When I first came to Messen in Spring, 2011 I wasn’t sure what I would find.
I wondered if I would find anything. Was it a hoax, a scam, the fjord pictures photo-shopped? A hologram? Would there be nothing but a mocking face on a wall? Fooled you!
And I had come a long way to be fooled, as far as Ålvik is from Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia , a long way.
But there instead at the bus stop waiting to meet me was caretaker, Hans – and soon after I met his wife, Simone and little boy, Merlijn. Not long after that there was a friendly host of Dutch artist – settlers living in Hardanger and a little later Ingunn and Els the co-ordinators and the warm-hearted Norwegian artists from Hardingpuls, the local artists’ group. The current artist-residents and later newcomers followed.
Now, in 2014, I am here for the third time, again for three months and again I am finding Messen a most pleasant and inspiring place to work as a writer.
There have been changes in the four years, the most notable structural change being that Messen is now owned by Kunstnarhuset Messen foundation, whereas before it was privately owned and up for sale. It says something about Norway and Kvam that the state thought this concept of an international artists’ house in a Hardangerfjord factory town worth supporting.
Why do I enjoy being here so much? I sometimes tell friends it’s like a luxury resort without the luxury resort. What you do have are wonderful views over the fjord and up the hillsides that make for uplifting walks – and places to swim when the weather allows. You also have a quiet and stimulating place to work as an artist – large light-filled studios if you’re a visual artist, quiet, comfy writing studios if that’s your craft. Bedrooms are comfy simple – the kitchen is roomy.
Add to this mix a coming and going of artists from around the world, the chatting and sharing in an otherwise self-catering , washing and cleaning residency. As an added bonus, caretakers Simone and Hans, are the warmest and supportive of hosts (soon friends) and artists themselves, who will offer to include you in family celebrations, a drive to a nearby place of interest and more. Director Ingunn van Etten and the Board of Messen are watchful foundations of the concept.
Personally, I have made firm friends from the artists whose lives I’ve shared and professionally (while that word sits less comfortably) I have written good poems here, one winning an international poetry prize – Midsummer Night – set in Alvik of course and written ekphrastic poems drawn from artists’ work which have been later published in Australia in fine journals. With time to read, walk, chat and reflect, it’s an ideal place for this poet.
I like to think that I can continue coming so long as they’ll have me – and the tolls don’t get me first!
Can we speak with light using our body?
This was a central question I hoped to answer when I arrived at Kunstnarhuset Messen this June.
If light is language, it is always speaking into me.
And what am I saying with it?
Can one understand the sun from a rocky shore?
Can one understand distance through an outstretched arm?
I knew that I would uncover something during my time at Messen, but I could hardly have fathomed the magnitude, beauty and wealth of my discovery. The natural beauty of the region invites meditative contemplation, and the long days helped me develop a stronger appreciation for the subtleties of the constantly shifting present moment. The vertical presence of the craggy mountains and their silent snowy caps were well balanced by the horizontal complexities of the meandering fjord and its shimmering waves. During my time there, these snow caps quietly dissipated into the glittering falls feeding the endless blue fjord. And thus a season moved into my own veins.
With rather limited mobility (the bus only runs about every 2 hours and the nearest coffee shop is about 25 minutes away) I became intimately familiar with my immediate surroundings. I hiked up the mountain over the village several times and was constantly stunned by the vistas. The terrain shifts noticeably when you approach the tree line, moving from woody abundance into a stronger sense of brutality and spareness in the heights. I found myself small and welcome in them. I found myself intensely alone and was grateful.
I came to continue my work on a large cross arts project that explores sunlight, displacement, and devastation. It requires me to move meditatively in the light, and with 18 hour days, I had ample opportunity to discover what the light was speaking into me. In fact, I tried to inundate myself with this long daylight as much as I could. A family member had packed a sleeping mask for me since I have a hard time sleeping in Philadelphia due to the ambient street light coming in through my windows. While at Messen, however, I quickly put that aside and opted to soak myself in the natural light, even moving my mattress to the floor under the window when I slept. I found that within just a few days, I was sleeping incredibly well. Dreamlessly. With blue resilience.
It is hard to describe all the things I discovered and found in Messen. The wonderful artists I met, the quiet beauties I experienced, the long walks filled with the humming chatter of bees. The kindness and welcome, the friends I made.
But most essentially, I experienced a profound peace.
And this has led me to my outstanding discovery–the sun’s light wishes us well. It wants to accomplish life with us.
To speak this daylight in our bodies, we need only assent. To confirm the radiant blue gold distance pouring through ourselves, too.
I stayed at Messen, but Messen now stays in me. It has opened this channel inside me, confirmed in a solar display. I feel it as firmly as the word “home” inside my spine. I hope to return.
Linda Molenaar creates accessible objects which creates questions. In their simplicity here ‘animal-objects’ mirror you, not critically or socially, but in stillness; one that invites you to take a close look at yourself. The longer you look, the more you see.
During the residency in Messen she created the bumblebee (work is still in progress) for her next performance in Germany this summer.
photo: Annana Suwalowska
Here are some pictures from her ‘Horse’ performance, recently in The Garden of Delights in Wildenborch, the Netherlands.
Anna Suwalowska from Poland, makes
paintings, drawings, photography, collage and installations.
In Messen she was mainly working on her dream project. She asked the local people, to write down their dreams and post them in the dreambox in the library. She would use the dreams as inspiration, for her drawings and show the result at her presentation in Messen. www.annasuwalowska.com
Giovanni Calabrese from Italy is a painter and works with architecture, but above all he is a social artist!
He organized a pasta-on-the-fire-afternoon, after italien tradition, and invited the whole village, to join and have a taste.
“In countries where the light has another color
faces along the street at dusk
can turn to pearls in a slow indigo sea…”
by Norwegian Poet Rolf Jacobsen
Arriving in Ålvik late on our first night I encountered “another color”. Although tired after the journey I was sleepless with excitement, anticipation and eagerness to experience what Kunstnarhuset Messen had to offer.
I gazed out the window into blue…blueness…blueancholy…another color like one I had never seen before. The still waters of the Hardangerfjord were saturated with a true midnight blue…a chord of music played on the eye. I took a photo.
I thought this color was an imagined one and that one of my favourite paintings ‘Winter Night in Rondane’ by Harald Sohlberg was a beautiful but make-believe creation. The next day the evidence on my camera proved I was so wrong! Later in my time in Norway I was also fortunate enough to see the original Sohlberg work in Oslo and stand in awe before it.
This was the beginning of a wonderful spring and summer of 2013 when Peter and I were lucky enough to stay at Kunstnarhuset Messen as Artist & Scientist in Residence. It was an enriching experience for us not only in our professional work but also on a personal level to meet the local people and spend time exchanging ideas and stories.
Kunstnarhuset Messen has a wonderful vision for the community and region. We were privileged to be able to spend time there and be embraced into the program and by the Norwegian culture. The influence on the artworks I developed whilst I was artist in residence is also apparent and these works were shown in a solo exhibition at a leading gallery in Hong Kong later in the year.
At Messen I also had time to experiment with material for my multimedia MEOAW Project. I spent many hours filming and recording members of the local community whilst they humoured my strange obsession. The volunteers vocalised the onomatopoeic words for common animals. Footage from this was used in a multimedia exhibition called Wonderment shown at Lingnan University in Hong Kong in 2013.
There are almost too many things to mention about our time at Kunstnarhuset Messen
…listening to Norwegian folk music
…reading the poetry of Rolf Jacobsen “The veil of birds around the earth can not be seen from the satellites but is there just the same, as feather-light tremor of beating wings: small hammering hearts and lightning sharp double lenses photograph our days like the orbiting spies, but they don’t tell…”
…long mountain walks
…spring galloping along, dragging late fruit blossoms to open with impatience
…snuggling on the couch reading Peer Gynt
…time at the local library reading about Norwegian culture
…mowing giant snail designs into the lawn
…composing music with me on the piano and Bjørn Otto Wallevik on his guitar
…exchanging ideas with the other artists
…listening to Susan practice her fiddle
…visiting summer houses
…travelling on boats
…making new friends
…listening to music by Geirr Tveitt
…reading poetry by Olav H. Hauge
For us Kunstnarhuset Messen provided a safe and nurturing environment to develop new works and skills and collaborate with local artists and the community…a place for artists from around the world to meet and exchange ideas…the beginning of new ongoing conversations and relationships that are important to the development of cultural exchange…a unique resource to be cherished!
Thank you Kunstnarhuset Messen and especially Ingunn. Like migratory birds we would willingly ‘fly’ back.
Anna Glynn & Peter Dalmazzo www.annaglynn.com
No-one has marked out the road
you are to take
out in the unknown
out in the blue.
This is your road.
will take it. And there’s no
And you haven’t marked your road
And the wind smoothes out your tracks
on desolate hills.
Your Way by Olav H. Hauge
Anna Glynn & Peter Dalmazzo – Australia Artist & Scientist in Residence Summer 2013 Kunstnarhuset Messen, Ålvik, Norway
Search, was the working title for the work in progress, a project that began in Messen, and became a project called Tea-time.
Every day, walking, collecting branches, thinking, building ….
My stay at the residence, was a meeting with myself, learning and reflection of my life experiences, a quiet place, peace and concentration.
Meeting new artists, sharing excursions contact with nature..
Thank you very much to all the family of Messen, for making my stay an unforgettable experience.
That moment of rest, a pause , thoughts, dreams …
Each tea bag, a leaf, a dream.
Connection with myself, with nature, like a language close to the spirit and essence of things (a fallen leaf in the autumn wind, returning to life a branch). Draw sculptures in empty space, weaving new realities within other. Every corner , a stop along the way is a laboratory of experimentation, questioning, learning …
Works that are adapted to the exhibition space, a game projected on the wall shadows, the very transparent rice paper, which allows us to see very subtle inside the bags of paper, twigs found in nature, in this case, found in the environment close the residence , Messen.
We weave our own dreams, a new habitat.
About my objectives :
I’m interested in the combination between ARTIST RESEARCH and ARTIST EDUCATION.To investigate the way between Architectural + Sculpture = “Archisculture” , New architectural forms with organic materials and ephemeral works.
Integration with the landscape. Nature as a laboratory for experimentation, discovery, learning ..
Construction and deconstruction.
Playing with the concept inside and outside.
Bring small parts of nature back to life.
Through recycling as a way …, creating pieces as from paper, other than materials found at the site ..Bring small parts of nature back to life.
Hands as my instrument, knotting with our hands as the birds make their nests, intersect one another, Knitting with wire….
We weave our own dreams, a new habitat.