This flag is layered with symbolism. Layers upon layers that create a narrative that can go in many directions all at once and interpretations are still be formed as it flies at Masthuggskajen in Gothenburg. Yet, the overall theme of the story-telling in the greater Whispering Flags Project is dealing with integration, the feelings of claiming a new culture/new city as a home for a foreigner and the bonding connections formed across the two sides of the river. The flag itself is meant to be a landmark in the shifting cityscape.
The Polar Bear Flight has many symbols that are working together to communicate and illustrate and below are a few brief explanations of how the artist has interpreted and used these symbols:
The Polar Bear: because they can be ferocious, are so large, are magical and are undoubtedly troubled by the effects of global warming – has become in my art a symbolic character for an outsider in need of a home and even an outsider that feels dangerous at first.
The Bunny Ears: As they are referencing back to the white rabbit of the first flag in the Whispering Flags Project series, represents the need to form a new identity in a new home. In the first flag, there was a loose Alice and Wonderland reference of the white rabbit being a “way-finder” and this still holds true but the rabbit is disclosing that it has a more diverse background.
The knotted tree branches (or roots if you prefer) with stars and the remnants of the tree trunk of chapter 1: are symbols of the transition inside this project from chapter 1 to chapter 2. The knots happened over the time that the first flag flew – the wind made them happen – and thus it was an added element from the nature of the environment that needed to have some space in its successor. The stars are added here to reveal that their was a little magic in the tangling of the branches (or roots if you prefer) as it flew in the city.
The window and its panes: the window itself is an architectural or metaphoric device that is in-between two realms. It is neither inside or outside. The yellow and red diagonal striped panes are pulled from the signal flags found in sailing which is called the Y (Yankee) flag which means “am dragging anchor.” While the yellow and blue blocked window panes are called the K (Kilo) which means “desire to communicate.” The communication that these patterns make were chosen for their meanings but also the yankee, the red stripes and the blue and yellow colors called to me because of my personal experience of being a new Swede or the becoming of an American Swede.
The flag as an object itself is also a symbol. It is about this moment of claiming space to be owned, taken or claimed that is incredible to me. The textile object is weak, it will slowly be destroyed by the weather, yet the symbol of a flag is an incredible strong social construction. Like my fellow Ohioan’s moment of placing a flag on the moon in 1969, the act of flying a flag in Gothenburg gives a sense of presence in this city for any newcomer, such as myself. I proclaim through the flag; I am here to participate.
**disclaimer: This is art. You may interpret it with your own perspective foremost. I encourage this whole-heartedly. If you do so, I would love to hear the interpretations and ideas for chapter 3, email me at whisperingflagsproject(at)gmail.com**