top of page
  • Writer's pictureC-print

Friday, Monday, Tuesday

"I can be quite fast in terms of production, but it comes in bursts. I have developed a work schedule I call "power-boosts" where I rest in a chair for 20 minutes and then I produce intensely for the next 10 minutes", says Marja Knape who's in the process of presenting a solo show (curated by our Koshik Zaman) when we check in with her in the studio.

Ph: Moa Karlberg

C-P: Hello Marja, I’m very happy to currently be working with you as a curator on your upcoming solo show. Before we dive into the present, let’s take a moment to rewind back to where our paths first crossed. I vividly remember your solo show Io Europa at the dormant Konsthall in Årsta. What drew me to in the first place was the somewhat cryptic title and the accompanying promotional image of two transparent bottles tied together. And later on, that incredible warehouse like space that merged so well with your work. What was your approach for that show which in size is quite different from the one we are working on?

M.K: When I first visited Konsthall, I was struck by the architecture of the building and the exhibition space itself. I felt an instant urge to make an exhibition there. Throughout the work towards Io Europa I had the space in mind and got inspired to work with all the quirky aspects of the space, e.g. the attic and the industrial hooks in the ceiling. I showed 14 sculptures in total, many of them in "twin pairs", making the relations between them bounce back and forth in the rooms. The title Io Europa was taken from the names of Jupiter's two biggest moons, which appears to consist of ice and stone. It was also the title of one of the works in the show you describe; two bottles tied together with a piece of blue fabric. One plastic bottle containing tap water and the other glass bottle containing sand from the Sahara desert.

I felt the same excitement with Crum Heaven; a space that is not your typical white cube but a space with lots of character. That makes me intrigued and elevates my imagination of how to use it in a thoughtful way which is why I was happy when you suggested we could make an exhibition there.

Io Europa, Konsthall, 2018, ph: Marja Knape

Io Europa, Konsthall, 2018, ph: Marja Knape

C-P: You are formally educated both at Valand Academy (BFA) in Gothenburg and the Royal Institute of Art (MFA) in Stockholm. In hindsight, how did you find your time at said schools?

M.K: I grew up in Gothenburg and it was somehow a coincidence that I ended up at Valand to study Fine Art. Before I had thoughts of becoming a nurse. My time at Valand was really precious, giving me time to understand in what direction I wanted to go in a somewhat messy period in my life just after the death of my mother. In the beginning, I just felt stupid not understanding what or how the education was structured but eventually I found it to be pure luxury to be given that time and context. After the BFA, I moved back and forth between Stockholm and Gothenburg before enrolling at the Royal Institute of Art. I needed to have some years off from studying art to prove to myself that I had the stamina to maintain an art practice while having another job at the same time. It also felt important to be in touch with reality since art school can be such a bubble. At the Royal Institute of Art, there was a great deal of freedom to create your own educational content which I think is very important at that stage of your education. During my studies there I felt a bit scattered. It was such a privilege with the enormous supply of workshops, courses and lectures. I wanted to attend and do it all, but at the same time you had to concentrate and pinpoint in what direction you wanted to go.

Ph: Moa Karlberg

C-P: You have at two different occasions done residencies in the Sahara desert which I find very fascinating and quite rare for visual artists. How did that come about, and what was that experience like?

M.K: Ten years ago I went to visit one of my brothers who at the time worked in the U.S. Together we visited the White Sands desert in New Mexico. I was struck by that experience and got obsessed. I found Tissardmine Artist Residency in the Sahara desert in Morocco through a friend. The first week of being there I was overwhelmed to the point that I could barely speak. Being alone in the vastness of that landscape made me humble and reconnected to all the time I spent alone sailing a small one man boat on the ocean as a teenager. During the residency, I wrote my Master's thesis, continued with an analogue film project and made music on a small synthesizer I had brought. I then returned a second time five years later, without the presence of the owner of the residency during the first week of my stay. In order to work from there, you need to bring your own materials. There is a small studio space for visiting artists, but it didn't make sense to sit inside while there.

I spent the days wandering around the sand dunes, listening to the surroundings and gazing at the stars. It was really a sensory experience, not having solid ground underneath your feet for weeks, no Internet and having the body to take protective positions against the sun, dehydration and sandstorms. Those experiences have made a lasting mark in me and there are still traces of it in my work.

Tissardmine, Morocco, 2020, Ph: Marja Knape

C-P: The way I see it, nature is omnipresent in your work. Run me through your rapport with natural organic materials.

M.K: With the severe climate we are facing, natural materials have become even more visceral and sensitive for me to use. I also like to position organic materials against the materials we surround ourselves with in everyday life. They're actually not that different from each other. If you think of the origin of tin foil we all use in the kitchen for instance. Today the hierarchy of materials has switched for me. I find the materials in nature as more valuable, both emotionally and in terms of material since they come in such a variety of forms and are more challenging and fragile to work with. Much of the time in my studio goes to calculating different drying processes; can I start doing this and leave it to dry overnight or will it get moldy because of moist? That's also what makes me interested to work with these materials (kelp, banana peels, sand etc.). There is no manual. I just have to keep experimenting to try to figure out their own characteristics. I also like how the aspect of time is reflected in my sculptures, for instance through the changing of color over time and in some cases the inevitable decomposition.

Ph: Moa Karlberg

C-P: This is really what I find fascinating with your work, that your working process almost resembles the work of a researcher. Collecting, archiving, testing, discarding etc. Some works are made almost on the fly, others are ongoing and take several years, no?

M.K: I can be quite fast in terms of production, but it comes in bursts. I have developed a working schedule I call "power-boosts" where I rest in a chair for 20 minutes and then I produce intensively for 10 minutes. In that way I can both keep track of spontaneity and at the same time stay grounded. In my work I have many simultaneous processes running at various speed; an analogue film project I've been working on for over ten years coexists with a passion for experimenting with materials in the studio in an intuitive way. Over the years I've been collecting materials; everything from stones, metal parts to kelp collected on the west coast of Sweden. Together they make a bank of materials and objects that I experiment with.

While working, I'm driven by a desire to experiment. I have to embrace uncertainty and chaos to drive the work forward.

C-P: Having this conversation now, it strikes me that I’ve never asked you about artists who might have inspired your own work.

M.K: I'm very inspired by Edith Dekyndt and how she uses everyday materials almost as an alchemist, transforming them to something heavy and magical, sometimes with quite small gestures, and in the way her works are performative and ephemeral. Another big influence on me was watching Laurie Anderson's dreamy film Heart of a Dog that incited me to continue with my ongoing long term film project The Night Logic where I film fragments of my surroundings trying to explore the speed of memories and oblivion often experienced while dreaming. In the past I've also looked a lot at the artists of the arte povera movement and their inventive use of materials and spatiality. And of course Louise Bourgeois' drawings and her smaller sculptures. Not the big spiders though, I have a severe phobia for those!

Marja Knape och Martha Ossowska Persson, The Ground Overturned - a Memory Made Fresh, Övre Galleriet, Konstnärshuset, 2023, ph: Valdemar Asp

C-P: The process of preparing the show at CRUM is currently in full swing. What are some of the considerations working with the space which is quite heavy on design and form, limited in physical capacity and notably serves as a café daytime and bar at night?

M.K: I usually see my sculptures in terms of installation or as a group of friends rather than individual objects. I want them to interact both with each other and the properties of the space they exist in. For the exhibition at CRUM I've spent time in the space during different days and times of the week to get a proper idea and overview of the space. The fact that the room is heavy on form and has widely different colors and corners is intriguing to me, and has been a part of the process making works for the show. For instance, I will show three works with light components and plan to involve hidden traces of art that maybe will go unnoticed. I also like the fact that the space is not only a place for art visitors but also for people who just want to have a bite or a drink but will be served art at the same time. Wah, even speaking about it...

I just want to head over there and dive right into the installing. I'm so terribly excited.

Marja Knape, Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Crum Heaven, 2023, ph (all installation images): Valdemar Asp

/Koshik Zaman

Friday, Monday, Tuesday opened on Oct 27, 2023 at CRUM Heaven in Stockholm.


bottom of page