Maj Hasager & Ask Kæreby – Week 1 Blog Post

Danish artists Maj Hasager and Ask Kæreby share a blog post about week one of their Fresh Milk residency, taking place during the month of November, 2015. This will be the artists’ first collaborative residency. It has begun with researching the island through publications, museum visits, talks and exploring the landscape, and will progress into public engagement and teaching components over the coming weeks. Read more below:

A week has passed since we arrived at this lovely place – Fresh Milk. It has been a week of ongoing conversations that have taken us through different trails of pasts and presents, and imagining possible futures. It is our first collaborative residency, and we are collecting sounds, photographing, digging through the archives and following traces in the history of the island. We will both do teaching as a part of our residency. Maj will explore notions of social practice together with fine arts students at Barbados Community College and Ask will conduct an experimental sound workshop every Thursday for the coming three weeks. We are both really excited to be here. For Ask it is his first visit to the Caribbean, and for me it is a return to where I stayed for quite a while in the late 90’s – more than 15 years later it is a very different meeting with the region. Like looking at a faded colour photograph of oneself and appreciating that time too is passing.

Our first day at Fresh Milk was a solid introduction to the Colleen Lewis reading room – as well as the joy of tapping into Annalee’s encyclopaedic memory that became increasingly activated as our conversation progressed. The result is now a pile of books on my desk in the studio. All of them are relevant for both of us, and create different entry points to the place and its layers of histories.

Fresh Milk is an unbelievable valuable and important resource for contemporary art, writing and sound. It functions as a critical platform for exchange of ideas, and the level of engagement from both Annalee and Katherine is highly motivating, as is the studio space – the perfect place to think and reflect. After an insanely busy year, it is indeed something we both are benefitting from and it allows us to explore different notions of our own individual praxes as well as working together, sketching for a new collaborative project. We can already conclude that our time here seems too short.

We have spent the first week of our stay following traces of written and official history by looking at what is represented by the different museums around the island that we have visited. When working in an unfamiliar setting we try to acquire at least a basic understanding of the place – while being fully aware that we experience with the gaze of an outsider. So this past week has been an attempt to scratch the surface and begin exploring the island by local buses – which until now has been a great starting point for conversation as well as eavesdropping on teenagers chatting during morning rush hour.

A few highlights from last week, which has been packed with visits to museums, site visits and research: A lecture by the historian Karl Watson titled “From Sugar to Tourism” on the shifting landscapes of the island, which gave a broad spectrum of information on post plantation Barbados – as well as the future influence of tourism. It was indeed food for thought thinking through the perhaps short-term strategies for tourism that might not benefit the island with any sort of sustainability. Another highlight was the beautiful Arlington House Museum in Speightstown where a very dedicated invigilator gave us a brilliant tour of the house – if you can forgive the overly interactive aspect of the museum, the displays offer a more critical reflection on the colonial past and the slave trade. Last but not least in terms of highlights:  Photographing and recording sound on the east and the west coast – offering two very different entry points and landscapes to explore.

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DanishArtsFound_LOGO_CMYK

This residency is supported in part by the Danish Arts Foundation

Fresh Milk welcomes Maj Hasager and Ask Kæreby to the platform

From November 1 – 27, 2015, Fresh Milk is pleased to welcome Danish artists Maj Hasager and Ask Kæreby as our next artists in residence.

Maj, an artist, and Ask, an electronic composer, will spend their month undertaking a research residency in Barbados, engaging with the local arts and music community to explore ways of thinking about materials and practices through conversations and workshops.

Maj will instigate discussions focusing on notions of praxis, materiality and the act of producing. There will be a mix of individual studio visits and workshops on practice, hybridity and oral history interview techniques as an artistic method.  Ask will conduct a series of experimental sound workshops, exploring sound as a medium of intrinsic value and its own source of information, using it as a way of aurally mapping our environment.

Portrait_Hasager_2015

About Maj:

Maj Hasager is a Danish artist and filmmaker based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She studied photography and fine art in Denmark, Sweden and the UK, earning an MFA from Malmö Art Academy, Sweden. Her work deals with power structures, identity, memory, the construction of history, and architecture, looking at how these interlinked phenomena are interpreted and represented culturally and spatially. Her artistic approach is research-based and interdisciplinary, and she works predominantly with text, sound, video and photography. The recent years Hasager has used oral history interview techniques as a method for accumulating information relating to personal stories, a site, and historical or political matters. It allows the material to unfold itself through different voices and from different perspectives and functions as a way of mapping an area or a context. Often these interviews lay the ground for the way she makes use of narrative forms and fictional writing as a tool to address personal stories in the context of socio-political matters.

She has exhibited her work internationally in events and institutions such as; Society Acts, Moderna Museet Malmö (2014), A voice of ones own, Malmö Konstmuseum (2014), Community works, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2014; Past Upon Past, Red Barn Photo Gallery, Belfast, Ireland (2013), Decembers, LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdańsk, Poland (2012), Liverpool Biennial, UK (2010). She has been awarded grants in support of her work from the Danish ArtsCouncil, The Danish Arts Foundation, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (Beirut, Lebanon), ArtSchool Palestine, Danish Centre for Culture and Development and the Danish Arts Agency. She is the programme director of Critical and Pedagogical studies at Malmö Art Academy, and is a guest lecturer at the International Academy of Art – Palestine, Dar al-Kalima College, Bethlehem and University of Ulster, Belfast.

Ask studie foto

About Ask:

Ask Kæreby is a Danish composer. He studied music production in Copenhagen, earning a MMus degree from The Royal Danish Academy of Music.

Kæreby’s artistic practice is interdisciplinary and research-based, including elements of experimental composition, sound design and electroacoustic music. He is interested in the presentation of narratives by means of sound – not through traditional musical gestures, but using different approaches such as musique concrète or the futurists’ bruitism. Working in the intersection between known formats, Kæreby wishes to challenge our ways of listening – to music (live as well as recorded), to our surroundings and to (sonic) art.

He has been awarded grants in support of his work from The Danish Arts Foundation,

Danish Musicians’ Union, Wilhelm Hansen Foundation, Familien Hede Nielsen Foundation, Dansk Artist Association, Ellen & Erik Valdemar Jensen Music Grant, Anders Månsson & wife Memorial Grant and Karen Margrethe Torp-Pedersen & husband Foundation.

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Fresh Milk’s first connection with the artists was made through our participation in a ResSupport fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2014; to read a piece by Katherine Kennedy in conversation with Maj Hasager during this fellowship, click here.

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DanishArtsFound_LOGO_CMYK

This residency is supported in part by the Danish Arts Foundation

»Redefining Practice« Reflections with Maj Hasager

During her ongoing residency at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Katherine Kennedy – current fellow in the ResSupport programme supported by Res Artis, representing the Fresh Milk Art Platform at the Akademie – had a conversation with Danish artist and Solitude fellow Maj Hasager reflecting on integrated & socially aware ways of looking at artistic practice. Read the article, originally published on the Akademie Schloss Solitude Blog, below:

Maj's studio at Akademie Schloss Solitude.

Maj’s studio at Akademie Schloss Solitude.

When we speak about art, we often use the word »practice« as a multipurpose term to cover the thinking, the making, the product…all the processes that build towards something such as an exhibition or a clearly defined project. But what about the moments that occur in between, not necessarily linked to a finished piece? Where do ‘non artistic’ tasks fall in the realm of this all encompassing »practice«, and how do our actions influence or become part of our artistic work? These questions led to a discussion between Katherine Kennedy and Maj Hasager, both fellows at Akademie Schloss Solitude. Read more about their talk below:

I began my exchange with Maj by introducing the Fresh Milk Art Platform, a Barbadian cultural arts centre and residency programme, and ARC Magazine of contemporary Caribbean art, the two spaces I work for; speaking about these organizations has become almost second nature to me.

It was when Maj asked about my own art »practice« that I suddenly felt unsure…I wondered, as I showed her my artist website, is this reaction backwards? The balance between making work and my other roles is something I continue to struggle with, and there are a number of doubts that arise when I confront it; am I still an artist? Will I produce work again? Have I given up my »practice«? I’m not unique in these crises…these are common questions faced by many artists whose lives teeter between other jobs and responsibilities.

Maj's studio at Akademie Schloss Solitude.

Maj’s studio at Akademie Schloss Solitude.

Maj and I spoke about these anxieties, which had interesting associations to the MA programme she leads at Malmö Art Academy, Sweden, called Critical & Pedagogical Studies. This degree crosses the supposed boundaries between art, theory and pedagogy, framing relationships between production, teaching, administration and curatorship as »integrated practice« rather than distinct disciplines. While the stretch between one actual creation to the next may be long, that doesn’t negate the importance of what happens in those gaps, or the larger impact of knowledge transfer to personal and public creative growth.

I could already see how the importance of circulating information and operating in intermediary ways was applicable to the work of Fresh Milk and ARC; the foundations we are trying to lay for contemporary art in the Caribbean can very much be read as »social practice«, and affect the wider context I work within, along with my individual outlook. We spoke about whether there was a chance to marry this social »practice« with my visual one; the interconnectivity of art and life means that things are rarely as separate or stagnant as they may seem, and dormant seeds of production may just need the opportunity to flourish. We were both in agreement that Solitude can be considered fertile soil, with the freedom afforded to map out and nourish these connections.

Maj Hasager, Decembers – performing a past, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

Maj Hasager, Decembers – performing a past, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

Maj’s personal »practice« also exemplifies hybridity. In addition to her academic pursuits, she negotiates delineations between history/lived reality; archive/interpretation; geopolitical North/South; utopia/dystopia. She took me through some of her multimedia work, which is heavily driven by communities and their geographical and socio-political positions in the environments they inhabit. Displacement is a common theme in her »practice«; she has conducted socially charged projects where she speaks and works with immigrant or underrepresented populations, such as the Filipino community in Italy, or documenting the perspective of Polish women during the solidarity movements of the 70s and 80s. The space she explores is a limbo of sorts; neither dwelling explicitly on the past nor idolizing the future, but the somehow honing in on the forgotten present, and how these communities function – or »practice« – in daily life, which inherently retains the weight of history and the possibility of tomorrow.

Relational »practice« is the core of her work, taking into account and being organically informed the multiple cultures she encounters. The drastically different points of view between herself and the societies she engages are not lost on her; she acknowledges that she is coming from a position of privilege, and does not try to overshadow the voice of the community. As a citizen of an island that is often defined from the outside rather than within, I appreciated this concession, and the genuine interest Maj takes in authenticity when treading this fine, complex line. For example, in her work Decembers – performing a past, 2013 there is no translation from Polish of the exchange between women of a certain generation sharing their stories – this is not done to exclude viewers, but to allow them to enter the moment and feel the dynamic without being distracted by divisive constructs such as language:

Spilled in the language’s veins
A militant regards
When will words be
A tool for something other

– Thom Donovan

Film still: Contemporary dancer Maria Concetta Borgese in ‘Bifurcating Futures’, directed by Maj Hasager.

Film still: Contemporary dancer Maria Concetta Borgese in ‘Bifurcating Futures’, directed by Maj Hasager.

This excerpt is taken from a poem by American poet Thom Donovan, whose work Maj used in a recent project that she directed and was editing while at Solitude. A departure from the usual way in which she works, the piece titled Bifurcating Futures is more abstract; it features a performance by a contemporary dancer interspersed with moving shots of an empty city and stanzas from Donovan’s poem, all overlaid with a haunting track of urban sounds, warped into a futuristic, ominous refrain that echoes the dystopic landscape. The dancer, deliberately chosen for the experience and maturity her body brought to the role, performs a series of gestures in the space, always inaudible but never truly silent. The piece straddles new media and documentary filmmaking, challenging Maj’s usual »practice«, but still referencing themes such as feminism, futurism and creating a platform for the unheard.

What remained with me after our meeting is that we have the artistic license to define »practice« as we see fit; we can use residencies as creative incubators for our work, but »practice« comes from lived experience. Even if not specifically deemed »social practice«, it still absorbs our thoughts, actions and interactions with others, and in the end, cannot be predicted, relegated or compartmentalized – only manifested, one way or another, in the direction we channel it.

Read the original article on the Akademie Schloss Solitude Blog here.