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November 7, 2013

Ledge of Happiness / Ravine of Helplessness

Ledge of Happiness / Ravine of Helplessness

Museum of the Golden Nail, photo by Lewis & Taggart.

By Hanne Mugaas

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Advisors

L/R (short for Lukkeskåra/Rådlausjuvet) is a creative hideout in the Norwegian mountains outside of Stavanger, inviting artists to hike to the still-functioning sheep farm to find solitude and inspiration. Our curatorial assistant Heather Jones interviews Gunhild Moe, the founder of L/R and a Kunsthall Stavanger advisor, about one of the most remote and serene artist residencies in existence.

L/R Residency. Photo by Ina Marie Winther.

Before founding L/R you worked as an artist and curator, completing a Masters in Curating at the Art Academy in Bergen and organizing exhibitions at Rogaland Kunstcentre. Can you tell us a bit more about your background and what inspired you to start an artist residency on a remote farm?

I grew up in Stavanger and studied History of Art and Italian at the University of Edinburgh, before returning to Norway to study Fine Art at the Rogaland Art School in Stavanger and The Art Academy in Trondheim. During my final year in Trondheim I became increasingly fascinated by Suldal, where most of my family hails from. My mother was born there and my father´s parents were born and still live in the area. While researching the area and considering the possibility of spending more time there, my husband and I came across an ad looking for a couple to run a small 60s design hotel in Suldal called Energihotellet. We thought this might be an intriguing and very different challenge and quickly fell in love with both the idea and the architecture (the hotel is designed by Norwegian architect Geir Grung). I also thought that this could be an opportunity to work with art and art projects from an unusual, but very engaging angle and that Suldal might somehow be the right place for me. The idea of starting a residency presented itself when I realised how much my artist friends that came to visit liked the area. I also thought this could be a good way to bring art into the local community, and also a way for me to work with artists and projects. Although I’m trained as an artist, I really love to promote and facilitate the work of other artists and in my mind there´s no better place for an artist to explore their own work, and how they work, than Suldal.

L/R Interior, photo by Ina Marie Winther.

When was the residency founded, and what was the history of the farm prior to your direction?

The farm, known as the Klungtveit Farm, is several hundred years old and was run as a sheep farm until the last farmer retired ten years ago. The farm has been partly refurbished and some of the original furniture is still in the house. I´ve been told by some of the residency artists that part of the reason that they like staying at the farm is that it feels like they are staying in someone’s home, which is an element that some residencies lack. The residency was founded in 2011 under the name L/R (short for Lukkeskåra/Rådlausjuvet). The name comes from the history of the area and the farm. Lukkeskåra (in English this can be loosely translated to 'ledge of happiness') is the title of a book written by Lars Klungtveit who was a blind author who was born and raised on the farm. Rådlusjuvet (loosely translated to 'ravine of helplessness') is one of the names of a ravine across the lake and this area also belongs to the farm.

View from L/R Artist Residency, photo by Gunhild Moe.

My understanding is that there is no road to the farm, and artists and invited guests must hike to reach the destination. You yourself have chosen to live in Suldal, with a population of only approximately 4,000. What does living and working in this isolated residency offer that the city does not?

It´s very quiet, or quiet in a way that makes you hear the sounds of nature - there are lots of waterfalls and sheep around so it´s not always 'quiet'! There are very few urban distractions and very little outside input, apart from that which you actively seek. Mostly I think it´s the sense of endless time and space that makes it seem like a magical place to me and to the artists that come here. Some of the artists get a bit confused with the days and that sometimes happens to me too. It´s almost like time moves differently making you more present. There´s also a feeling of community here that´s hard to match in the city. Everyone knows everyone and I think that´s mostly a very good thing.

There´s no internet at the farm and I think this has been important for most of the artists. They seem to be able to focus more on their work and also read more than they usually do. Suldal is a great place for reading. The fact that the artists have to hike up to the farm also means that they have to plan both their food supplies and art projects in more detail than they might normally do - they can´t just run over to the store to get something they´re missing.

Nature and locality seem to be a very central concept in your working method, both with this residency and in your past projects. Do you have an overarching curatorial principle that guides which artists you invite or accept to the residency?

Yes and no. I mostly try to work with artists who I think do good work and for whom it seems to make sense that they come to stay at the farm. I´m really interested in all types of work and all types of artists. I think a stay at the farm could be beneficial for many different types of projects and artists.

Flagg Nesflaten, photo by Gunhild Moe.

Can you highlight some past projects that L/R has hosted? What can we expect from L/R in the coming year and what are your plans for the future of the residency?

"The museum of the Golden Nail" by the Canadian, Bergen based, duo Lewis & Taggart is a permanent installation which repurposes an old mountain barn and includes a signpost on the trail up to the residency. This was the first work to be created on the farm and the project is also available in a beautiful book. Most people haven´t seen the actual work, but the images have travelled. Earlier this year I collaborated with the gallery Entrée in Bergen, with curator Randi Grov Berger, and we created a flag exhibition with artists linked to the residency and area. Nine flags were shown on private and public flagpoles in the nearby village of Nesflaten. These flags are now part of a big flag exhibition as part of Performa in New York. I really love the idea that artists can create and show work here and for the work to travel to a big city. Great work can be created and shown anywhere - so why not in the middle of nowhere? I have recently collaborated with Ryfylkemuseet on an exhibition with works by artist and illustrator Sarah Burwash and I think this is a great way to connect with the areal both in terms of place and audience.

In the coming year I will explore new collaborations with some Norwegian art institutions and also be part of a Northern European project on small, remote residencies. There are also plans for more site specific work by some visiting artists. In the future I hope to expand the residency to include more buildings allowing for more artists to stay and work in the area. For some artists it´s perfect for them to come stay here on their own, but I think it´s a great opportunity for collaborations so this is also something that I´m looking to explore more.

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