Essay: NORTH

North is an almost mythological place. It is always a bit further north from your current location, somewhere far where North Pole and North Star meet. North has become the point on the map on which we orient ourselves and seafarers have used the North Star for navigation since antiquity. North is thus not the name for one exact geographical location – but rather a spatial image that embodies countless ideas and associations.

The notion of geographical space, however, remains subjective. What we view as North or East constitutes South or West for others and it will always depend on one’s geographical position. For Americans the North may be found in Canada or Alaska but for the Russians it may be the Siberian wasteland. For Europeans, the North may be Scandinavia and for Scandinavians the North may be associated with the Arctic. The city of Thule, now the name for a town in north-western Greenland, was a prominent signifier in early European literature and maps for a region in the far north. Thule was suspected to refer to Norway, Iceland, Orkney, Shetland or the Estonian island Saaremaa. Yet, its physical location was of little importance – it remained a distant mythological place beyond the all known territory. In this case, North is the goal – rather than an actual destination.