Being Salmon, Being Human - the Performance
A unique storytelling performance from Norway combining original music, traditional tales, poetry, and contemporary philosophy
Inspired by Martin’s book by the same name, and drawing on salmon stories from Sami and First Nations peoples of Scandinavia and North America, the performance takes us on a journey through the extraordinary lives of wild salmon – sentient beings who are born in rivers, traverse the oceans, and return towards the end of their lives to their birth rivers to spawn and gift forward more life. The performance explores what becomes of this awe-inspiring creature and her journey in the face of an expansive, profit-driven feedlot industry. We find that traditional storytelling shares a common ancestry and foundation with contemporary ecophilosophy - namely the wonder about the more-than-human world of calving glaciers, the night sky, ancient forests, sentient beings of the sea, and the age-old-question of who we are in relation to the land, the air, and the oceans.
For the performance, Martin joins forces with Norwegian-British storyteller Georgiana Keable, renowned circumpolar sound poet Torgeir Vassvik, the Canadian dancer and storyteller Elisha MacMillan, and the Norwegian folklorist and storyteller Tiril Bryn. The storytelling unfolds alongside Torgeir's evocative, haunting soundscape. Together we take a deep-dive into the pancultural encounter between humans and salmon, into stories told since time immemorial, practical knowledge passed on through the generations, and wisdom carried into our time through ancient music. We encounter some of the warriors who have stood up in defense of the fish. And we encounter her, the sentient being. Born with a fierce determination to tune in to the speech of all things - to rain shower, lunar cycle, earth's magnetism, algae bloom, or blue whale's thousand-mile chant - she learns, as she matures, to think like the ocean. She becomes the ocean thinking itself within her. What is it like to be her? What is it like to be her feedlot cousin, whose life cycle is determined by the demands of a global capital market? How do we grasp that modern story of exploitation? And what clues do we find both in the wisdom of old and in contemporary science to stand up against the suffering of these present days, to unweave dysfunctional stories, and to re-story the ancient human-Earth relationship?
The group has been touring in England, Scotland, Canada, the US, and Norway, with both a Norwegian-language version and an English-language version of the performance. We visited the Great Lakes Region of Canada as well as Northern Sweden in winter 2020, and we have been invited to bring the work to the United Nations in 2021.