Sunday, 5 February 2012

Nordan Art: Interview with Flora Nordenskiold

Nordan Art closed last week.  It happened suddenly and without warning; judging by the comments left at the Nordan Om Jorden blog, the art community were taken completely by surprise.

It also happened part-way through an interview I was doing with Flora about her work in SL, originally to be published on her blog and arising from the suggestion made by Alizarin Goldflake at the end of her own interview there a couple of weeks earlier that Flora turn the interview questions she so regularly posed on herself.

Flora and I decided to complete the interview via email and that I would publish it here instead.  This is an interview in two parts, therefore, that moves from a celebration of that which is present to a reflection on that which has passed.

Huckleberry Hax : Nordan Art for me is all about the creation of a perfect space in which to view inspiring art. I am always impressed at how the right spaces are chosen for the right exhibits and how viewing them in this way - perhaps through the emulation of an RL gallery - somehow increases my own sense of being in contact with them. Can you tell us a little about why you chose to create a gallery in SL and what your own personal inspirations are that contributed to this?

Flora Nordenskiold: When I first came to Second Life, I wanted a beautiful gallery showcasing only the best art. However, I soon realized that in Second Life it is not merely about a beautiful build holding or supporting the art inside it; an empty space is just as desirable. I established two outside spaces, 1/4 sim next to the gallery and 1/2 sim behind the gallery, where people can display their work in open areas. So Nordan Art gallery is really about both: a build that holds, or perhaps frames, the art within it and open areas that are completely unrestrictive. In terms of personal inspirations; I desire a stronger connection with creativity in general I think. I don't have it in Real Life, but seem to find in Second Life an incredible outlet for this lack. In addition, the Nordan Art gallery, built in 2010 by Igor Ballyhoo, serves as an inspiration and driving force in itself.

Huckleberry Hax : In addition to the gallery itself, you also maintain a Nordan Art blog (this blog, of course). In one sense, the connection to Nordan (other than its title) is obvious - you write about events going on at the gallery. But also you write about other openings and installations, you interview artists currently exhibiting at Nordan, and you report on other news in the SL art world. It's a very structured blog that - to me - has a calm quietness about it, through which a picture emerges of a person who just wants to encounter, explore and be moved by art. Tell us about the relationship that your blog has with your inworld gallery and its personal meaning to you.

Flora Nordenskiold: Things having to do with the Nordan Art gallery have center stage in the nordanomjorden's blog. Openings, interviews with artists showing their work at the gallery, readings, hosting of events at the gallery, the publication of the online publication series Nordan Art: A Retrospective 2010-2011, the Nordan Art Award ceremony and all kinds of other things closely related to the gallery are close to my heart and important to me. Creativity in Second Life affects me deeply so the art community in Second Life naturally takes on an important role in the blog. Just as Nordan Art is part of the art community in Second Life, the art community is also part of Nordan Art. It's all connected and part of the blog.

The blog was accidental. See, when I first started operating the Nordan Art gallery I also had another gallery, the Ahren Art Gallery, which I had built. I showed my work there, a few images I had created using photoshop. Photoshop was new to me and my images weren't that great; I then tried learning sculpties and gave up right away. It seemed visual arts weren't my thing. I closed the Ahren Art Gallery so I could use the prims for Nordan Art, but really I was also just discouraged and frustrated with the creation of visual work. I started writing, which seemed to come much easier to me. I still wanted a connection with visual work in Second Life so I started writing about the work of others rather than creating it myself.

Huckleberry Hax : Why 'Nordan om Jorden'? What is the significance for you of this title?

The name Nordan om Jorden is Swedish and losely translated means something like “north of earth.” Really, it is part of a a longer title, Östan om Solen och Nordan om Jorden (east of the sun and north of earth), which in turn is the title of an old Swedish saga. This story for children can be found in the book Svenska Folksagor, Svensk Läraretidnings Förlag, Tryckcentralen Örebro, 1967. ( I was particularily fond of this story as a child and it seemed fitting as a name for my sim in Second Life.

Huckleberry Hax : Since the last question, you've left SL and deleted Nordan Art.  I'm still pretty stunned by this and I think it's fair to say the suddenness of your decision shocked the SL art community.  Can you tell us a little about your reasons for it?  And were you surprised by the reaction it got?

Flora Nordenskiold: For the past months, it felt like Second Life more and more intruded upon my Real Life. I knew I had to leave eventually, it was just a matter of timing. There never seemed to be a good time to leave, there was always something going on, some event being planned. And it is not like I really wanted to leave either; I loved being in Second Life. I knew that if I consulted with friends about leaving they would most likely convince me to stay, they had done it before. So I felt I had to leave without telling anybody, which I then ultimately did (I told one person), at the spur of a moment. I have been in a haze since I left, about six days ago, partially as a result of the reaction to my leaving Second Life. I had not expected anything like it. But ultimately, I don't think this is so much about me, I think it's more about Nordan Art itself. I believe that Nordan Art somehow represented constancy and stability; people thought it would be there forever. When it was suddenly taken away, there was a sense of loss.

Huckleberry Hax: So, now that it's all over, what would you say are amongst your fondest memories of Nordan Art?

Flora Nordenskiold: Nordan Art became the center of my Second Life. From it so much was developed; the exhibits, the Nordanomjorden's blog, the Nordan Art: A Retrospective 2010 to 2011, and the Nordan Art Prize. One of the things that I appreciated was when people returned over and over again to visit the gallery, waiting for new exhibits, checking in with me for the next opening, coming early to openings not to miss them. My fondest memories was the setting up of the exhibits themselves, the coordinating of things and the interacting with artists and their creations and then, when it all came together, finally, we shared such a great sense of accomplishment and, yes, pride. The gallery was about people and their creativity and that's what I loved the most about it.

Huckleberry Hax: I can't finish without asking a question you asked many times yourself in your many interviews. You were in SL for over two years before you left.  What were some of the best and some of the worst things about Second Life and how did things change whilst you were there?

Flora Nordenskiold: When I first arrived, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I think over the years, it became clear that this new world was much more nuanced than I could ever have imagined. There were so many good things. Second Life has a dreamy quality; you can fly and jump high and teleport and you never break a leg. And the avatar, your avatar, in some sense a representation of an internal persona perhaps; we love our avatar, they are close to us, there is something very touching about that relationship. Then there is the endless possibility to create, creativity is so important in Second Life. But the best thing in Second Life are the people, they hold it all together; they dream the dream, they dress their avatar and they create all the parts of Second Life. In terms of worst things, I think Linden Lab still have some kinks they need to iron out.

Huckleberry Hax: Thank you, Flora.

Flora Nordenskiold: Thank you, Huck, for taking the time to put all this together.

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