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Photography: Tjaša Kalkan, courtesy Assemble Papers.

Infield Under Development

For the first time ever 2020 the renowned Melbourne-based artist Linda Tegg will present Infield, a large-scale installation outside of ArkDes. This diary is updated during the process of the making of Infield. 

Photography: Linda Tegg, Infield (2020)
production photograph by Andy Liffner .

Your exhibition Infield, a large-scale installation comprising over 80 different plant species native to Sweden. Can you tell us about how this project came to be?
In some ways it’s a story of interconnected worlds. When my first work with plants disbanded, Ann Maudlsey re-homed some of the plants. Five years later, and now working at ArkDes, she reached out and asked if I would consider making a work on Skeppsholmen – of course I was interested! For the past few years my art practice has been focused on working with grassland plant communities. My first work with plants sought to understand what the State Library of Victoria has replaced in its founding. Based at the library, I worked with the knowledge networks to understand what had grown on the site and bring those plants back to the library. Through this work I came across the idea of a lost grassland, and have been preoccupied by it since. Meadowland plants and their co-evolution with humanity is endlessly interesting.

What gave you the idea for this project?
I wanted to re-imagine the asphalt car park at the entrance of ArkDes as a place where people and plants could be together, a place that would accumulate life. As an artist who works with grasslands, it felt significant that the remnant meadows of Northern Europe are the most species rich on earth. It’s hopeful for me that their biodiversity is connected to intensive human activity within the fields closest to us.

You’ve been known to bring live animals into galleries and museums, and you frequently explore the idea of nature as a construct and man’s approach to our surroundings. Has these themes always been a part of your artistry?
I’m always working at the same questions. My earlier works were interested in how ideas of the natural were constructed. I began working with animal actors who were trained to perform for the camera, and how those photographs would go on to inform who, and how, we think they might be. While working towards shifting how a horse or goat may be seen, I was also working through all the pragmatic challenges a live animal body poses to spaces reserved for human culture. Even though the work is driven by the same questions, my awareness has grown in particular directions. Considerations of perspectives beyond the human have shaped the work and what I think might be possible beyond what I’ve already encountered.

What has been the greatest challanges facing this project?
Distance has been a challenge. I want to attach to my familiar ways of working, but I’m being pushed to find new ways. Rather than considering this challenge something to be overcome, I hope that it produces something new.

The cool spring in Stockholm has been testing my faith a bit.

Due to the Covid-19 crisis you haven’t been able to be near your work physically, and you might not see it if the travel ban is still current in september when it’s taken down. What’s that like for you, and how has that eltered the process?
It’s come close to inverting my process. Much of my earlier work was concerned with direct experience, as opposed to the distancing effects of representation. This was informed by my experience as a photographer, and understanding the disconnection that can be produced between people and images. In making Infield, I’m the one looking into a computer screen. The work is being shaped through video chat, detailed drawings, conversations and the sensibilities of those I’ve come to know on the ground, as well as considering the plants, and role that the weather is playing in this assemblage. While infield draws upon a language developed through previous works, this process is unique to the work. Some of the plants that form Infield are considered weeds where I live in Melbourne. I seek them out and pay attention, but can’t really compare, as our seasons are the opposite. It’s a strange feeling. Working with plants has shown me that amazing things occur outside of our control and intent. The biodiversity of Sweden’s historical meadows were an unexpected consequence of human/plant interactions.

Since this project is outdoors, this will be one of the few art installations that is perfectly safe to experience for the audience right now. What are your thoughts on that?
From a personal perspective I feel unbelievably fortunate to be making an artwork that can encounter it’s audience under Covid-19 conditions. It’s hugely motivating for me to know that Stockholm will have this space, particularly when so many cultural institutions have been closed. Social distancing is prompting me to reconsider how I’m living, and I sense a real moment for a collective reimagining of how we might live together in future. It would be exciting if Infield could be a part of that.
In lockdown my memory is a little different.  Not leaving the house very often my environment is very consistent and most of the time I’m relating to the project through one screen or other.

Photography: Linda Tegg, Infield (2020)
production photograph by Andy Liffner.

Diary: Linda Tegg

What state of growth is the plants in right now?
The plants have all taken root and are seem very healthy. However very cold nights have delayed their growth. They need a stretch of warmer days before spring will really register for them.

What are your greatest concern about the project in this state?
There is often an interplay between illusion and it’s construction in my work. While the plants are low to the ground the construction is foregrounded and the illusory aspects will unfold over time.

Can you share a memory from the making of this installation that stands out to you?
The movement of plants always has significance to me. The movement of the plants from smallland to Stockholm was a huge moment. It was also the first time the planting team came together and (even at my great distance) the scale and weight of the work could be felt. The excitement around that moment stands out.

What are the next steps for the installation?
Over the next week all the elements will be installed at the entrance of ArkDes.

How do you keep the plants happy indoors?
These plants are all outdoors. While outdoors in the cooler conditions they’re slower to grow, but ultimately they will be stronger. Indoors, these plants would need a lot of light.