INGEBORG KVAME

John Kinross Scholar in 2002


Ingeborg Kvame, Lys Light, 2019, monotype on Tengujo Kashmir paper. Photo credit Erik Sæter Jørgensen

What was the impact on your practice?
My trip to Florence was indeed a Grand Tour. It started off by me realizing I had nowhere to stay. The original plan, to share a room with a friend and fellow scholar, failed as I arrived in the city. Her landlord turned out to be a bit mad, and I wasn’t welcome after all. Luckily my friend had been in Florence for a bit, and through a girl in her Italian class, I managed to find a spare bed in a shared apartment. The bed belonged to a Swede called Johanna, she stayed in the same flat, but slept in her boyfriend’s bed, a Serbian art student called Miljan. So I paid my rent to Johanna, and if the Italian Landlord would happen to pass by, which she probably would – I was just visiting…

I became good friends with my flatmates, especially with Miljan. We had some good conversations about art and life. I found him a bit full of himself, but we had a good laugh. During daytime I walked around town, visiting galleries and museums, or I tried to do some painting by the kitchen table. In the evenings we drank wine, the cheapest wine off the supermarket. It was probably meant for cooking, not drinking.

One night I found myself sleepless in bed. I was not content with paintings I’d been working on so far, I needed to do something that challenged and touched me. A performance. I would walk throughout the old town, while leaving a trace with a thread. When out of thread, I would sit down and wait to see what happened. Would someone follow my trace?

The next day I bought some red woollen yarn and started walking. I don’t know how far I walked, but I didn’t get as far as I wanted. I was stopped by the police. I think there were four of them. They didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak Italian, so I felt pretty lost. Luckily an older gentleman came to my rescue. They let me go, but I had to collect my trace immediately. The gentleman gave me company, and I probably got one of the best tours of the city. At the end he proposed a kind of a ‘job’ for me. He wanted to give me money to buy him some really expensive handbags from luxury stores. Since I was a tourist I would get a tax-refund for my purchases, we would share these refunds, and he would sell the bags again. The gentleman turned out to be a crook. I said I would think about it, and never saw him again.

Now I spent the evenings knitting. The yarn was coloured by the dirt from the streets of Florence. My walk transcribed into a textile.

Johanna moved back to Sweden, and Miljan was heartbroken. I missed my boyfriend in Edinburgh, so we kept the melancholy going accompanied by cheap wine. One night, sitting by the kitchen table after drinking God knows how much, Miljan came up from behind and put a knife to my through. He wanted to kiss me. Nothing bad happened, and I wasn’t really scared. But I could no longer trust Miljan. I spent the last few days with Balint, a fellow scholar that I got to know in Florence. We had a good time.

From Florence I went to Norway to visit friends and family. I had bought the cheapest ticket I could possibly get, which included an overnight stay at the airport in Frankfurt. But the airport in Frankfurt turned out to be the Frankfurt-Hanh airport, a tiny airport far out of Frankfurt. The airport would close in the evening, and I had no money left. A sweet lady drove me to a nearby gas station/diner kind of place that would be open overnight. The clientele was mainly truck drivers. I sat down in the bar and spent my last euros on a beer. Before the beer was emptied I found myself in a conversation with one of the truck drivers. He showed me family photos from his wallet, and offered me to sleep in his truck. He showed me the bed and went back to his friends. The next morning he drove me to the airport. My boyfriend was furious when he heard how I spent the night.

Looking back at this story about my trip to Florence, I think Oh my God, I was young and naive, and put myself into potential danger. But the things I remember with bodily discomfort, were things like the way Italian men could behave towards women. While walking alone I plugged music into my ears, because I didn’t know how to react if they would whistle and shout after me, it really scared me. Or when I went to a nicer restaurant once, on my own, to treat myself. I got a table in the middle of the room, and ordered some meat. Little did I know that I would get the meat only. I felt so stupid and clumsy sitting there surrounded by Italians, with a knife and a fork and nothing but a big piece of red, juicy meat on my plate. A cultural misfit.

What would you say the long term impact has been on yourself and you work?
I can’t say Florence itself has made an impact on me or my practise, but the experience for sure did. The performance I did there can relate to another walking project I did for Møre og Romsdal Art Centre in Norway in 2018. This was a 6 days solo walk along the coastline between Kristiansund and Molde, sleeping in a tent. This time an embroidery would transcribe the walk into a textile. The project didn’t really work out the way I intended, so instead the act of walking and the experience of a project ‘going wrong’ was transcribed into a text published by Contemporary Art Stavanger:
https://www.contemporaryartstavanger.no/kunsten-a-ga-et-kunstprosjekt-som-ikke-ble-slik-jeg-hadde-tenkt/
To describe my practise today, I would say I use nature to deal with issues of an inner nature. Through various media such as textile, drawing, printmaking and sculpture, I seek simple, sensuous abstractions that explore aspects of our existence that I find hidden and mysterious.

The work that I did in Florence marks the first important project in my artistic career after finishing art college.