Q&A Norwegians Abroad - Edvarda Aslaksen Braanaas

Visual artist Edvarda Aslaksen Braanaas has commuted between LA and Oslo since 2011. She is currently living in Los Angeles.

When did you move out of Norway the first time, and how do you remember it?

– The first time I moved abroad was in my late teens. I lived a year in London. In my early 20’s I went to Venice in Italy and studied graphic art for a year. For some reason I remember I was surprisingly homesick, even though the access to art and culture was overwhelming. Maybe that was just it – it was too much and I was very young. But today I see that these years have been momentous for my artistic activities. I was in London when I realized that I would become an artist, and in Venice I received creative revelations that have characterized my work ever since. I would never have been who I am without these formative years.

What is the best thing about living where you live now?

– It must be just what scared me initially, a big world! To make a long story short, I ended up in Los Angeles because of a book! LA was described as a dream-factory where you can project a self-made world within your very own camera lens. This concept is very close to how I make my art. In LA you can be your own person and do your own things and nobody will judge you or think of you differently. All are equal in some kind of way.  

There’s a big issue with homelessness in Downtown Los Angeles, which is where I live, but there is still an attitude of caring here that I am not used to at home. Angelinos are very welcoming and I think they are extremely socially skilled.  I very often meet exciting personalities with impressive stories, and in a short amount of time I have got immensely valuable friends, so talented, generous and intelligent. I learn something new every day, maybe most about being a human being in a huge, multicultural, competition-oriented world.

Downtown Los Angeles is the fastest expanding area in LA right now. There are enormous forces at work in terms of art and culture and its a wonderful place to be for an artist. I am in love with the energy and enthusiasm around, and things are urgent – a nerve I appreciate. I never thought I would experience something like this in my lifetime!

Do you think Norwegians are perceived in a certain way?

– People often wonder about my accent. I tell them Oslo is the capital of Norway which is a country in Scandinavia. Some have visited, others have no clue where it is. But there are a surprising number of people who have noticed that Norway is ranked as one of the best countries in the world to live in. I tell them I’m happy in LA. But smoked salmon and bright, Nordic summer nights is a good ride-conversation in an Uber or Lyft.

What do you consider the most important factors to succeed, thrive, and be happy in a new country?

– Learn to adapt, make yourself available, be a person, get your perspectives right, work hard, take risks, make new friends, explore your neighborhood, care about others and be nice. Find your core-people. And don’t be afraid to show feelings – that’s the engine!

Do you think Norway has changed since you moved?

– Not much except the NOK currency.

Do you miss Norway?

– Very much to begin with – LA was strange, enormously spread out, I often felt lost in a very profound way, these endless streets of billboards and warehouses. I had no plan to remain, and it was a relief to return to my hometown, Oslo; to solid homemade food, the fresh air, peaceful streets, and my faithful friends – and family of course. I wrote pages of emails home every week. But after three years this changed. Now I cannot imagine more inspiring surroundings. I think LA is made for creative people like myself. But I’ve been lucky – I got to know LA through a person who knew the city inside and out.

Still, few countries does Christmas better than Norway, and as I spent the holidays abroad this year, I got a little bit homesick.

What in the society you live in would you like to see more of in Norway?

– I think openness to opportunities, especially in my industry, which is art. That if you work intensely and purposefully enough, it becomes valued on par with everything else. And then there’s this multicultural naturalness, that all races and ages and orientations are accepted on an entirely different level than I’m used to in Norway. We could learn a bit from the world to be including and helpful.

Where did you first learn about Norwegians Worldwide?

– Through NORAM in connection with my daughter who is now studying film at USC.

Is there any particular issue/issues you think Norwegians Worldwide should raise awareness and focus on?

– US Paperwork!

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