It is not going eaxctly as I had planned – to write blogs at regular intervals. Too much time goes by in between chapters, so I almost never know where to start the next one. Maybe it shall be where I left off last time – in November 2022. So here comes our “spring” blog despite the fact that the snow is falling at the moment and we have had about 70 cm of snow in the last few days. And there’s more to come…
We actually had experienced few days of spring weather shortly before. High sun and double-digit plus temperatures with solar bathing on the terrace. And finally, you could see the soil and the colours. And the colours is exactly what I miss most after a long winter. We got running water in the pipelines system already in the beginning of April. This is a record and 3 weeks earlier than previous years. It’s a luxury you shouldn’t take for granted.
One highlight since our last blog is definitely our trip to Paris. When we lived in Copenhagen, we travelled to Paris every year in November to see the photo fair Paris Photo. Due to our tight economy it has simply not been possible to travel there in recent years, so it was an incredibly nice reunion with former tradition. And it’s impossible to describe how much I had missed seeing a lot of photographic art and other exhibitions as well as eating macarones ad libitum.
Of course, we had the dogs with us, and they attracted so much attention that we sometimes felt like celebrities. Wherever we went we were photographed. It was many times that we were filmed and taken pictures of by several people at once. It was overwhelming, but also just the fact that it has become a culture and completely acceptable to film everything and everyone completely without asking for permission first. We were also found on a major Parisian Instagram profile promoting the city. Not even they asked for permission. It was fun enough, except that I was revealed to have been inside the cake shop to buy cakes once again;-).
It was also a bit of a fun experience. One of the young street souvenirs sellers (those guys walking around selling “Eiffel Tower” souvenirs) came towards us and asked if our dogs were expensive. Of course, Orest promptly replied that they weren’t, adding that they are even so cheap that you can almost get them for free, and that they are also incredibly difficult to handle with. Without further communication and with disappointed face he turned and went his way. But you just got some thoughts that you could have got in troubles. Fortunately, no one stole ours dogs, but someone did steal one of our cell phones.
During our stay we met a couple who lived in the middle of Paris and who had a niece for our white dog Zarwoe. We also met a couple from Mexico who had followed the dogs for a long time on Instagram. It was super nice to meet people in real life and we spent some memorable hours together.
The winter has been long and we have been challenged mentally in different ways. It has been particularly difficult for Orest to recognize that we have not had the opportunity to move forward – another winter in the house without running water and electricity. It was not the plan that we should live so primitively for several years. Even with a business that has never gone in “negative” but instead it has doubled every year, we are still completely left to ourselves without any form of safety network. We cannot take a loan from the bank, even though we do not owe a single Swedish krone. And a relatively little loan could make our income from guesthouse rental significantly higher because the season can be extended with some small renovations of facilities in the house.
There have also been many positive things during the winter, but the slow progress is demotivating because you feel you are “treading the water” and something as simple as running water can be only seen to become a reality in the long perspective. Admittedly we do not have a “well-developed” business talent, so despite all the many positive things, it is still a very long and tough move for us.
But in mid-February we finally got our solar panels and batteries which had been missing in the post for 4 months (!). And it has elevated our off-grid home and workplace to a totally new level. It provides power so we can work without need to turn on the fuel generator to use a few photo lamps for example. And you have ordinary indoors lighting that provides a better light to work in than the petroleum lamps do. So, there is also a huge progress on this side.
What I have also used the wintertime for is the preparations for my upcoming art exhibition, which opens on 17th of May at Viborg Kunsthal in Denmark. It is an exhibition that has been a long time on its way and it will be my first exhibition in Denmark for several years. I’m excited and nervous, but I’m really looking forward to it. I am so grateful to have received a large grant from a Danish foundation, which has enabled the exhibition to be carried out exactly as I had dreamed of. There was a time when I had received quite a few rejections from foundations, and I began to doubt whether I could complete the exhibition at all. But now we are soon on our way to Denmark. The exhibition is called “JAGT” (“a Hunt”) and it is the result of a collaboration with the Swedish artist Anette Abrahamsson and the Norwegian artist Stine Kvam. I will show 8 new photographic works as well as 3 sculptures. This is the first time I am showing sculptural works.
Unlike previous projects, in this exhibition I have worked with our senses. Something that I have taken to my heart during the time we have lived here. I am obsessed by our desire as modern humans to have control and power over nature. I am fascinated by the instinctive reaction that occurs in us humans when we encounter a predator. A primal instinct that can make experienced hunters’ hands to shake uncontrolled when they meet a predator in the wilderness. When we humans are faced with a predator, we are confronted with our denial that a predator can take a human life and that we are also animals in that perspective, – a part of an ecosystem and thus also part of the “food chain”. I am confronted with this physical anxiety in my present daily life when I walk in the forest in one of the most bear-rich regions in Sweden. It is fascinating how the body instinctively reacts to sounds and how the adrenaline, alertness and senses are constantly activated. The artworks for the exhibition must therefore be seen as a form of self-portrait.
The sculptures are made of wool, and it has been a huge work. I had to trade the raw wool with family portraits I made. “Raw wool” means dung-dirty and smelly semi-wet wool with various faeces in it. And when it was really cold in the garage, I had to clean the wool off various residues and grass indoors in the living room…. Then it had to be washed and rinsed several times. Dried and then dyed. Being lazy, I have never put on sale a big old-fashioned outdoor washing tub, but it was a meaning and luck because it was the perfect solution to heat up the water in the 100-litre tub out in the garden for colouring the wool. But cleaning, washing, and colouring was not the biggest job. The slowest work was the wool carding. Carding of wool amount which can fill a blue IKEA bag takes about 30 hours. And it is very hard on my hands. But now it is ready to be installed and it has been an interesting physical process. We are traveling to Denmark on the 8th of May.
Since November we have also had a number of jobs for the Danish company Langkilde og Søn. It is always a privilege to work for them and we have done several photoshoots and small films in the area around our property. It has been super fun and at some moments a bit too cold. For example, we made a setup of the New Year’s table in the middle of the lake and among the birch trees. They will be shown in the autumn, but you just get a little sneak peek here. We are happy for our collaboration. Langkilde & Søn sends their products up here, we create setups with products and then film and photograph them. Such collaborations are of great value for us as we have the spectacular surroundings that can form the framework for unique set-ups. The biggest disadvantage of this collaboration is that they make such beautiful products that they are always difficult to send back after shooting sessions ;-). You can see much more on their website www.langkilde-flagfabrik.dk
Our “little” puppy Azzo has grown up. Not to misunderstand here that he has become an “adult”, but he is doing incredibly well. I had feared that he would run on the ice and go on “adventures” on his own in the area, but he stayed on the property all winter until a month ago. Then he learned that it was a possibility. I guess that “somehow” he thought that there was still a lake around the property as he learned it from summer and autumn periods. But one day he realised that he can “walk” on ice, so he ran away two times and was gone for 30-45 minutes each time. Of course, it doesn’t work that way, so until the ice is totally gone, we have restricted his “freedom”. He can be free in the garden if we are there. But he is a happy dog with lots of healthy energy and has grown perfectly so far. Fortunately, he is not so obsessed with food anymore, but he was blamed for lack of food from the hallway (our temporary “fridge” in wintertime) for couple of times. And it was a mistake – because we found out that the real thief was a white ermine who has moved into the garage just before the winter start, so now all doors are properly closed…