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Meet SHIFT 2022 member artist Regitze Engelsborg Karlsen (DK)

Tell me about your background? How did you end up making art?
I always knew that I wanted to make art, but saying it out loud and choosing that way of living took some time and courage. Only after I had a bachelor’s in Pedagogy and Museology from the university, and where I was at the same time enrolled in an art talent program for three years, I was entirely sure that there was only one way for me, and that was life as an artist. I did not want only to read, only to write, being bound to a desk for the rest of my life, I did not want anybody else to tell me what I could do, how I should see and feel. I was not seeking any common truth about the world. I wanted to explore myself in the materials and with the materials. Physical meeting with objects, materials and sculptures has always made me feel much more than I have ever done from reading. I wanted to explore ways of commutating and what knowledge is.

I have always liked to explore, in materials and at sites. Growing up in the countryside, on a farm, I had enough space to wander alone, and make best friends with the forest, the trees, the birds and the deers – singing to them, playing with them. I have always questioned the things I have seen and the way things were done. It was never clear to me why animals were treated the way they were or why we did this in the fields. I feel very much like a witness to the enormous changes there have been in danish agriculture. From generation to generation I feel like we have moved further and further away from the soil, from the animal, from the knowledge and understanding that we are all connected. Our most important values that make us understand that we live on Earth.

Since art education stopped in school, I was lucky to have a space to learn art in my local environment. I had an amazing teacher, and together with all the other kids and young people, we created a special place for art. At the same time, the space where we were, was a well-known exhibition space for contemporary art. The possibility of being engaged with contemporary art has been very important for me.

“Vi gravede en søgegrøft tværs over pladsen” (We dug a search ditch across the square) gravel and sand, 2021. Photo by Mikkel Kaldal

How do you describe the features of your artwork?
I’m working with the landscapes of extraction. I am creating sculptures and stories from these places, where everything is constantly negotiated and constructed, a space between past and future; ecology, materiality, money, politics, nature, body, feminism and climate. I believe that we are in an urgent state where we have to reinvent and recreate our knowledge and relationship to our landscape, I believe we need to rediscover ourselves in the materials of the landscape through new stories. To be able to question the existing and be more present in the world. We need to think about what forms and reforms the world? And what kind of world do we want to live in?

I’m creating new spaces with my art, with materials such as sand, gravel and stone. With the landscape, the local and global.

In this digital daily life that we have all grown accustomed to, I think it is so essential for us to meet with materials and other bodies, in my case I use the body of the sculpture as my medium. Feeling present beyond the digital and the connection between my own skin and the sandy seabed. Sharing a breath with a bird. Being together in new ways. Art can make us meet, interact and become familiar, make connections.

“Fra et støvfyldt bryst” (From a dusty breast) Gravel and canvas, 2021. Photo by Søren Malmrose.

What or who your inspiration is?
I’m deeply inspired by the ARTE POVERA movement and the use of materials and spaces in that movement. Other artists: Björk, Phyllida Barlow, Katharina Grosse, Helene Schmitz, Lynda Benglis, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Maya Lin and Otobong Nkanga are my personal heroines.

What are your new realizations since you’ve started the SHIFT program?
Laura told me that she was met with a sense of desperation from all of us when we started the program. That really resonated with me. I felt like that. I felt like I was somehow at a tipping point, and I really needed conversations to change, to actually change my actions and my thinking. There is so much desperation, uncertainty and doubt in the arts. Of course, there is with these working conditions we have. But really, nothing good comes from dwelling in them, at least not for me. The most important thing is that I’m much happier! And I feel like I’m part of something where we actually cheer for each other, and that’s a great feeling and group to be a part of.

“Fra et støvfyldt bryst” (From a dusty breast) Gravel and canvas, 2021. Photo by Søren Malmrose.

What positive affect has the SHIFT program given you?
A positive ground feeling in everything I do, like a positive happy foundation on to stand on. I do not care about how others think about me or what I do, try to be more “present” in what I do, and express and tell about what I want to do—sharing and making new connections and collaborations with different people, institutions and organisations—feeling the moment a bit more. Actually sharing what I want to do. And understanding that I don’t lose anything by making myself visible.

Which artist’s career stage can make the most from the SHIFT program?
For me, the stage thing is really tricky, one thing is how others judge or view your career another thing is your own perception, I think it is your own perception that is the most important, not trying to compare yourself to others, but more thinking like am I where I want to be, do these works, these projects, this life make my happy? Is this what I want to do? Is this why I make art? I think the best advice I could give to someone considering joining the program is, that if you want something to change and is willing to work on it, then you are at the right stage to join. You don’t have to know how, you can learn that <3

What are your future ambitions or dreams?
In 2018 I visited Naoshima Island to dwell on the amazing art and architecture there. I visited the Lee Ufan Museum, and it was the best art museum experience I had ever had.
The way the architecture and the works of the artist were intertwined was so beautiful. I dream of being able to make such a space for my works. Where the artworks and the architecture, the light, the temperature in the space, and the tactile experience on the floor all come together as one.
I also dream of transforming a gravel pit, being given a whole gravel pit to transform into one artwork, inspired by Robert Jacobsen at “Tørskind Gravel pit” and Michael Heizer’s “The City”, but with an eco-feministic approach ;-). I really like to work with others. I hope that I will be able to work with many different people all my life, especially I would like to commit to some long term collaborations with architects.

Regitze Engelsborg Karlsen Website: http://regitzeengelsborgkarlsen.dk/

Instagram: regitze_engelsborg_karlsen

“Reaktivitet” (Reactivity) Gravel and linestone on canvas, 2021. Photo by Nick Turpin

More about SHIFT 2023: https://www.finnishartagency.com/shift-online-mentoring-and-coaching-2023-is-now-open-for-applications-apply-now/