Off the Grid.
Ingar Aasen calles himself the Art Ranger and is today an established artist, both in Norway and on the west coast in America. He was born in Fredrikstad, Norway in 1964 and has been living in a communal area called Øra, just outside Fredrikstad City, for the last twenty years. It used to be a sparsely populated area, a nature reserve and a sanctuary for migrant birds. Through the years, a recycling factory was built and large industries have gradually been established. Ingar lives off-the-grid, without electricity or water, in an encampment of old Russian army trucks, camping wagons and old tour buses that he calls The Art Ranger Camp.

Driven by desire of freedom and control of his own life, Ingar does not want to be a part of the system. He does not pay taxes to the government and avoids obligations towards society. Ingar’s vehicles are all without license plates and he does not have a drivers license. Ingar has been involved in six public protests, often in front of government buildings in Oslo, including the Royal Palace, where marches against censorship to demonstrate his strong belief in freedom of expression.

“I am too free for society” —Ingar Aasen

Even though, Ingar questions authority, he does not want to have a negative relationship with the police, nor the communal officials. Rather, he would appreciate cooperation without any formal contract. Looking back at Ingars history with authorities, I found that despite his confrontational and offensive performance art demonstrations, none of them have led to either imprisonment or fines. Rather, they resulted in informal talks over a cup of coffee at the police station.

Finding meaning.

Growing up in Fredrikstad was a troublesome upbringing for Ingar. He did not find much meaning in living life within the conventional boundaries, where one finds limited room for individuality, creativeness or extraordinary means of expression. Since Ingar was a child, he refused to learn how to read the clock. Years later, he discovered Salvador Dalí, and his iconic surrealistic watches in his paintings; these watches symbolized a time Ingar could relate to.

As a young man, Ingar spent many frustrated years resorting to alcohol, drugs and violence. Throughout the years, he transformed disappointment and anger about his upbringing into creativeness and freedom of expression through art. He became the Art Ranger.

He is a ranger for the arts and a true defender for the people that are treated as outsiders in society.

About four winters ago, Ingar found several Roma Gypsy families sleeping beneath tarpaulins and garbage to endure the freezing winter nights in Fredrikstad. These families were living on the edge of survival. This was an unacceptable condition for anyone to be in, so he invited them to come and live together with him in the Camp. During their stay, the Romas coexistenced with Ingar.

“The society has created the illusion of time, and by being part of it, you will be living with a death-watch ticking on your wrist.” —IA

In 2007, a conservative party was elected into office in Fredrikstad. Since the Roma Gypsy families moved in to the Art Ranger Camp, Ingar Aasen has experienced reoccurring negative attention from the conservative governing local party. Charges have been made against them for various reasons; a colony of people living on public land, no sewage or sanitary systems installed, stealing from the local garbage dump etc. etc. But to Ingar, enforcing displacement and homelessness are not a sustainable solutions for the Roma Gypsies or the Norwegian government.

Eventually, the mayor campaigned to dismantle the Art Ranger camp. The obvious charge was Ingar Aasen’s occupation of public land; littering the area with scrap materials and other undesirable objects—art objects if you were to ask the artist. Debates concerning demolishment of the camp went on locally. In 2010, a final sentence was given, forcing the Roma Gypsies to leave the camp immediately, and Ingar to demolish the camp within a couple of weeks.

Ingar chose to continue his creations by evolving them into other forms. So, rather than demolish them, he will reform the structures and build an expressive art installation.

“Where will you go?”, I ask.

“Up”, answers Ingar.

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