Luleå Biennial 2018
In a diary entry dedicated to thoughts on the intestine, Ingela Ihrman writes about the flora of the sea and that of the stomach, and about how, for her, gutweed (Ulva intestinalis) makes the link between the two – a slimy return to the sea and to the algae that have managed to retain the sun’s power so that other forms of life may benefit from it. It is about being a landscape, and being in landscape; about belly fat and crude oil – deposits of energy stored in the earth and in the body form the the basis of an extensive artistic exploration that begins in the bowel – a sore spot, and with Wind Within (2018) the Luleå Biennial stages its second outcome. In line with Ihrman’s previous works, the barely fathomable aspects of nature are channeled through our own bodies.
Can you tell us about your work Wind Within shown at Gallery Syster, what preceded the project and how does it continue?
The work Inner wind directs the light to a green algae called gutweed (Ulva intestinalis). I need it to establish a link between the flora of the gut and the flora of the sea. Right now I work with focus on my stomach - a sore point where energy flows and emotions converge. For me, the stomach is a central but unexplored landscape that I want to let grow and take shape.
In August 2018, I worked as a volunteer at Koster’s Gardens - a home, a restaurant, a bakery and a garden located on an island in Bohuslän. Koster's Gardens use permaculture, a concept that was coined in the 70s, as a response to growing ecological problems in the world, and which, in short, aims to create ecologically, socially and economically sustainable (permanent) cultures.
What does it mean to give the intestine or seaweed the position that you do when you lift them into the art space?
I think that all art spaces work as entry points into the world that I create through my art. These spaces are necessary to allow other people than me to enter. It would be lonely and meaningless without them. At Galleri Syster, my gutweed is partly a part of the Luleå Biennal's story about sea, light and sight, and partly an excerpt from my work on the stomach, which I am in the middle of right now.
How does Inner Wind relate to the idea of a landscape, would you say?
I have previously been invested in thinking about what it is like to have inner sea inside your body. From the narrative voice in a an episode of the World of Science from the 90s, I learned that the liquid in the egg blisters enclosing mature egg cells in all terrestrial mammals has the same salinity as the water in the ocean where life once arose, several billion years ago. So even today all of us carry this water of life in our bodies. If gutweed is an intestine, the body's inner wind is the bubbles of gas formed by photosynthesis, which causes the algae to rise up to the surface of the water. The fact that certain seaweeds in English are known as the mermaid’s necklace makes the row of air bubbles into a bead chain of farts.
In addition to Inner Wind in Luleå, you also participated in the biennial's guest feature at the Night Festival in Korpilombolo, where you performed the work Queen of the Night. What was it like doing the performance there?
The Queen of the Night is a performance that dramatises the nocturnal flowering of a special cactus. In old books on house plants, you can read that, until the 1950s, it was normal practice for a proud owner of a Queen of the Night about to bloom to invite their friends and neighbours over for nighttime coffee to experience the flowering together.
It was special for me to perform Queen of the Night at the Night Festival in Korpilombolo. Previously, when I’ve shown the work in different art spaces, there has been a clash between the surroundings and my giant cactus costume made out of tarpaulin rolled into sausages, toothpicks and floor covering paper. In Korpilombolo’s community centre, we fit in almost too well. The Nylund sisters offered coffee and held a small speech that built up some excitement for what was about to happen. It had been dark out since 14:00. At 10:30 pm, I shimmied into the flower bud, still wrapped in cling film to keep the leaves closed, raised the bud over my head, and knocked out the bone-white petals with the aid of a construction built on an inverted umbrella. The people of Korpilombolo gave out a sound of rapture and delight. I sprayed a cloud of vanilla perfume in the air. Then I withered and crawled out.