Erik’s upbringing in Malmberget, a small mining community, has left its imprint on his way to see the world. He grew up in a constantly changing landscape, altered for the extraction of natural resources that created jobs for generations, that brought prosperity, that helped building the Swedish welfare state. Societal transformation in Norrbotten as a phenomenon has caught Erik’s eye from early on, his photographic body of work a contemplation on the usually unnoticed development processes that take place around us.
The photographic series commissioned for Digitala Landskap is investigating the origins of the datacenter spree. after the reductions of the military with the end of the Cold War, Cheap commercial space, along with abundant fiber optic cables laid into the ground in the 1990s following railroads, highways and powerlines making Boden an intersection of digital infrastructure, the hydroelectric power infrastructure of the 20th century along with its stable and relatively cool climate make the Boden-Luleå area a key area for the digital industry. Erik’s attempt to pick up on these tremendous changes that Norrbotten has experienced in the past few decades by making the underlying currents and mechanisms that drive this transformation visible. Erik’s careful observations of timespans, his approach to document lifecycles and attempt to grasp changes over generations – in nature, just as well as in technology –resonate in a feeling of certainty. Certainty needed to pause and reflect, to contemplate on how we want the future to be.
Here in Norrbotten, digital footprints of human interaction started to materialize into monumental industrial buildings; imprints into places where circuit boards, cables and security fences take the place of forests, birds and insects. When observing how these factories running the Internet grow and alter the landscapes of Norrbotten, the role of hydroelectric power is frequently and casually mentioned. It is green energy, after all. Inexpensive and sustainable electricity from the rivers of Norrbotten. One must wonder what landscapes were lost, whose pastures and whose land was taken when building the hydroelectric dams that fuel today’s datacenter industry in Norrbotten.
This series provides a personal note for people who have lived in Norrbotten all their life and recognize places depicted in the photographs, how these places changed. Like the hangars on the former military helicopter base in Boden, where datacenters breathe new life into otherwise unused, decaying structures.