som et landskab vil det levende: The Art and Thoughts of Ida Raselli

Editor’s thoughts

Stones, infused with earthy and rusty hues, stand alongside plants and seeds. Som et landskab vil det levende (as a landscape wants the living) reveals a progressively central theme in Ida Raselli’s practice: the simple act of collecting natural materials. It has been a learning journey for the artist—gathering what nature discards and comprehending its intricate cycles.
The walls that serve as a canvas for this series bear the imprint of Ida’s diverse experiences, resonating deeply with Røde Sommer (Red Summer)— an alternatingly prosaic, theoretical, and lyrical essay authored by the artist.

som et landskab vil det levende by Ida Raselli. MFA Degree Show 2023, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts at Kunsthal Charlottenborg

some et landskab vil det levende (as a landscape wants the living) presents us with fragments of a landscape where natural elements such as plants, stones, wood, and pieces of soil can be identified. How did this project start?

Ida Raselli: I began working with wild clay around 2018. It was a scorching summer without rain; everything appeared pale and yellow. It felt as if the drought was draining life from the landscape around me. On a familiar beach, there used to be soft and moist clay on the surrounding slopes – I would make tiny cups and spoons from it and let them be taken by the water. But this year, the clay was as hard as rock. I started knocking large lumps from it and carried them to my home and later to my studio. The drought frightened me. I got really scared.

It provoked all kinds of questions about how to be human on a drying planet—a reproductive body. It felt futureless in a way. I started working intensely on some very large ceramic sculptures in conventional clay to sort of calm my nerves. The sculptures are two meters high and seem to stretch in the air and balance—a kind of indefinable organism, desperate and longing. While making those, I had the experience of being in some sort of dialogue with the material. It was as if the clay had been responding to my efforts, working back at me while I had been working it, in a way I couldn’t explain. I believe this was my first glimpse into something that is now at the center of my whole practice, though I didn’t realize it at the time.

This series echoes the spirit of a collector. One can wonder about the process of collecting, documenting, and displaying these pieces of nature. How was that process for you?

Ida Raselli: This practice of composing directly on the wall arose last year in my studio, very spontaneous and intuitive, to the music my friend played down the hall. It was wonderful. Easy. Like it was supposed to happen like that. I’ve been running out of walls in my studio since then, washing them down, doing over, a complete absorption. I try to let the materials lead. I never know how it will be before it’s there. It can not be forced or controlled. It is a conversation, a dance, and when it is best it feels like music.

I have been collecting materials for years. Initially sort of furtively, but in recent years I have completely let go of the shame of collecting and the act of gathering materials is now right in the center of my practice. I see it as a way to be in touch with my own sensibility. It sharpens my understanding of my gaze; what I am drawn to and how it changes over time. It’s a wonderful method, and it’s great to have something in your pockets. When I change my jacket I always find a forgotten treasure that brings me back to a place. Over the past year, I have been collecting plants to a greater extent, and this tells me that my perspective is changing.

Which specific materials/species were collected to integrate this piece?

Ida Raselli: Wild clay pigment that I have dug out of a marl pit and fired at different temperatures. At one temperature, it turns into this deep rusty color, and when I fire it hotter, it becomes almost purple stoneware. It baffles me. Ceramists in Denmark are taught that they can’t find stoneware here as there are no cliffs underground. But here I am, finding it again and again. I think the sea must have carried it and left it in little pockets in the ground for me to find. There are other wild clays, fired as earthenware and stoneware, varying in color, and some are melted. Fired stones—some of which have an almost orange tone, some have patterns, and some separate into flakes like sliced bread. Gall apples—these are balls of bark from oak trees, formed from the larva of a certain kind of wasp. Seaweed of different kinds. Tansy—I can’t explain why, but last summer, I just felt like I needed to collect heaps; it was like a sort of thirst. Rumex crispus. Pine. Glue. Leaf metal that had been laying around my studio for years.

som et landskab vil det levende by Ida Raselli. MFA Degree Show 2023, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts at Kunsthal Charlottenborg

There is this publication named Røde Sommer that is in close dialogue with the wall piece. Could you share with us some thoughts expressed on it and how it connects with this artwork?

Ida Raselli: Røde Sommer (Red Summer) is an alternating prosaic, theoretical, and lyrical essay divided into five seasons. It starts in winter and goes through a full cycle before returning to winter again. It revolves around the cyclical aspects of menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and artistic practice. The wall piece and this text are deeply connected; there could not be one without the other.

I wrote this essay after returning from parental leave in 2022. The experience of pregnancy, birth, and getting to know my newborn had been transformational for me. I could not revert to the dystopian narrative I had been working from until then. I had never dreamed of having a child and had been ignorant and unprepared for the process. My mind knew nothing about what was happening, but it was as if my body was already informed—a sort of preexisting knowledge embodied and embedded in my muscles and bones. My body just knew how to create life, how to birth it. When my baby was born, she also seemed to know what to do and how to stay alive. It was like a light got turned on in me as if life itself had taken over, and my job was to listen carefully and follow along

I was intoxicated by this experience; it was like nature was revealing itself to me, and my own body was an integral part of it! All of a sudden, I realized that nature is within us. It knows how to live, and it wants to. We just need to relearn how to listen to it. It may sound banal now when I say it like this, but as a woman in a capitalist patriarchy, this is not what I had learned about my body. Getting in touch with it has felt like hope, something ancestral that had been lost but can be regained. And it felt important to share.

In the essay, I investigate how that knowledge was lost, what it can tell us, and how it can be useful in artistic practice. I wanted the essay to soar from the rooftops, to be passed from hand to hand to anyone interested. Therefore, the publication became a gift for the guests to take home.

som et landskab vil det levende by Ida Raselli. MFA Degree Show 2023, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts at Kunsthal Charlottenborg

What were your primary references (Books, authors, etc) before/when creating this series?

Ida Raselli: Røde Sommer is deeply inspired by the Swedish philosopher Jonna Bornemark and her book jag är himmel og hav – en filosofisk undersökning av graviditet, liv og jagets gränser (I am sky and sea – a philosophical investigation of pregnancy, life and the limits of the self). The title of the wall piece is borrowed from her book, and the core ideas in Røde Sommer could never have been articulated without her. Especially her term ‘pactivity,’ referring to the act of being passive and active simultaneously, has become central to my practice, both in the text and in the wall work.

Røde Sommer is also in dialogue with and greatly indebted to the work of Anna Mendieta, Silvia Federici, Emanuele Coccia, and Red School. Books by Danish authors such as Dy Plambeck, Liv Duvå, Olga Ravn, and Tine Høeg, which also approach childbearing from different perspectives, provided the courage to write about these matters.

Interview with Ida Raselli by Rita Trindade | Images by David Stjernholm.