I arrive in Oslo absolutely exhausted but the wonderful Anna Perry picks me up from the station and takes me back to Etterstad Garden Colony where she lives during the summer, cooks me a wonderful meal and introduces me to the colony. She contacted me a couple of years ago on homeexchange as she wanted to bring her daughter to London. She said she couldn’t leave Oslo as she had to organise children’s activities for the Colony festival - Hargelarm (which means garden din!) - that weekend. But I should come and stay anyway and come to the festival. Her neighbour lent me her hytte or cabin in the end and I just rested for 5 days and hung out in the garden. Etterstad is wonderful. Its a cross between an allotment and a housing co-op with a 70’s hippy commune atmosphere but clean and beautiful. They each have their own garden with a cabin to live in but run events as a community. There is a wonderful utopian socialist feel to the place. The children who share all the space in their playing, are the most well-balanced I have ever met. Everyone is really friendly but respectful of your personal space and its just lovely.
One of the members, Anne Mette Moe a landscape architect with a wonderful cabin, took me to the Henie Onstad Art Centre in her car to see the Schwitters’ room there. Its outside Oslo and I would not have had the energy to make it otherwise. I really enjoyed being back with the work of Schwitters and being somewhere that recognises his importance. It was strange in Molde as there was no mention of him in the town anywhere though that will change next year.
The door from the Schwittershytte is in the gallery at Henie Onstad and they also have some collages and landscapes including the painting of the little cabin in the previous post which is titled the Djupvasshytte. It isn’t - its another building just up the road. I also watch a film made for the gallery about Schwitters which is really good and makes a lot of visual references to his roving eye with the ladies which makes me laugh! The many images of bicycle wheels reminds me that I really must get in touch with Sylvia Hallett - a wonderful musician who plays bicycle wheel with a bow and also hardanger fiddle a large Norwegian violin with extra strings that has a very haunting sound that will be great for the fjord shots in my film. She’s playing our gig Mopomoso in September when I get back.
I have a quick meeting with the new curator at Henie Onstad and tell her about my project. It would be a perfect place to show my film though as they have an established audience for experimental music already as they put on concerts. My friend Dennis Greenwood the dancer performed there with the Richard Alston Dance Company years ago and he says its wonderful. Henie Onstad Centre.
That night Anna takes me to Cafe Mir and the Blow Out festival of free improvised music. It is just like being at the Vortex only everyone is Norwegian. I meet the painter Terry Nilsson-Love who is English but used to live in Molde. He says its very quiet. Its great to be with artists and musicians again and be introduced to people. Great evening’s music with Ken Vandermark, Johannes Bauer, Raymond Strid, etc. I put a little film of Børre Mølstad and Per-Åke Holmlander playing an improvised tuba duet with assorted farty noises that am I am sure Schwitters would have loved on Youtube. I didn’t get the chance to ask their permission so I hope they don’t mind.
The next day I realise I seriously have to rest or I am going to have an M.E relapse. Decide to spend the day at Etterstad which is great as the festival is on. The artists in the colony open their cabins to show their work and the many musicians play in a day long concert of wonderful, professional ska, soul, political folk, ironic Brechtian cabaret type songs (I was wrong about Norwegians they can rock!). Its just like my old socialist days when I organised benefit concerts. Political activists, tattooed and pierced radical lesbians, mother earth types, actors, performers, artists. And there are lots of seriously cool and beautiful teenagers, including the band Els Meg i Morgen (Love Me in the Morning) who are a bit like the Velvet Underground, really talented, original songs, all under 19 and will definitely go places. Had a great time and made a little video for the Colony as a ‘thank-you for having me’ present.
I think of how it must have been a bit like the Berlin Dada-ists for Schwitters and the art scene he missed so much in Germany.