Tell us about Floating City. Why did you work with cardboard?
I’ve made three big cardboard sculptures ever. The first one was called Cardboard Heaven (2009). Floating City is actually both the second and the third sculpture (2014 & 2015). I use almost exclusively used cardboard. I collect it from the recycling center in my apartment building, from stores and sometimes I find it on the street. I really appreciate the sustainable, earth friendly aspect of reusing a recyclable material. Cardboard also has a lot of expressions. It varies in thickness, hue, color, texture. A bunch of cardboard means so many possibilities to me, when it to others may just be rubbish.
What was the concept behind Floating City? Did you look to other buildings as reference points?
In December 2013 I was contacted by a gallery in Copenhagen, who had seen Cardboard Heaven in a book called Papercraft 2 (Gestalten Verlag)*. They asked if I would be interested in making something on the same theme as Cardboard Heaven for an upcoming show. I happily accepted as I had longed to work with sculpture again. As if I had dreamt of this opportunity subconsciously and processed different ideas, I instantly knew that I wanted to make a sculpture that hangs from the ceiling. I was also sure about the shape: spherical, round, circular. I built it in my living room. The size of the door to the apartment required me to come up with a construction where it is possible to disassemble it. Floating City is an oversized, advanced cardboard puzzle. I love to come up with new ways to construct the pieces and how to put them together. The exhibition went well and Floating City got some attention online. It was really fun to see and hear that people enjoyed something I had created. The gallery in Copenhagen exhibited Floating City once more at an art festival and kindly offered to take care of it until I had arranged a storage space for it. A couple of months ago I applied with Floating City to an annual juried exhibition in Stockholm called Liljevalchs Vårsalong. Thousands of Swedes apply every year and along with a bunch of other artists I managed to get it! I contacted the gallery in Copenhagen to let them know that I soon was going there to bring the sculpture back. A couple of days before the scheduled pickup date I got a mail that read, “Nina, We have a problem…” The sculpture was gone. I still don’t know what actually happened. It might have been stolen. It might still be lost somewhere and it might as well just have been thrown away. That’s the fate of cardboard. The same day I cancelled my trip and started to build a new Floating City. I was able to benefit from the experience and the sole knowing of that this construction is possible and will work out (which I didn’t know the first time) was a relief. I actually had more fun doing the second one because of that. They are not visually identical in detail but to me it’s exactly the same work — it just underwent a recycling/rebirth. This reinforces my theory that cardboard to many people is“just cardboard” – in other words, rubbish. I glued the last chimney the night before I handed it in. Participating in Liljevalchs Vårsalong has been a great success in that major Swedish news channels have reported about the event. The exhibition broke visitor record and was seen by more than 100.000 people.
Wow – can you elaborate on the book, Papercraft 2?
In April 2009 I was in the middle of constructing Cardboard Heaven. I went on a school trip to Berlin and bought a book called Beyond Architecture (Gestalten Verlag). It contains pictures of all sorts of playful, clever and artistic architecture you could ever think of, realized in atypical materials such as chocolate, wool and styrofoam. When I was finished with Cardboard Heaven I secretly wished to have the bravery to send them a message to let them know that if they ever would make a sequel to Beyond Architecture, maybe this could be interesting for them. But I never did. In the fall of 2010 I got a message from Gestalten Verlag. It was as if they had heard my secret wishes. They asked if I would be interested in contributing with Cardboard Heaven in their upcoming sequel to their book Papercraft. I think I’m a little obsessed with houses, building, facades, architecture, angles. And I think I’ve been for a very long time. I love crowded landscapes where settlements crawls along the mountain sides. I work spontaneously and may ave a general shape in mind but all the details and individual houses and angles are just whimsical incidents. In a distant way, looking at the lights switching on and off, it’s like a childhood dream. I fantasize about the people living in Floating City. It can be a dystopian reference. It can be a utopian reference. It may be a Floating City, or maybe it’s just cardboard.
You released a fantastic time lapse of the construction of Floating City, but how long did it take for you to assemble the entire piece?
Thank you! I have to connect each lamp separately to a circuit board, so there’s a jumble in there with all the cords. The sculpture consists of 15 pieces and 3 separate houses. To assemble it takes about an hour.
You are a big traveler; what attracted you to China?
That was my first trip to Asia and I was really curious about the culture, food and generally they way of living in China. I longed to see something different from what I’m used to, and that need got appeased. There’s a naive charm in being in a place, experience a culture or situation for the first time. I think that’s one of the reasons that travelling becomes almost addictive — a tranquil state that can occur when you accept not knowing what’s behind the corner. Kind of Hakuna Matata – yes, I loved the Lion King as a kid.
Based on your images of Beijing, we can tell that you saw many cultural aspects of China that are very different from Sweden. What were the more memorable moments of your trip?
The nature of central China is simply enchanting. Climbing Hua Shan is the single most memorable experience as I am terribly afraid of heights yet managed to climb all the five peaks. Besides that, I love to collect stories and China had a lot of anecdotes to offer.
When you visited Shaanxi, it seems that you climbed a mountain. Tell us about that experience.
The mountain is called Hua Shan and is one of China’s five holy mountains. We started climbing in the morning and though the heat hit shortly thereafter we continued the adventure upwards. The weather changed on the second when the sun was about to set. A thick fog drew in when we summited the east peak and we could barely see the carved steps when a very dramatic thunderstorm added some extra spice. We sought refuge in an ancient temple, which turned out to have both a couple of bunk beds and old army coats for us to rent and a simple but excellent restaurant. We woke up early and watched the stormy night culminate into a serene morning. My boyfriend and I have talked about this many times since then and we feel both very thankful to have had this experience.
On the other end of the spectrum, you visited Uganda. What drew you to Africa?
A friend of mine is engaged in an association that supports and mentors an orphanage in rural Uganda. She was planning a trip to go there and asked if I wanted to come with her and I was quick to say yes. That trip really made an impression on me and I really got to widen my perspective. The most insignificant things I take for granted at home may as well be a great conquer there. I saw a lot of fighters will and creativity which was truly inspiring.
What other locations are on your travel bucket list?
My greatest and most persistent travelling dream is to visit and explore Papua New Guinea. I love the rainforest and the less I can predict about a place the more magical it gets. I sometimes feel jealous of the people who lived in a time where the world was unexplored and anything could be in it. If you haven’t read 100 years of solitude by Gabriel García Marquez I’d really recommend it. It has a hint of that feeling. I’d also love to go to South America: Amazonas, Salar de Uyuni, and Ciudad Perdida to highlight a few destinations. I want to see Iceland, Socotra and Galapagos. I’d like to climb Mount Fuji and to hike in Nepal. I once had a very vivid dream about Kiribati, so I’d like to go there too to find out more. It would be fun to go to Easter Island just to have some use for the emoji.
For your own travel photography to document your trips, do you prefer film or digital?
I’d like to say film but that’s unfortunately not true. I like the idea of film but digital is really convenient. I recently bought a new camera and are currently reawakening in the photographic aspect of my life. I do though usually bring at least one disposable camera with my on each trip, as is tends to summarize the trip nicely.
In terms of beaches, what tropical locations have you visited that remain on your favorites list?
Paliton Beach on the island of Siquijor, Philippines is just amazing. It’s kind of hidden and you have to walk along a jungle path until you reach a fishing camp and then get past some vigorous bushwood. It’s very peaceful. Being blinded by the Whitsunday beaches also remains a favorite. I’d like to mention lake Issuk Kul in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan as well. It’s the opposite of tropical but definitely exotic.
If we skimmed through your sketchbook, what sort of doodles might we find?
Dreamt up worlds mixed with everyday objects. A lot of houses, buildings and naively expressive little cloudy souls.
If you had to choose, what are your favorite Swedish dishes?
I am a vegetarian and have never really learnt to cook regular dishes or meals. I mostly chop, fry or boil what I’m craving at the moment. I especially fancy kale, beetroot and broccoli which all can be grown in Sweden. Sweden also has incredible cloudberries and blueberries. Also, two personal favourite combinations: fried broccoli with garlic and sweet potato with coconut oil, himalaya salt and roasted pumpkin seeds.
We loved your illustrations of the Chanel N5 perfume bottle, which made us wonder: what fragrances do you typically gravitate towards?
Coconut, vanilla. Everything that smells like freshly baked cardamom buns. And the smell of rain, which I recently learned has a name: petrichor.
What is your favorite alcoholic drink?
Margarita! But no margarita so far has beaten the one my boyfriend mixes.
I’m not that into beer and I don’t really like any carbonated drinks. Perhaps a very dark and strong stout may occasionally be in my glass.
Who do you hope to see in concert live?
Clive Tanaka, mysterious and amazing.
What songs are on your personal playlist?
Something in my heart / Röyksopp x Jamie Irrepressible
Say you’ll be there I MØ
When I grow up / First Aid Kit
Freediver / Linn Öberg
Losing you / Solange
Neu Chicago / Clive Tanaka y su orchestera
Loney Blues / Loney Dear
Petroleum / Kent
My love is your love (forever) / The Isley Brothers
Let the distance bring us together again / Bright Eyes x Britt Daniel
Delicatessen (Generique fin) / Carlos d’Alessio
What are your favorite movies to date?
The Swedish almost still-life movie Sånger från andra våningen (Songs from the second floor). This scene is just beautiful. Science of Sleep, Delicatessen, Twin Peaks (which I know it’s not a movie, but it’s so mysterious and simply genius). Even though they might not make it to the podium, I also enjoy horrors like the Paranormal Activity and high school titles such as Mean Girls.
When you’re not drawing, where do you enjoy spending your time?
I like to enjoy a fika with friends on a cozy corner café. You might find me in the search of a new book to read (I read as much as I can) or during the summer I might swish by on a green bicycle.
What artists and photographers are currently on your radar?
Lars Olof Loeld (an 85 year old swedish artist clearly inspired by alchemy), Charlotte Mei, Sabine Timm, Ellinor Broström, Miroslav Sasek, and Yi Seula.
What’s your favorite flavor of gelato?
How do you take your coffee?
I prefer dark roast ground coffee with a dash of cream or a double cappuccino. But really, I’m not that picky. Most coffee is good enough.
What are three things most people don’t know about you?
1. I have had heart surgery.
2. I have three tattoos. Two are made with white ink and one with black.
3. The best thing I know is to wake up early. The earlier the merrier! But not before 4.30AM.
For more of Nina’s work, check out her website.