Artist Alo Osberg is in Fergus Falls this month through the Springboard for the Arts Hinge Arts Homecoming Residency program, exploring ideas about building and creating in the event of the collapse of civilization.
They call this “folk futurism” and Osberg says, “Essentially what folk futurism, to me, boils down to can be summed up in one question: How do we keep ancestral knowledge intact even if the world or the environment around us falls apart?” they say. “Which sounds like it could be a dismal thing, maybe a little pessimistic, but, to me, I see a lot of hope in using our hands because it’s what unites us to one another, to different cultures, universal things.”
At their potluck meet and greet Tuesday, they explained their interest in futurism, a movement that began in Italy and Russia which pushed youth, technology, speed and rejection of the past. “They’re trying to push the limits of what was acceptable,” Osberg explained. Although the futurism movement fell out of favor in World War II, it inspired subsequent movements. Today, you might hear about afrofuturism (Octavia Butler, Black Panther) and indigenous futurism (Skawennati, Stephen Graham Jones) which also emphasize technology, the future and youth, but from a vastly different perspective.
Using an old-fashioned cranky box they built in Japan, Osberg explained what futurism meant to them and the aspects they hope to explore. “When you’re thinking about the future of folk craft, two questions come through my mind, and those are ‘What are our materials?’ and ‘What kind of energy do we have to do it?’” they ask.
Keeping in mind the possibility of the ash tree’s extinction and the rarity of birch trees, how do we keep traditions alive with new materials? “What do you do for birch bark or birch canoes? Obviously we have fiberglass and other things, but if we don’t have giant manufacturers to produce that kind of material, what do we do? How do we make our objects?” they wonder. “I just want some artisanal recycling, that’s pretty much what I want to do.”
One tool Osberg brought with them is a plastic bottle stripper they made themself, which cuts plastic bottles into long strips, the widths of which you can change. “You can weave with it, you could use it as sinew replacement if you can’t find an elk anymore,” they explain. “I also want to work with plastic bags and spinning that into thread or twine.” The idea is to replicate modern tech and rare materials with other materials like waste and invasive species-- something you could create and survive with in the event of civilization’s collapse. Osberg’s hope for their time as a Hinge artist is to outfit their tent with everyday necessities like a mattress, rug and furniture using only synthetic materials they salvaged themselves.
Osberg’s artistic history is eclectic, from installation art and puppetry and physical theater and participatory art. They haven’t tied themselves to a particular medium and that gives them more space to try a lot of new things.
Osberg has a long family history in west-central Minnesota and they’re excited to be back in the area. “My family has been in Pelican Rapids and Fergus Falls for five generation, if not more,” they say. “I would come to Fergus Falls seasonally to live with my grandma and play on their hobby farm, go to church every Sunday, picnic in cemetaries, and I’m really excited to be here and create new memories in a place where I have a lot of old memories and a lot of nostalgia. I’ll get to look at it with adult eyes and try and make sense why my family settled here on Dakota and Anishinaabe land and why they chose to make a living here.”
Osberg will be in Fergus Falls until Feb. 1 and will be hosting a number of open studios at Kaddatz Galleries’ Studio K including Jan. 15 from 5-7 p.m., Jan. 18 from 1-3 p.m., Jan. 22 from 5-7 p.m. and Jan. 25 from 1-3 p.m. They’ll also have a popup tent at the Noon Kiwanis annual Lake Alice skating party on Jan. 19 from 2-4 p.m. In the event Lake Alice is not safe to walk and skate on, it will be held at the Kirkbride instead.