, technology and the environment. A second iteration of this project (running time 50 mins), including new case studies drawn from interviews with more than two dozen researchers in the field, premiered as a triptych installation in Höfn, Iceland (2012).

These early Bifrost art documentaries have travelled to exhibit at other venues in the UK, the USA, Iceland, Scandinavia and the Caribbean, both as spatial installations in their original multi-screen format and in the single-channel format presented here. They have also screened widely in the context of university environmental studies courses and conferences.