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Exclusive interview with Henrik Uldalen: Exploring Quarantine Events artist residencies

Word has been circulating around the art world about a new kind of artist residency – one which shakes up the fundamentals of learning with a new and experimental approach to foster independent creativity. I’ve been following this trail, learning more about the rise of Quarantine Events and their enigmatic 7-day events. Filled with a dash of mystery (the main programme is kept a secret!), their impressive roster of mentors teased at a powerful experience, and they have undoubtably had a positive effect on those who have attended. When Quarantine Events unveiled plans for their next artist residency, INTERZONE, I was interested to learn that one mentor would be returning: Henrik Uldalen.

After I covered the upcoming INTERZONE residency in an earlier article, readers were eager to learn more. Thankfully, the Issue #37 cover artist and 2nd Prize Winner of the RAYMAR Traditional Art Award 2021 is no stranger to Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, and was happy to be interviewed about his involvement with Quarantine Events. So, dear readers, we hope that this glimpse behind the veil will entice you to learn more about Quarantine Events and their revolutionary series of art programmes. Enjoy!

Laura-Tomas-Quarantine-art-workshop
Henrik Uldalen and artists from the “Muse Hacking” programme on Lazaretto Island, April 2023. Photo by Laura Tomàs.
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At the “Muse Hacking” artist residency

Interview with Henrik Uldalen

Let’s start at the beginning; with this being a new endeavour and fundamentally, one big experiment, talk me through how Carles and the Quarantine Events team pitched this to you initially.

It started during summer 2022, when I received a mail from Carles Gomila about this exciting new approach to workshops they’d been working on. Something that would essentially be anything but a traditional teacher-to-student approach. I’ve personally always had problems with the traditional school system, and always had a hard time coming to terms with that when approached by companies wanting my services for workshops. I had previously rejected their offer of teaching at Menorca Pulsar, their previous project, four times in the past for this reason.

Obviously, something changed then with the creation of Quarantine Events. How did their invite make you feel?

Their promise of a structure that was fundamentally different, combined with a highly ambitious programme and artists I’ve been admiring for years already onboarded made me reconsider. That said, me, working and “teaching” in front of about a hundred artists was not something I was ecstatic about. But over the last few years I’ve promised to put myself out of my comfort zone as often as I can, in my artistic practice and in life.

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Lazaretto Island, Menorca, where the Quarantine Events artist residencies take place. Photo by Antoni Cladera.

As a mentor, did you work with Quarantine Events to mould the ever-so-secret plan for the earlier “Muse Hacking” artist residency?

Yes, we worked back and forth for a long time to tailor my part of the programme for the week. The programme itself came into life effortlessly as we were very much on the same page from the get-go.

The common schedule was largely left as a surprise, to myself as well, which I’m grateful for. It ended up being a journey of exploration for all the mentors involved, and I think the untamed chaos for us to be confronted with left us all with something more.

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From student to artist

In my earlier chat with Carles Gomila, he stressed that “the secret to getting students to stop acting like students is to avoid treating them like students, but instead as true artists”. Did this concept change how you approached your mentorship role?

Yes, it absolutely did – but it also coincided with things I’ve learnt in the past and used in other teachings.

The first thing I always say is that there are a hundred goals that you might have, and there’s a thousand ways to reach that goal. I don’t have the solution for YOU; I have a handful of observations that along the way, might be of help. I don’t know how to succeed in the goals that you have set out for yourself, but you trying to become ME will most definitely be a failure. Alpha omega for me and the way I teach is to try to help the artists find themselves.

Did everything go according to plan (well, as much as is possible when you have the element of chaos as one of the event’s pillars!)?

A few things that happened were definitely not what I planned, but turned out to be a blessing. I try to always embrace the organic processes, and if things lead me down a certain path even though it’s not what I set out to do, I will follow it. One of those moments was sobbing uncontrollably for almost ten minutes in front of the group I was leading. In life, there’s only an illusion of order. If you spend most of your time trying to tame chaos then you’ll spend most of your time doing just that.

That sounds like an intense journey. I know that most of the experience is kept secret, so we won’t go into detail on that, but I’m interested to learn more about the mentor / student relationship. Quarantine Events’ residencies feel more like a community partnership – artists learning together more than the traditional student / teacher dynamic. How did you navigate teaching while avoiding traditional tropes and how did students respond to this?

It was definitely something that felt very different from a normal workshop structure. The first thing I let the artists know was that I don’t know it all. I really don’t. I don’t know what will work for each individual person out there. I would take them through exercises, but if I could tell their style and modus operandi was entirely different, I would try my best to guide them from that vantage point and strengthen what’s already there as opposed to molding that artist to my liking. It also helped to see all the different ways of the other mentors, making it obvious that everyone has different ways of making art, different goals for their work, and that there’s no one-size-fits-all in art.

What do you personally feel is the most important thing that artists coming on the upcoming INTERZONE residency should prepare for?

Besides having an open mind, I think it’s important to know that you’re not there to make a masterpiece, not there to become me or any of the mentors coming, and not there to show off in front of your fellow peers or mentors.

It’s the start of a journey for you and you alone.

Laura-Tomas-Quarantine-Events-2023
Photo by Laura Tomàs.

New realisations

You obviously enjoyed the experience enough to agree to come back once again. I imagine that you witnessed some moments of true vulnerability, and epiphany, during the original “Muse Hacking Programme” last April. How did the experience affect you personally?

The week touched me in ways I couldn’t have foreseen. Not only because of the wonderful genuine people I got to meet, but the realisations I made about myself and how I want to live my life.

Can you share some of these realizations?

First of all, I came to realise who I should be making art for and what my art needs to be in order for me to be fulfilled. I also had deep conversations with many of the artists and mentors about the idea of community, realising how important it has become for me over the last years.

I was under the impression I didn’t need people around me, especially in art, and that I preferred working in solitude. It’s absolutely not the case for me. I just need people around me that share in the passions for life. Not to sound like a cliche motivational poster, but I need to be together with people that marvel at the food they eat, the art they make, how the light hits the trees.

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Henrik Uldalen

Given how you yourself have evolved as a result of the earlier residency, are you planning on trying anything new in the upcoming INTERZONE event?

I have a few new ideas I want to try, and the organisers’ plans seem to have changed quite a bit. It will definitely be a new experience for me and for the artists coming to INTERZONE. It will be unknown territory for all involved.

That sounds pretty exciting! To finish: what are you most looking forward to at INTERZONE?

The people. I can’t wait to meet them all and share moments, hardships, and experiences.

Applications are now open for the INTERZONE artist residency taking place from October 14 – October 20, 2024 – and the deadline has just been extended! New application deadline: 10 June 2024 (unless tickets sell out beforehand). For more information and to apply, click here.

Quarantine-Events-INTERZONE-artists

Quarantine Social Media Accounts + additional blogs

Website | Instagram | Telegram  | Deep Dive into Quarantine Events  | INTERZONE

About Author

Based in the UK, Natalia Joruk enjoys a life surrounded by art, nature, and curious trinkets. As Deputy Editor, she's worked closely with the Editor-in-Chief for over a decade, supporting with the design and growth of Beautiful Bizarre and the maintenance of the annual Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. Natalia also oversees sponsor partnerships for the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, and distribution of the magazine, so drop her an email if you know someone who would like to sponsor or stock! She also writes for both the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine website and print publication. One of her favourite perks is getting to know artists, gallery owners and their teams personally, so feel free to email her if there is anything she can help you with – or just to connect.

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