What Was Almost Not Going to Happen
We first met up with Anna-Karin Rasmusson while she was presenting an exhibition as a grant holder at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm in the late spring of 2017. So much has happened in Anna-Karin’s career since that one time. What almost didn’t happen however was that article our crew had set out to do, with a mission. For whatever reason it just never got published. This rarely happens but some two and a half years later, we reckoned we would pick up speed and finally get around to it, weighing in turn of events, in the time between.
Konstakademien, first C-print studio visit, 2017. Photo: Corina Wahlin
C-P: Alright, let us dive right into this. No time to waste as this feature is already overdue! We first met when you were one of two Bernadotte grant recipients and residing in a grand studio at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. The text never saw daylight and for a long time I felt terrible whenever I saw you. On a brighter note, a lot has happened for you since. Let us touch base with the present a little before rewinding. I believe you are in the process of preparing for your next gallery exhibition early next year which will be the first since joining the roster of Cecilia Hillström Gallery. How is that coming along?
A-K: I am very excited, currently putting in the fifth gear in the studio. If you had asked me a couple of months ago, I would have told you that I was already done. I have however been altering some things and curious to see about what might come out of it. You see, works are often altered along the way. You just have to allow yourself to follow your instinct. It can be a bit nerve-racking not knowing how a work will end up like, but I just love the feeling of subjecting myself to surprises. There is such a wonderful “aha-feeling” to it.
Konstakademien, first C-print studio visit, 2017. Photo: Corina Wahlin
C-P: Among the things I really appreciate is your versatility as an artist. Your practice informs so many elements and more than initially meets the eye. It could evolve in so many directions. What can we expect from your upcoming show?
A-K: I will be exhibiting a new multi-channel video installation touching on body, care, duality and angst.
Kulisser (sets), IASPIS, Stockholm 2018, photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
C-P: When I interviewed for my current position at Galerie Forsblom back in the late spring of 2018, I was informed that you were scheduled to present a show in the gallery studio. I remember being very pleasantly surprised as I did not perceive your practice as particularly commercial and up until then, you had mostly exhibited in institutional settings. How have you found the experience of working with commercial galleries?
A-K: Yes, you are totally right. My practice is not very commercial so I am a bit surprised myself to have been able to exhibit my work at several commercial venues. It has been nothing but pleasant so far. I am happy as long as my creative freedom is not restricted in any way. I am less fussy about the type of space my work is shown in. I quite enjoy trying different kinds of contexts and venues in fact.
Open Studios, IASPIS, Stockholm 2018, photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
C-P: Just a couple of months later, you were featured in the quadrennial Modernautställningen curated by Santiago Mostyn and Joa Ljungberg at Moderna museet. It felt like such a game changer for you and I am quite sure many would agree that your work belonged to the standouts in the entire show. The museum would eventually also acquire the centerpiece, Mater Nostra (video installation, 2017), for its permanent collection. That is two major calls from Moderna in a matter of a year. What was your rapport with the curators and the museum like?
A-K: Oh my god, yes. Two major calls. It is such an honor and quite insane, really. The work is now collectively owned by the Swedish people. I am still amazed that my work makes part of the permanent collection where it will be kept and hopefully be brought forth in the years to come. Goes without saying that I’m very grateful. What I really appreciated and remember in particular with the call from Ann-Sofi Noring (deputy museum director) was that she was keen to know more about my work.
Moderna Exhibition 2018, Mater Nostra (front), (left) Mark Frygell, photo: Åsa Lundén, Moderna Museet Stockholm
Regarding the Modernautställningen, that was also incredibly fun and humbling. Working with Joa and Santiago was very pleasant. They came by my studio a year prior to the exhibition. At the time, my studio was located in a small basement, and I was so nervous. I barely remember anything from that meeting. I can almost blackout when I get nervous so I don’t really remember what was said. They seemed pretty skeptical as far as I can remember. So when they got back to me six months later it completely took me by surprise. Once the ball was rolling, I did not have to lift a finger which I am not at all used to. I had not worked with such a big institution before and I am rather used to doing everything myself. They took care of everything. I had to ask to check in before the opening to see if everything looked okay, and it really did. Very professional throughout.
C-P: You are currently residing out of GELB, an artist studio collective which is pretty dear to us. Entering your studio is always exciting with props, set designs and works in various stages of completion literally all over the place. Run me through your working process a little.
A-K: Haha, yes, there are things scattered all over the places; ideas, materials and works in various stages as you said. It is impossible keeping things organized, that is not how I work. The studio you could say reflects my brain. My intern, Fanny Åberg, who is with me in the studio once a week has picked up the most crucial thing; only one thing in the studio has a set place – the all-in-one tool box where I put various useful things like pens, tape and my staple gun. So you at least know where to find those things at all times.
I am generally very process-oriented. One thing leads to another. A lot is made, little is worthwhile in the end. I am a video artist although I see myself more as a painter. This creates a space in-between where I can allow myself to be very free and not burdened by how things should be. I more or less always depart from myself. I do most of my sketching by way of collage work while creating set designs, animations and videos that I combine in different ways. It might sound very unsystematic, and sometimes it is, but my work is guided by a core instinct and intuition that pins it together in the end.
Also, I depart quite a lot from the space where the work will be exhibited. In a way I try to add something to the existing qualities of a room. An intimate room renders an intimate work. A grand space can accommodate a monumental work.
Trösterskan, Galleri Thomassen, Goethenburg 2018, photo Jäger Arén
C-P: What might be some of the artists who have served as inspiration for your own practice? I imagine there to be quite a few.
A-K: Oh, there are so many! Artists can inspire me for various reasons. Martha Rosler, Guy Maddin, Tala Madani, John Bock, Spartacus Chetwynd, Phyllida Barlow, Thomas Hirschhorn, Joan Jonas, Jon Rafman and of course Paul McCarthy. There are plenty among Swedish peers as well; Carl Fredrik Hill, Lisa Jeannin, Markus Öhrn, Lena Cronqvist, Christine Ödlund among others.
C-P: 2018 was such a crazy year for you with one show after the other and things have just kept moving forward since. With family life and also teaching gigs, how do you find the time to wind down?
A-K: Sometimes a lot happen at once and then you just have to roll with it. Like last year when I was an IASPIS studio grant holder and had several important exhibitions. But it is also important for me to have less work intense periods. Because I need time and tranquility. Time to just wind down and reflect, more time in the studio to develop new ideas and works, time for family. A prerequisite to be able to work as an artist in the long run. I have said no to some exhibitions just to allow me some time. To be able to grow as an artist. From now on, I feel like it is important to pick projects wisely. For next spring and summer, I will be working with Institutet in Vitsaniemi to develop a new performance work for the festival Rum för performance in Umeå in September. It feels like unknown territory as I have not made a live performance before. I am beyond excited. So I have decided to invest my time in those kind of projects rather than preparing a new solo exhibition with existing works.
WIP in the studio, OMSORGEN (the care), photo: Anna-Karin Rasmusson
Family life definitely consumes a great deal of time. Dropping and picking up kids, preparing meals etc. I try to keep weekends completely free for the family. Time is definitely limited. Personally, I think that makes me a better artist. You have to be very resourceful with time. It gives you perspective about what is important and have lowered my expectations on my own performance. At Mejan (the Royal Institute of Art), there was a professor who explicitly claimed that an artist’s career is over when you have kids. I can tell you that is not true at all!
As for the teaching, I think it is a difficult trade-off. I work once a week at Basis (preparatory art school in Stockholm) and have also done some workshops and guest teaching at other schools. It is very stimulating and rewarding. In the past, I have worked a lot in health care as a personal assistant. It is also very rewarding but in a different way. It is very physical and exhausting. It is a luxury having a part time job related to my education. It also requires a lot of time and effort and I do not want it to take too much time from my studio time. I have taken some time off to be able to focus on my own practice. My studio time is my most important tool, and the absolute best thing about being an artist; having time for yourself in a room of your own.