Cultural Recovery: A conversation with Ramona Salo
Ramona Salo is a costume designer, fashion designer, stylist and storyteller. She was born and raised in a multicultural municipality by the border of Finland in the Northern hemisphere and her upbringing is manifested in her work and esthetics. In 2018, she was awarded the DOGA Award for Newcomers by Design and Architecture Norway. During Oslo Internasjonale Teaterfestival 2020 and 2021, Ramona Salo was supposed to present her fashion show Arctic Summer, with choreography by Katarina Skår Lisa – but the viewing was cancelled both years due to infection control measures.
What have been the most significant changes for you over the past since the pandemic began?
On March 12 2020, I was supposed to show my fashion show at Black Box teater, after participating as a costume designer on the dance performance Gift of Stone by Katarina Skår Lisa which was performed the day before at Riksscenen – The Norwegian Hub for Traditional Music and Dance. The models were ready to walk the runway, and I had been sewing all night to finish the very last details. Then Norway was closed down. I had recently returned from the Borealis Festival in Bergen, where I had designed the costumes for Sold by Stine Janvin, and I was about to travel to Gothenburg for the premiere of the play Internerad by Kathrine Nedrejord at Cinnober Teater – another piece I had designed the costumes for. 2020 was to be a big and intense year, and as the months went by I saw premieres, fashion shows and exhibitions being canceled, postponed or shown via online streamings. I was grateful for all which was postponed or streamed online – this gave me something to hold on to as I adjusted to a new everyday life; an everyday life including projects that either were close and local, or projects that could be done virtually. In March, it will be one year since I traveled outside of Northern Norway, thus the pandemic has clearly affected my practice in several ways.
What has been the most challenging for you during this time of pandemic?
The hardest part has been the distance. Lack of availability. Northern Norway is beautiful and inspiring, but we who work here must largely think about what is available locally or can be sent by post, and plan around this. This became even clearer during the pandemic when we are not supposed to travel, preferably not even to the nearest town. As a fashion and costume designer, I need to be able to touch things. I still make clothes and costumes, but largely with sewers and fabric stores far away. Fabric samples have arrived in the mail. Sketches are sent by email. Some parts of the work have included additional rounds that usual, and some of the tactile has at times been lost in translation. At the same time, I have been inspired to make more materials and garments by using traditional craft techniques and methods. I have also been forced to solve more problems, for better and worse, and most importantly, I have learned to do more by myself. My network has been taken care of through social media, so I have felt no fear of missing out when living outside the big cities.
How do you think this pandemic will impact your work? Do you have any thoughts on how it will impact the art field? What kind of changes will it produce?
My experience is that I have become better at using local resources and relating my work to what is found here in my village. There is a lot of expertise and knowledge up in the north, especially within textile, and there are many artists working here. I went home to the north and got closer to my roots. I gained a better insight into my own practice, and what was needed to be able to create here in the north – and it has been rewarding. Despite the pandemic, there have been many opportunities to work artistically. At the same time, I have been grateful for artist residencies. My colleague Katarina Skår Lisa and I worked together for a month at Lásságámmi, which is an artist and researcher residence in Skibotn in Troms. Here we had the opportunity to work deeply concentrated in the landscape, over time. We are working on several projects together and will show The Sami Half Hour and Čázevulošnieida – The Underwater Girl at the Arctic Arts Festival in 2021. I have also traveled and experienced more in the north and visited several places in Finnmark during this year. It has been absolutely fantastic, and I am so glad I have been able to prioritize this!
At first I thought I had to become better at working digitally to reach more people; that I was dependent on social media to show off my work. I think this is still very important, and social media has been a channel where you can communicate and be influenced by other people's work as well. At the same time, I think we are all so hungry for working together, discussing face to face and touch things, that the tactile and social will become even more important after the pandemic. Maybe we will put away the digital platforms for a while, or change how they are used. We need to prepare for everything, but I think we will all need to meet more to talk about what we have found in this demanding time. I look forward to having collective cultural experiences that are not through a screen! To sit in a crowded restaurant! To have a long line-up with models, who will go out on a catwalk in front of lots of people standing close together to get the best view. What a feeling it will be when it happens.
I also hope that in this time, when we have not been able to travel much, we have experienced and absorbed the nature around us. That we understand to a greater extent how important this is, for our mental and physical health, but also for our creativity. Many have probably worked with and in a landscape, and there is no reason to forget that relationship with nature when the pandemic is over.
What do you think the art field needs in order to be taken well care of?
During the corona period, some scholarships and residences have been announced for research and specialization in one's own practice. There has not been close to as many scholarships and residences as has been needed, but I believe these measures still have contributed to many artists being able to immerse themselves and do exciting preliminary projects. This has probably helped more people to be able to create art during a trying time. The aspect of financial stability and being given the opportunity to use their time for art clearly, contributes to raising the artistic level – because things take time. There could have been more work scholarships, so that a few more would get the opportunity to work full-time with art. Perhaps there could also be paid more attention to residency schemes, and greater opportunities to provide premises for rehearsals, studios and ateliers – for even more fields of art, and also in the small towns and villages. Many artists have great concepts, but very few have spaces to work with them. The administrative work such as obtaining premises, applying for funding for projects et cetera is as extensive as the creative, and then both time, space and competence are needed. Maybe there could have been more help within this – aimed to support the art field?