Laura Feldberga was one of our first Open Studio Fellows of 2017, along with her father, Ojars Feldbergs, who joined us from Latvia from mid-March to mid-April. Laura’s work at Franconia began with a visiting artist lecture and workshop with students at the University of Minnesota Art Department and culminated with a performance of 16 participants installed as mountains on site at the park on April 10th, 2017. Stormy weather broke at just the right time, offering a dramatic but peaceful experience.
How did you first hear about Franconia Sculpture Park?
I heard about Franconia Sculpture Park from various artists during the 7th International Cast Iron Conference, but also before. For example, artists Kenneth Payne and Austin Sheppard who have worked at Franconia, told about their experience at the Park. And, of course, during the Iron Conference artist Tamsie Ringler was talking about Franconia Sculpture Park – about the cast iron event and about the residency program.
Tell us about your previous work and transition to performance/butoh:
About 5-6 year ago I joined a butoh dance group (now we are Interdisciplinary Arts Group IDEAGNOSIS), and I started practicing this very creative way of working with the body. In our performances we use butoh mixed with elements of physical theater, improvisation, and contemporary dance. Musicians, visual artists, stage designers, light and video artists work to together to create performances. This process is so exciting and interesting to me that it naturally influences the way I work as a visual artist. I could say that in some of my works I experimented with performance even before getting to know butoh, so, the actual presence of a person in artworks has always interested me. But with getting into butoh practice I got more tools to work in this direction.
In my installations I often use clothes, and they give the feeling of the person being part of the artwork even when the person is absent. And most of the performances I’ve created so far are very static – more like installations with a human figure within it. To me just the presence of a person in the artwork is very strong element – it completely transforms the whole work, the idea and the message. When the figure starts to move it’s becoming like a dance, but I feel that in my work I want to emphasize just the presence, the power of being there – here and now, in this very moment. My work is about extending this moment, making both the participants of the performance and the observers aware of the time and situation, living it in its fullest capacity.
When did you begin creating performances involving mountains, and what is the significance of mountains to you? What experience do you hope to achieve, both for the performers, and for the viewers?
In 2010 I spent a month in a residency in Reykjavik, Iceland, and the mountains of Iceland inspired the very first performative piece “People as Mountains.” Mountains are natural landscape features, they are part of structure of the earth, but at the same time they visually look as separate elements, as if they were magnificent beings rising high up above the horizon. People, on the contrary, are physically separated from the surface of the earth, they are free, able to move, but mentally they are influenced by everything that surrounds them. And this influence is stronger that we sometimes realize. I believe that we are as attached to the landscape as mountains. There are hundreds of invisible strings that attach each one of us to all the places that have significance in our lives: the places we have lived in, countries we traveled to, people, situations and experiences.
In my performance pieces I try to create the visual manifestation of all these elements – both visible and invisible reality coming together, creating the moment, the situation and the awareness.
The performance “People as Mountains” at Franconia Sculpture Park was significant to me in a special way, because I felt as if the landscape itself and the nature forces were also participating in the moment. Everything – including the weather conditions – made the performance stronger, deeper, and more expressive. I could only admire the people that were there and stood as mountains with their full force and presence. It was a very strong experience to me.
Ojars and Laura were able to complete their fellowship thanks to generous support from the Starseed Foundation with additional support and speaking engagements through the American Latvian Association Cultural Foundation, the Unversity of Minnesota Visiting Artists & Critics Program, and the Minneapolis College of Art & Design.
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