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Wall murals in Aasted

by Lene Noer og Birgitte Ejdrup Kristensen

Aasted was clearly the most distressed village in Fursund. Mostly known in recent years for its dilapidated houses and the most diverse group of residents one can imagine. But also the most creative and engaged in the entire project. The ideas poured in.

We had decided to try a slightly different strategy in Aasted, specifically to invite a number of Danish and foreign artists to a three week long symposium. The artists were invited to create work under the overarching title RADIUS. The RADIUS concept has been develop by the Dutch theatre- and visual artist Sjoerd Wagenaar and aims to invite artists to work from a starting point in a rural area defined by a radius of one kilometre. In this particular instance with the centre placed between Old Aasted and Aasted.

Foto: Kurt Nielsen

One of the projects under RADIUS was Irish artist Deirdre O’Mahonys project Groundworks, which was a revival of the local community hall’s archive, covering life in Aasted through the last 50 years – in other words, within living memory. The point of departure for this project was that the residents association had recently abandoned the assembly hall and sold it.

Initially, Deirdre came to Aasted’s community hall to gather material with local residents for an informal archive. The week began with somewhat threadbare support. But then Bjarne Strøm arrived with a number of scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings of events from the village’s history that he had rescued, quite by accident, from destruction. And day by day, more and more people brought their scrapbooks and photographs depicting the communal life of the village. The pictures were order thematically by Bjarne Strøm and hung on the walls of the hall. The entire exhibition was opened to the public on the last evening, accompanied by Irish stew and the hall was packed!

The pictures gave rise to many conversations and stories, which in itself was the main point. But then Simone Bech came up with an idea that sent Deirdre’s original concept off in an entirely different direction: Why not use the pictures from the newspaper clippings as wall murals since Aasted already had so many, and thus the archive would achieve a tangible purpose.

This proposal immediately won broad support and when Deidre returned to Aasted, the challenge was to learn how to transform photographs to murals and to try out the idea on the side of Aasteds abandoned furniture factory. Simone canvassed owners of suitable houses in Aasted to provide a wall and surprisingly many agreed. During a festive dinner with old fashioned, home-made open sandwiches, the pictures to be used were chosen by popular vote.

In August, the painting of the murals began in earnest under the direction of Costa Rican artist Leonardo Sagastuy. At the same time, the other artists arrived at the old school in Aasted and RADIUS commenced with the participation of Sjoerd Wagenaar, his assistant Tara Horweeg, actors Linda and Mattias Straub from the Czech Republic and Germany and visual artist Line Sandvad Mengers from Denmark. We opened the doors of the old school and invited anyone who wanted to, to join us. The residents arranged barbeque evenings and children from the village had their own painting workshop and small painting courses when time permitted. We were joined throughout August by people from the entire Fursund region.

Foto: Kurt Nielsen

The idea behind RADIUS was that the artists would examine the area under a microscope, digging up stories, artefacts etc. under the slogan “dig were you stand”. Almost every evening the residents, the participating artists and curious passers-by would met around the murals. Every day the research carried out by the artists were projected on the walls beside the murals and in this way the residents were presented with their own area, seen through the eyes of an outsider.

Drinks and cake were served and the atmosphere became steadily more festive as the murals progressed and the citizens’ skills increased. And they are still painting in this small village of just 34 houses. And in this way thye bring the identity of the village, the narrative they have chosen themselves, into the urban space and make it visible both for themselves and for the many visitors who have begun to visit the murals.