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Interview: Carla from Art Rebels!!!!!

Carla Cammilla Hjort is founder of Rebel Agency in Copenhagen.  I’m here in her town right now as an artist and participant in the 2016 Trailerpark Festival which opens this Thursday incidentally (trailerparkfestival.com).  If you’re here, don’t miss it.   Anyways,  I’ve been reflecting on just what a great person she is.  In my mind, and who knows if I know much, but she has to be one of Copenhagen’s top powerhouses in terms of making creative ideas come to life, and not just for herself, but for a huge community of artists and makers from around the globe.  I took a minute to geek out over all the cool projects she’s heading up in the land of the Danes and asked her a few questions. 

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Hyland Mather: Hey Carla.  So, you know you’re one of the coolest people in Copenhagen right?  It’s good to be Queen I guess…right?

Carla Cammilla Hjort: Haha… I don’t know if I am to be the judge of that statement but I feel extremely privileged to be where I am today and to be surrounded by such amazing people every day. I started ArtRebels and Trailerpark 10 years ago and this 10th anniversary really makes me think about how much magic we have created together in those years. I had no clue what journey I embarked on back when I started but I’m so happy I did! …  I may not be a queen but I sure feel like one :)

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(Getting Rowdy at Trailerpark)

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HM: So, let’s talk Rebel Agency and the many many cool projects you’re involved in. You head up Space10, You run ArtRebels, and you run Trailerpark.  Come on Carla, how do you do that?  That’s a lot of really cool projects to come out of one person’s brain.

CCH: Again your question makes me smile… You are right it is a little crazy to think about sometimes, but then again I have to stress that not everything begins in my brain anymore. Today we are such an amazing team at the office and everyone has become co-creators  of what we do and what we stand for.

One of my forces has become to set up the collaborations between us and the companies, organizations and governments we work with and for.  I know how to engage people in our ideas and concepts and that makes it possible to build all these great communities like Space10, ArtRebels and Trailerpark Festival and have them supported by great partners.  

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(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

HM: Yeah, I was going to say,  you’re pretty good at surrounding yourself with good, and super talented people.  How do you know when someone is gonna fit in with Rebel Agency?  What are some of the tell tale signs that someone might not fit?

CCH: I agree very much and I guess that’s the secret of our success. All the companies I’ve started are build on what I call a community model, which basically means that we are a fairly small in-house team amplified by a huge global network of uber-talented people with a very broad range of expertise. Our role is mostly to conceptualize and sell the ideas and then we curate the perfect team for the assignment at hand, facilitate the process and finally make sure that we get it right. We always try to work with great talent but equally important is to work with great personalities. A positive attitude will take you far and I believe we all have a responsibility in making sure we create a good and supportive environment.  If someone turns out to be negative or not delivering as promised we’ll not continue that collaboration going forward.   

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(Trailerpark Build Up Vibes)

HM: Evan though you’re in full ramp up mode for Trailerpark Festival, it’s Space 10 that is probably your biggest project at the moment.  Is that fair to say?

CCH: It is fair to say yes. Space10 is a very ambitious project and without a doubt the biggest challenge we have given ourselves so far. It’s also in many ways the most inspiring because it we are driven by a bigger vision.  In short we dream of contributing to a bright future for as many people as possible and of course for the planet but they sort of go hand in hand.

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(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

HM: Painting in the background, for those that don’t know, Space 10 is a collaborative project a ‘future living lab and exhibition space’ which is sponsored by IKEA.  ‘Lab’ is indeed a great word.  I feel like the environment at Space10 is very inviting in terms of both having ideas and having the tools and resources for executing those ideas.  How do you curate the Labs?  What’s next in terms of Labs at Space 10?

CCH: It is true that Space10 is a collaboration between Rebel Agency and Inter-IKEA-Systems, which is the global owner of the IKEA concept, brand and franchise. I was fortunate enough to meet the CEO a few years ago and we really connected and he loved both ArtRebels and Trailerpark Festival and wanted to know more about our community model. One day, a year later he contacted me, a bit out of the blue, and asked if we wanted to co-create a better IKEA for the future and long story short, Space10 was our way of contributing to that mission.

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(Art Rebels / IKEA Original Product Line)

HM: Ok, so yeah, you get to help enable cool designers with their cool ideas for future living, via the labs, but it isn’t a charity project, I mean let’s face it, IKEA needs something back from their investment. Describe for us what IKEA sees as the value from Space 10.

CCH: It may sound too good to be true and sometimes I still can’t believe that it’s reality but IKEA really see Space10 and us as an investment in the future. There is no expected outcome but rather a trust and support in the exploration of new ideas, talents and solutions. Of course the hope is that our ideas can be implemented and scaled over time. They basically want us to look from the outside in and come up with new ideas and concepts to how they can evolve over time. IKEA is build on a vision which is “creating a better everyday life for the many people” and we believe this vision can be explored and manifested in so many new and innovative ways which the current business model of IKEA aren’t delivering to. This is really what Space10 is all about and our mission is to push new innovations and great talents forward and make sure we invest in a truly better future for the many people.  

IKEAxArtRebels(Art Rebels / IKEA Original Product Line)

Space-10-(c)-Alastair-Philip-Wiper-447(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

HM: You touched on it briefly but you should really describe how the idea came about in the first place.  I think that’s kind of an inspiring story.  I really think large corporations like IKEA can really benefit from this kind of project, but how do you even go about approaching them to get it started?

CCH:  As I mentioned before it was a bit of a lucky punch to begin with. I was approached by IKEA 5 years ago who wanted me to do a talk about ArtRebels and Trailerpark Festival – a kind of inspirational talk for some of the managers, and I happened to also have the CEO on that team. When I was done with the talk I suggested that if we ever got the chance to work for IKEA we would love to do an ArtRebels limited collection for young people living in small spaces. A week after that talk I got a mail from the CEO telling me that they had decided to do the collection with us and that became the beginning of what turned out to become something like a professional marriage:). After the collection he then contacted me again, this time with a much bigger mission in mind. I connected with my colleague Simon Caspersen and we started brainstorming like crazy and finally we came up with an idea of creating an external innovation hub for IKEA build on a community model where we would engange talents, start ups, experts, designers, radical thinkers and troublemakers in general. IKEA really loved the idea and that’s basically how the collaboration began. We then brought in Kaave Pour and Guillaume Charny-Brunet, and the four of us conceptualised the idea further and materialised it as Space10 as we know it today, where we are so privileged to be working with even more amazing people from all over.  

Space-10-(c)-Alastair-Philip-Wiper-530-Edit(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

HM: Down in the basement of Space10, you guys have set up an unbelievable tools cave with all kinds of super bad ass equipment.  What’s your long term plan for this part of the lab?  Who benefits from this amazing equipment?  

CCH: We have a lot of great ideas for this lab, that we call The Makery. I can’t reveal too much right now as we are still in process of deciding exactly how to run this lab, but in short we are tapping into the Maker movement and on a more strategic level looking into the future of distributed manufacturing and digital fabrication, open source design and circular economy. On a physical level we’ll build and design prototypes of all the ideas we are working on, and we’ll be inviting different resident designers and architects into a program of labs.  

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(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

HM: There is also a really wonderful kitchen and dining area set up at Space 10, tell us more about that?  Rumor has it visitors can customise and press their own snack bars..?

CCH: As we always say, you are what you eat and so we really want to explore the future of food and how we can create better and more sustainable choices when it comes to food production and consumption. Tomorrow’s meatball and our vertical farm lab are two examples of how we explore the themes around food.

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(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

 HM: So the basement is a creation space with lots of tools, the ground floor is a showcase for interior design and art exploration as well as a meeting and workshop space, and the upstairs at Space 10 is like the ‘think tank’.  You’ve got all kinds of people working up there.  What’s everyone doing while sitting behind those smartly designed desks?  Is it just Space10 work, or are people working on other ArtRebels Projects, and Trailerpark?

CCH: We all work on either Space10 related projects or other ArtRebels projects and of course Trailerpark Festival too. We are a hard working uber passionate bunch which is the only way we can manage so many big projects at the same time. I really have a dream team!!

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HM: That’s actually a  good segway to start talking about a few of the other cool projects you’re involved in.

Trailerpark for example is a massively popular festival in Copenhagen now, but it started off small…like many great things. I know from having participated in a few Trailerparks as an artist, the build up vibe can be almost cultish in the excitement and dedication from all the artists, volunteers, cooks and builders it takes to make the festival happen.  It’s really unlike any other festival vibe I’ve ever experienced…I mean maybe it’s got a bit of a Burning Man feel to it, but certainly not the same.  Anyway, how do you inspire all the talent from all of these people?

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CCH: I am really happy to hear that’s how you experience the festival and the build up in particular. I often think people forget that it’s all about the process and not the end result. And that’s why we put so much love and dedication into the build-up week and into making it the best possible experience for all the artists and designers who participate… as well as our own production team of course. My best friend is cooking us a lot of great food and my mother is giving free massages and dance lessons during build-up… These are some of the little traditions that makes this festival very unique and welcoming. When I started Trailerpark I called it a small urban burningman so you are onto something – except we live in this crazy nordic climate that is totally unpredictable, the only factor that can drive me crazy every year :) hahaha…

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HM: For those who have never been, describe the kind of vibe you create with Trailerpark.

CCH: It’s full of love, art, design, music, technology and most of all amazing people!

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HM: What’s new for Trailerpark this year?

CCH: The new is that we have a 10th year anniversary and sadly we’ve also decided to call it the last Trailerpark Festival. We decided to stop while the love for the festival is still intact and while we are on top. Also we have an idea of a new festival concept that we would like to unfold and sometimes you need to let go of something you love in order to create room for the new to come. So watch out for the new this coming year…

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HM: That makes me a little sad, but of course also excited to see what’s next.

The last project I want to get into is ArtRebels.  ArtRebels is a really nice partnership for artists. Every week for example you host a really successful ‘Artist Of The Week’ bit on the ArtRebels instagram, and the website acts as a really nice hub for artists to sell their works and wares to your audience, kind of like a really art focused well curated Etsy.   How do you choose what artists are the right match for ArtRebels?

CCH:  Well this question and the next goes hand in hand. We actually also just decided to close down the webshop and focus on all the off-line ArtRebels projects. When we started out there was hardly any webshops around and today everyone creative has at least one webshop, so we decided the need for this platform was not so pressing anymore. And we really think the ArtRebels project we do off-line are more interesting than a poster shop and that’s why we’ll turn ArtRebels.com into a community site where we feature all the projects we do and all the artists and creatives we collaborate with… You will also be featured here Hyland and we need to talk about that..  :)

Hyuro photo Henrik Haven(Hyuro Mural Project with Art Rebels)

HM: Ahhh, yeah I guess that makes sense, I guess like you were saying before, the strength of ArtRebels is in community building, it makes sense that the site and online presence takes on that sort of role.   Can you give us some hints though of  what’s next for ArtRebels?

CCH: I’ve hired this amazing young woman Maria, who will be leading the new ArtRebels and I can’t wait to see what she makes of it. She sure has both talent, good taste and great ideas and she is also a creative herself, which is a big asset when you work with creatives .

Jeroen Smeets ArtRebels exhibition

(Jeroen Smeets curated exhibition with Art Rebels)

HM:  Yeah, I know Maria, she’s cool.  Well anyway Carla, I could shoot questions at you all day, but you’re a busy busy gal.  I hope this short interview gives our readers an indication of just how busy.    I’m really looking forward to being out at Trailerpark as an artist again this year, so I’ll see you soon enough.  Anyway, thanks so much for taking some time to talk with me.  Say Hi to your mom.  

CCH: Nice to talk to you too Hyland!