Exploring society and art using the body as a starting point is a frequently used method within feminist performance tradition. Ever since her years at preparatory art school, Ingela Ihrman has created plant and animal costumes that she has then worn in exhibitions contexts, both in art spaces, outside and in other places. In 2012 she took on the role of the pale pink flower bud of the giant water lily, Victoria amazonica, in the tropical greenhouse at Skälby in Kalmar. She has also turned herself into a giant otter giving birth, a large blackbird on the roof of the Liljevalch art center in Stockholm, and in her latest performance she embodied a bright blue, giant mussel taking a bath in her own bathtub in Seved, Malmö.
The costumes are made using simple, but time consuming craft techniques and materials that Ingela Ihrman finds in DIY and grocery stores, out in nature, or in flee markets. The situation around the costume is carefully planned by Ingela with the intention of exploring different kind of gazes (for example the scientific, the manly, the exotifying, the critical or the loving) or to see what might happen in the social situation that is created when humans experience something together.
In the film the Toad (2012), Ingela Ihrman wears a toad costume with a fat belly, stripy tights and long, webbed feet. The toad does its best to make its way through an obstacle course in a school PE-hall. It’s clumsy and gets stuck, but it nevertheless keeps on trying. The situation is humorous, but also contains deep seriousness.
THE STUDIO, 15 YEARS
This year, the studio at Kalmar konstmuseum celebrates its 15th anniversary. As part of the celebration, the creative educators of the studio, Marie Karlsudd and Pernilla Frid, have been part of selecting the artist for this exhibition. The choice of Ingela Ihrman and her artwork the Toad is explained in the following way:
“As art educators with links to contemporary art we want to challenge the customary conceptions about art. We want to create a platform for our young visitors where art asks questions, astonishes and gives the courage to believe that anything is possible. Ingela’s physical and tangible way to touch upon body, identity and organisms gives us the ability to allow children and students free movement between idea, imagination and letting something take shape. Together we can give ourselves the space where art is both amusing and concerning.
To be given the opportunity to work and collaborate with an established artist with a local connection, whose artistic commissions and projects are currently going off like fireworks, is obviously both an amazing feeling and wonderfully inspiring to us and our work. Ingela’s artistry makes it possible for us to show art’s many layers of recognition, worry, exposure, humour and courage. With Ingela’s perspective and imagery we can question norms in the world children are constantly inhabiting and where everyone should be encouraged to be who they are… or want to be… without pressures to conform.”