Åsa Elzén
Notes on a Fallow – The Fogelstad Group and Earth

Parallel to the exhibition by Edgar Calel, we present “Notes on a Fallow – The Fogelstad Group and Earth” by Åsa Elzén. For a long time Elzén has worked with the legacy of the queer feminist Fogelstad Group, that among other things ran the Women Citizens’ School at Fogelstad (1925–54 in Julita, Sörmland). At a time when industrial agriculture was emerging, the Fogelstad Group was highly critical of what they saw coming, such as pesticides, chemical fertilisers, and farming on an increasingly large scale but with less biodiversity. They argued that humans’ relationship to earth should be based on love, and the idea that earth should not be owned, but cared for. Through educational and political work, the group proposed radical methods for the transformation of privately owned land to forms of hereditary and transferable land tenancies, and donated land to the state to be granted to the unemployed, through so-called “åborätter” (Åbo rights).

In 1919, Elisabeth Tamm of the Fogelstad estate commissioned a carpet from artist Maja Fjæstad with the wish that it would be based on a fallow, in line with her “peace-with-the-earth” practice. To leave land fallow means to let it rest from human production for a period of time in order to counteract soil depletion. The fallow can also be seen as a counteract to the drive for speed and efficiency that came with industrial agriculture.

At the centre of Gallery 5, a large carpet made by Åsa Elzén is displayed on a podium where visitors can walk and sit without shoes. The work is a transcript of a carpet titled En Träda (“A Fallow”) made by Maja and Amelie Fjæstad in 1919–20. Transcript of a Fallow is the centrepiece of Elzén’s continuously growing project that blurs the lines between historical materials and new works as Elzén delves into the group’s practices in ecology and resilience. Using the term “transcript” instead of “copy” also suggests a historiographical process intertwined with the present, making a contemporary reading part of the piece’s history. The method involves carefully listening to someone else’s work and forming an intimate, embodied, situated relationship.

The exhibition includes A Growing Fallow Archive, showcasing materials related to the original carpet. The accompanying audio piece features excerpts from texts on fallow land and on the history of the making of the carpet, whilst the exhibited video consists, to a large extent, of quotes from legal documents concerning ownership rights. The project also features a series of photographs by Axel Fredriksson, a self-taught photographer documenting daily life on the farm, and objects related to the (archival) history of En Träda (“A Fallow”).

While researching the Fogelstad Group, Elzén also investigates the concept of “the fallow” as an artistic methodology and ethical standpoint, exploring its connections to temporality, memory, environmental degradation, and queer feminist and more-than-human historiography.

Åsa Elzén (b.1972 in Visby, Sweden) lives in Näshulta, Sörmland. Elzén is currently collaborating with Malin Arnell on Forest Calling – A Never-ending Contaminated Collaboration or Dancing is a Form of Forest Knowledge, a public art commission related to Fogelstad, supported by Public Art Agency Sweden.