Meet Majken Overgaard and Laura Beloff, initiators of Catch summer camp

Makery talked with Majken Overgaard from Catch and Laura Beloff from the Copenhagen IT University, the main organizers of the summer camp for artists and curators happening between 12-16 August in Elsinore, Denmark.

Elsinore, special envoy,

Catch Summer Camp 2019  on « artistic and curatorial practices in the age of Technogenesis » is the second event of the Feral Labs Network series, after the PIFcamp organised 6-11 August in Slovenian Alps. Catch is a center for art, design and technology launched by Elsinore Municipality in 2017 with the aim to attract and promote innovation, creative entrepreneurship and education. Catch is located at the harbour front at the city Culture Yard. Here, they have established a co-working space and a makerspace. Elsinore has a unique position on Denmark coast, only few nautical miles away from the Swedish port of Helsingborg.

Laura Beloff and Majken Overgaard looking at the horizon (Sweden) © Makery

Can you present a little bit Catch summer camp?

Majken Overgaard: The summer camp is organized by three partners: Catch, Aalborg University and the IT University in Copenhagen. We started Catch in 2017, so it’s now been running for two and a half years. It’s a center for art and technology and we work primarily with younger artists and we try to develop their talents and careers through different programs. And then we have educational collaborations. Mostly, with universities in greater Copenhagen region and collaborations with local high schools and primary schools.

And how did you come up with the idea for the summer camp? What was the idea behind it?

Majken Overgaard: Laura Beloff and I actually did a PhD camp last year, also together with Aalborg University but we were the main collaborators at the time. From there on, we thought it might be interesting to expand. And in the meantime, I talked to European partners. We decided to make an EU application together, with Projekt Atol in Slovenia as a leading partner. And they wrote the application and we got funding so it’s also in correlation with that.

Group work at Catch summer camp © Benedikte Munk Randløv

How about participants? What do you think they will get from the summer camp?

Majken Overgaard: The participants are PhD students, artists, designers and curators. So, it’s interdisciplinary summer camp. And it’s both theoretical and practice-based summer camp. They have lectures in the morning and the group work in the afternoon. So, one can say, in overall sort of view of this, is to give participants theoretical foundation in relation to sound art and technogenesis which is the theme of the summer camp. But also, to give them some hands-on practice in relation to sound, the body and machines.

Laura Beloff: There was also this idea that there is a two kind of types of practitioners. One part is curators, like you said, and then artists who are practice-based. There was an idea that sometimes between curators and practicing artists there were some contradictions. That creates interesting dynamics or dialogue between these practices as they both see their focuses and interests and how do they work. So that was also part when while planning this.

Majken Overgaard: And, also, I think introduce them to each other. Sometimes artists don’t know how to get in dialogue with curators and professional institutions. That counts especially when you work with art and technology, because it’s still not necessarily considered fine arts.

Laura Beloff: Or mainstream.

Majken Overgaard: Yes. So, it was also a possibility for people to start a dialogue and I think that has succeeded.

Laura Beloff: Also looking at the summer camp in general. Not only that the participants are really working quite heavily on the project, which is great. Each project has its benefits. They are quite different. But also, I think, they’re having this super interesting lecture series during the week. I, as an organizer, I feel so happy to be able to hear those set of lectures. What a luxury to have such high-level lectures. And interesting perspectives, but somehow talking with each other.

Majken Overgaard: What I think that was interesting throughout the week is how the students have applied the lectures they have gotten in the morning in their afternoon work. I have rarely seen such a direct translation of thought, conceptualization and then direct transfer. I think that has been interesting, too.

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Today is almost the last day of the summer camp. Maybe you can share your lessons that you have learned this week? Are there any lessons that could be learned for future summer schools or camps?

Laura Beloff: There is the eternal lesson: time is never enough! (laughter).

Majken Overgaard: I think they actually managed quite well!

Laura Beloff: For me, I think, more emphasis and work need to be put in the future in the idea how to build the groups. Not that there is something wrong with them. A similar threshold would be needed so the groups find themselves. And somehow that you have balanced skills, so you don’t end up in your comfort zone or group. I see how crucial it is if group work is expected. So, there is some lesson.

Majken Overgaard: We spent a lot of time on how to facilitate the groups. And we had all these ideas and at the end it actually organically somehow worked out. But this is also because the participants are on a such a high level and the groups are working really well together. I think, actually, when they are on such a high level you can leave it more to them to found the groups. Usually, I form groups very fast. This time, we allowed the first two days to be actually about forming the groups. Then it organically drifted out towards both interests and personal chemistry. And that is why it has worked so well. We had a lot of ideas, and then it sort of happen organically.

Laura: But you need to think about it, anyways. Time is short. There is something about group forming. Maybe to look into other models or places how does it happen.

« Echo the Machine » by Tina Damgaard, Elena Biner, Denise Garbov and Randi Hageman at the Catch summer camp © Anna Weiss Villumsen

Following CATCH summer camp there is RE:SOUND conference in Aalborg taking place. Can you tell us more?

Laura Beloff: It’s a myriad conference series organized by Aalborg University. Morten Søndergaard is the chair and I’m the second chair, and the reality check. The PhD students at this summer camp are affiliated with the conference as conferences often do PhD courses. So, this has been that kind of a conference. That’s why this ended up in this format. Even with this curatorial and practice focus another underlying theme was the sound. So, a lot of the speakers were addressing sound aspect. RE:SOUND starts on Monday evening, 19 August, and on the Tuesday with the actual conference. It ended up a large-scale conference. Me and Morten were deciding to open up the conference to sound. When we opened up this theme, we had an expectation that it’s going to be small because it’s such a niche. We ended up having so many submissions, it’s incredible! Something like 300 submissions and there will be around 200 speakers at the conference. It’s going to be huge. And the part that I’m super proud of and that I have been working a lot on: there’s a lot of females!

Majken Overgaard: Yaaay!

Laura Beloff: Sound has a tendency of being a rather male-oriented area. There is a lot of females at the conference, which is great.

Majken Overgaard: And the PhD students that are here at the summer camp, they will present posters and the work that they produced throughout this week at the conference.

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Any future plans for next year’s summer camp at Catch?

Majken Overgaard: I’ve been writing a little bit with Project Atol about it. This gave me some ideas. But they are at a very early stage so you will have to wait and follow our development (laughter).

More on Catch Summer Camp 2019.

The Feral Labs Network is cofinanced by the Ceative Europe program of the Europen Union. The cooperation is led by Projekt Atol in Ljubljana (Slovenia). Among the other #ferallabs partners: Bioart Society (Helsinki, Finland), Catch (Elsinore, Denmark), Radiona (Zagreb, Croatia), Schmiede (Hallein, Austria) et Art2M/Makery (France).