100 years since the passing of Edith Södergran – an interview with the artist Josef Ka about I AM EDITH SÖDERGRAN

The Finnish modernist author Edith Södergran has through her poetry touched, inspired and affected generations of people and writers, not only in the Nordic countries, but also around the world. Södergran’s poetry has been translated to over 40 languages and the 24th of June 2023 marked 100 years since the passing of Södergran.

As a tribute to Södergran, Nordic Culture Point wants to highlight the multidisciplinary and multidimensional project I AM EDITH SÖDERGRAN by the performance and media artist Josef Ka. This art project is fully dedicated to the life and art of Edith Södergran and was also granted Mobility Funding from Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme for Culture.

Josef Ka’s interest and admiration for Södergran’s poetry blossomed into the the beginning of I AM EDITH SÖDERGRAN during winter 2021:

“It’s like falling in love; it defies description through mere words. It surpasses linguistic expression and embodies something greater. It’s pure magic.”

Photo: Walter Ulreich

I AM EDITH SÖDERGAN consists of several parts and dimensions and includes collaborations with several other artists. Among these, there was the first collaboration together with the Russian photographer Vassily Popov consisting of a captivating photo series, or “still performances”, based on Södergran’s poetry. Later the first preliminary performance by Josef Ka (titled Höre) was photo-documented by the Austrian photographer Walter Ulreich, which also included animations created by the Russian artist Ivan Dubyaga.

During January 2022 Josef Ka collaborated with Austrian musician Harald Weinhofer and recorded seven music tracks based on Södergran’s poetry. During the same month the first more finalized version of the performance was presented at Gallery Blumentopf in Vienna. The music for the final version of I AM EDITH SÖDERGRAN was composed by The Latvian musician and composer Aleksandr Aleksandrov.

Josef Ka describes how there weren’t a specific collection of poems or poem that were of more importance than others when it came to the inspiration for I AM EDITH SÖDERGRAN:

“I deeply appreciate the beauty of nearly every poem in her collection. Each piece holds a childlike wonder that resonates with me. I believe they all deserve to be cherished and loved for their inherent beauty.”

In January 2023, with the support of Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme for Culture, Josef Ka showcased the performance in Copenhagen and Stockholm. She describes the experience as:

“It was an incredible opportunity to present my project in both Denmark and Sweden. I am immensely grateful for the support of my Swedish friend, Alexandra Kostrubala, and my Danish friends, Rune Fjord and Jesper Dalmose, who made it possible for me to showcase the project at one of Copenhagen’s finest art venues – LITERATURHAUS – run by Paul Opstrup.  In Stockholm, thanks to the wonderful artist Laura Tynan, I had the privilege of performing my piece twice at the extraordinary venue, DETROIT STOCKHOLM. I feel truly honored to have been recognized and given the chance to travel in a manner that all artists deserve.”

Read more about Josef Ka, I AM EDITH SÖDERGRAN as well as the artists who have collaborated on Josef Ka’s website.

This project was granted Mobility funding. You can read more about our grant programmes here.