Interview with Pernilla Eskilsson
"It's the end of the world as we know it"
Performance in Brålanda 2020
Photo: Simon Larsson
Describe your art practice and your family dynamics:
I work with performance and sculpture, I build large and small pictures. Sometimes I am included in the pictures and sometimes I make actors in the form of dolls. I have two children, a husband and a dog. The daughter is 19 years old and the son is 15 years old.
What is your plan of execution through this residency: I have a collaboration with Elin Flognman right now and as part of GIBCA Extended in this autumn we will carry out a performance where we carry a huge potato through Gothenburg. I shall sew the solemn costumes for the wearers is the plan. Tell us a little more about how you developed your practise/ technic? I want to be a monk. But it's not possible because I'm not a man. And I have family. But I'm an artist so I sewed a costume for myself and went out into the city as a hermit on the streets. I think my works border between art, mystery and politics. I work with religious themes such as silence, being, rest, death and sacrifice.
"Black Friday and I"
Performance in Gothenburg 2018
"God forgive those who are against Allah. God forgive those who are against those who are against Allah"
Performance in Trollhättan and Gothenburg 2018
You are based in: Vänersborg Have you lived or studied elsewhere: Yes, I have attended Gerlesborgsskolan in Bohuslän and lived in northern Bohuslän at the same tim as I went to HDK (University of Art and Design) in Gothenburg. I also have a background in theatre and have worked in different places within Sweden. Has your place influenced you, your art practice, your perspective and your network: It has been important for me to have a small significant network instead of a large one many loose threads. In a big city, I get confused that there are too many opportunities, me feel good about the limitation in the small. We are a few who support each other and are agree on what kind of art we want to make, that what we do does not have to look provincial because we live in a small town (and here I am not talking about quality mainly but about expression).
What is your story about becoming a mother and has your attitude and methods changed since you became a parent: I have always had a very hard time combining motherhood and artistry. Roles as a mother is the (only) role I have in life where I can not be replaced with anyone another and of course the most important. In periods when I worked a lot, however, I have liked that the kids just bother me in my process.
For a while I had to let go of art completely to concentrate on myself and my family.
But art is too important for me and I are definitely a better mom when I manage to combine them. A teacher said me once that “artists are the ones who continue”, it has comforted me a lot over the years.
What is your perception of the representation with female artists who can and do combine their motherhood within the art world: I am always looking for keys that can give me answers to the difficult question of how to combine motherhood and artistry. I always ask myself the question: But do they have children, those who did say or so ?! Did they manage to get it together?! I think it can be tricky to find role models and that's why I think this project, Mothers in Residene, is so important and valuable!
"Oh boy she was heavy"
Doll installation 2021
Do you have a moment in the mother / artist duality that you want to share: When I have worked with concrete things (like when I worked with scenography for a large performance in Vänersborg and was visible in various media) it has been easier to explain what I do and easier for the family to accept. It's harder when I do performance like for example when I was lying in a coffin in central Vänersborg and some residents got angry and provoked. It has become more and more important to work with projects where there is no money involved as I want my art as a free zone from profit thinking, that I as a citizen of society am so clearly marked by. But then it has also been much more difficult to assert its justification for family time. What advice would you give to new artists entering a motherhood: I feel that it has been difficult to give myself legitimacy, that it is OK to work with something that is not financially profitable and at the same time call it their profession. On a political level, I wish there was a citizen's salary. The advice I would give is something that I must remind myself constantly: I CAN make art. I CAN do bad art though I also get to do amazing art. I CAN make art that can be sold and I can create impossible, temporary, incomprehensible phenomena that cannot be labeled and cannot be set price tag on. I CAN.
Can you describe a moment or a work of art that you think was a turning point in yours career: In 2018, after being on sick leave for a long time, I made a piece that I called "My doctor said I would rest". I lay in a coffin in an empty shop in central Vänersborg and wrote the title on the shop window. For me, the work was about rest, death and silence. Rest - What would it be like if we really rested? Do we have a value as "human beings" and not just as "human doings"? Death - About the longing to let go of the awkward attempts and just give up, just give up for a bit without really dying. Silence - To be able to perceive the details and answers that are beyond the obvious.
"My doctor said I would rest"
Performance in Vänersborg and Gothenburg 2018 Photo: Åsa Johansson
I also invited people to sit with me one by one in silence. I closed my eyes all the time and had invited the visitors via doodle so I knew not who came to the performance. For me and what I understood also for others, it was a beautiful and comforting moment. It was a turning point because I then started work more and more with performance. I remade the work in Gothenburg in the middle of the Christmas rush. Linda Spåman's project The Flowers of the Dead invited me to rest among a lot of people in silence in her room. Where is your studio / studio otherwise, you have a private space to reflect and develop and implement ideas? I get ideas all the time that I develop during for example: housework, driving or during the bread job and I write down in a book when I need. I have a studio in the basement that I use for the actual production of props for performances I do, or when I have periods when I make sculptures. Do you have someone who inspires your art practice or reflects ideas with? It has been extremely rewarding to collaborate as I have done for a while now, with Elin Flognman. She is a role model in the way she values her time in the studio towards the family and how she made them respect that artistic work is as important as other work.
At KKV, I sew and dye costumes for a potato performance I'm doing this autumn in GIBCA Extended, for a collaboration with Elin Flognman.
Photo: Fred Lindberg
(How) Has the pandemic changed your artistic practice: I got a bit interrupted in my practise. I was preparing for a performance festival in Finland that got cancelled, and I also worked with lot of ideas that were about relating to and interact with a crowd which for natural reasons became difficult to implement. Can you see yourself as a mentor to another artist: I'm too shy for the leadership role when I'm a teacher but I really enjoy having a mentor role when there is only one person. What makes you most excited about your future: I have had problems relating to the "art world" and stayed away from some context. But I have more and more (and this residence is an important step along the way) realised that of course there are a lot of rules and hierarchies that are boring in the art world but that there are also a bunch of people who, like me, are struggling to get their relationships together, the dreams and the human and material resources.
It gives me hope when I identify and conquer my own resistance.
I did a work on HDK called “Pernilla wants to dance with Pernilla ”, and that's probably still what I'm doing.
Performance in Trollhättan 2020 Photo: Tony Topp