The eider duck and the farmer have an interdependent relationship. The farmer protects the duck during nesting and in return gathers the remaining down from the nest. The valuable down, claimed to be the best insulating material in the world, is a side-product that the duck leaves behind. The eider returns every year to the same farmer, a life-time symbiotic relationship between duck and human.
The eider and eider farming are under threat by climate change as well as by changes in lifestyle, with people moving from the farmlands into cities. Learning from this sustainable but gradually declining Nordic heritage, the project gives rise to innovation and production of new artworks. Fresh viewpoints emerge, as well as thoughts on how we treat our environment and harvest our planet.
Experiment – Eider and Farmer, is more than an exhibition; It is an artistic research project that started in the year 2019, with a group of outstanding artists from Denmark, Iceland, and Norway with diverse backgrounds in design, architecture, fine art, music, craft, fashion and performing arts. Since the eider stays on land only around 25 days per year, we wanted to have more opportunities to visit the ducks, so we stretched the research period over three years. We went on group excursions as well as individual visits, to get to know a broad spectrum of eider farmers, their diverse methods and the eider’s habitats. The group excursions and regular meetings gave us the chance to share information and thoughts which opened up a new perspective on the world of eider.
The eider is found widely in the northern hemisphere and is predominantly farmed in the Nordic countries. The project links the communities in the three participating countries in hope to encourage communication and sharing of ideas.
Christiansø island in Denmark features an exceptional culture where the eider nest on the inhabited island, in coexistence with the humans.
Iceland is the world’s biggest producer of eider down (around 75% of global production) where down is collected from almost 400 areas, spread all along the Icelandic coast.
The Vega Archipelago in Norway reflects the way fishermen-farmers have, over the past 1500 years, maintained a sustainable living, which includes eiderdown harvesting by women.
By documenting and sharing experiences from different eider-farming traditions across the participating countries, the aim is to create awareness of this unique Nordic heritage.
The relationship between humans and eider was something that caught our attention from the very beginning. The farmers all have their own personal way of protecting and communicating with the ducks. One may get the impression that individual farmers are a bit quirky and eccentric, but this makes the world of eider so charming. The average age of the eider farmer is on the rise, so we fear the future. Will this tradition fade out and disappear? Will the ducks lose their protectors and therefore the population of eiders decrease? Will climate change take its toll? We hope this project opens up this fascinating world of eider to people of all ages.
Eider ducks make sounds as if they’ve just been told something interesting, or even saucy. Ah-hoo, Ah-hoo!! Like a group of gossiping ladies. It is easy to be charmed by this lovely chorus. We hope this project inspires you. May there be plenty of AH-HOO moments in the exhibition as well as the next time you come across an Eider.
Hildur Steinþórsdóttir and Rúna Thors