I AM EDITH SÖDERGRAN is a multidisciplinary project by performance and media artist Josef Ka dedicated to the life and art of the Finnish avantgarde poet, Edith Södergran (1892 – 1923) who wrote in Swedish.
Interview: Josef Ka featuring Edith Södergran // September 2022
During the autumn of 2020 I began studying Swedish and through this became acquainted with the remarkable poetry of Edith Södergran.
My initial interest in her work blossomed into an idea for an art project during winter, 2021. I had become so impressed by Södergran’s poetry that I invited some of my friends to participate in my emerging project – though at this early stage I had no budget.
My first collaboration related to my Södergran project occurred during February, 2021 in Moscow. Vassily Popov, a celebrated Russian photographer, supported my idea and together we created a series of photos – or what I call ‘still performances’ – based on Edith Södergran’s poetry.
IN SPRING OF 2021 I INVITED AN ANONYMOUS VISUAL ARTIST TO BEGIN MAKING ANIMATION FOR THE PROJECT.
July 2021: I was invited to present a first work-in-progress version of the Södergran project at the Gallery Blumentopf in Vienna.
The respected Austrian photographer Walter Ulreich photo-documented this first, preliminary presentation of I AM EDITH SÖDERGRAN (titled Höre) and the animation was created by an anonymous Russian artist ID, in collaboration with Josef Ka, was shown.
December 2021: I received my first project grant for I AM EDITH SÖDERGRAN from Finland’s konstsamfundet.
January 2022: In collaboration with Austrian musician Harald Weinhofer I recorded seven music tracks based on Södergran’s poetry. This collaboration was key to bringing the new version of the project to life. Also during January, the first presentation the new, more finalized version of the performance was presented at Gallery Blumentopf in Vienna.
During early February 2022 we launched the first official video that was part of the project.
Finland-Swedish modernism was introduced by Edith Södergran (1892-1923). She didn’t receive much recognition in her lifetime, but is now regarded one of Finland’s foremost poets. She was first influenced by French symbolism, then German expressionism and Russian futurism, and creatively applied these to her own poetry. Her free rhythm, strong, challenging images fired by a Nietzschean self-conscience and conviction of the importance of her message were new and baffling to the Finnish audience, and she was almost without exception misunderstood and even ridiculed. Her first collection of poems was Dikter (Poems, 1916), which was followed by Rosenaltaret (The Rose Altar, 1919) and Landet som icke är (The land that is not, 1925) among others. Always physically weak and somewhat sickly, she died young just as she was starting to get followers.
When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th 2022, I stopped all my other artistic activities to focus completely on anti-war art. This mainly took the form of curating a digital anti-war program featuring short videos by more than 300 artists from 25 countries, and presenting it in various artistic and academic venues more than 30 times across Europe.
In April I returned to the Södergran project, focusing mainly on choreography together with professional flamenco and contemporary dancers Olga Lugovskaya and Ksenya Martynova.
On April 2022, we celebrated the 130th birthday of Edith Södergran, in which I organized a big event at Arbis, the Swedish Cutural Centre in Helsinki. I invited contomporary musician Arvid van der Rijt to perform, and I also invited the Danish artist Anna Kruse, who has done significant work with Södergran’s poetry, to present her new digital works.
April 2022: I received an additional grant for the project, this one from the Svenska Kulturfonden.
During this same time I began working on music with the Latvian composer Aleksandr Aleksandrov. In late June 2022 I benefited significantly by consulting about musical aspects of the Södergran project with Vladimir Gorlinsky, the internationally acclaimed contemporary music composer.
August 2022: I completed the choreography and costume design.
The first formal presentation of the project took place on the 3rd and 4th of September
during Helsinki’s Open Studio days, which is organized annually by Konstrundan.
Through the end of 2022 I plan to perform the project in Finland, Sweden, Austria, Latvia, Estonia and France.
If you are interested in presenting the project at your venue, please contact me: email@example.com
Concept, scenography, performance: Josef Ka
Music/performance: Aleksandr Aleksandrov
Music/songs: Harald Weinhofer
Animation: Anonymous artist, Ivan Dubyaga
Choreography: Josef Ka
Performance: Josef Ka
Photography: Vassily Popov, Walter Ulreich, Mark Maher
Design: Egr Nagaen
Tutor of music composition: Vladimir Gorlinsky
Tutors of flamenco and pole dancing: Olga Lugovskaya, Kseniya Martynova
Special thanks to Tina Romberg, Mark Maher, Arbis, Blumentopf Gallery/Mike Blumentopf, Gloria Noise, Barbro Kronqvist, Anne Suominen, Johan Lindberg, Konstsamfundet, Svenska Kulturfonden, Konstrundan, Nordic Culture Point
Duration: 40-45 minutes
The premiere of the Project took place in October 2022 in Helsinki at Arabia Asukastalot.
gifs by Mark Maher
In October 2022, I showed the performance in Riga.
Алексей Гусев, поэт, филолог, журналист написал такую рецензию. Английский текст ниже.
Не могу претендовать на то, что разбираюсь в перформативном искусстве и его трендах на сегодняшний день. Но сама идея разрыва дистанции между артистом и публикой, провокация последней и побуждение к со-творчеству и со-участию мне нравится.
На перформанс в Риге, посвященный судьбе Эдит Седергран я попал, как чистый лист, не зная ничего о шведской поэтессе из Петербурга, которая навсегда порвала с Россией после революции 1917 года. Но сейчас биографическая параллель кажется довольно очевидной. Josef K уже как несколько лет покинула родную Россию и живет в Хельсинки. В общем, выбор Седергран совсем не случаен. Через эту фигуру авторка, осмелюсь предположить, пытается переосмыслить свой опыт миграции и нахождения вне привычной языковой и культурной среды.
Само действо заняло в районе сорока минут. И начиналось оно довольно задорно – выхватыванием случайных господ из зала для совместного танца, разматыванием куска белой длинной ткани и прочими вещами немного смущающими местную сдержанную публику. Затем накал драматизма подскочил, когда Josef K начала карабкаться по небезопасно прислоненной к стене приставной лестнице. Ну а кульминацию описывать не берусь, ее стоит увидеть.
Само представление аккомпонимируется завораживающей и пронзительной музыкой рижанина Александра Александрова. Так что это все точно можно квалифицировать, как аудио-тактильно-визуальное действо.
Alexei Gusev, poet, philologist, and journalist, wrote this review
I can’t claim to know much about performance art and its trends today. But I like the very idea of breaking the distance between the artist and the audience, provoking the latter and stimulating them to co-create and co-participate.
I went to the performance in Riga about Edith Cedergran without knowing anything about the Swedish poetess from Petersburg, who broke off from Russia for good after the revolution of 1917. But now the biographical parallel seems rather obvious. Josef K has left her native Russia for several years now and lives in Helsinki. In general, the choice of Cedergran is not at all accidental. Through this figure the author, I dare to suggest, is trying to rethink her experience of migration and being outside the familiar linguistic and cultural environment.
The action itself took about forty minutes. And it started pretty cheerfully – by snatching random gentlemen from the hall for a joint dance, by uncoiling a long piece of white cloth and other things, embarrassing the local reserved audience a little. Then the drama really ramped up when Josef K started climbing an unsafely lean-to-the-wall ladder. I can’t describe the climax, it’s worth seeing.
The performance itself is accompanied by the mesmerizing and penetrating music of Riga’s Alexander Alexandrov. So it can be accurately qualified as an audio-actual-visual performance.
photos by Aleksandr Aleksandrov will be on display soon
In November the performance was shown 2022 in Vienna.
photos by Walter Ulreich
In January 2023, with the support of Nordic Culture Point, I showed the performance in Copenhagen and Stockholm.
AUDIENCE REVIEW WILL BE AVAILABLE SOON
PHOTOS BY ALEXANDRA KOSTRUBALA
In February 2023, the main Swedish-language newspaper in Finland, HBL, published a big article about me and my project.
In April 2023, together with my students, I showed a variation of the project called – WE ARE EDITH SÖDERGRAN, ARBIS, HELSINKI.
On April 13, I showed the project as part of the YÖ GALLERY festival.
In May I show the project in Berlin and Vienna.
Interview: Josef Ka featuring Edith Södergran // September 2022