I JUST WANNA GET CLOSE TO YOU

A little more than a year ago, I curated an exhibition in Skien, Norway, at Telemark Kunstnersenter with the title High on Low-Life. It was a group-show with Simon Mullan, Linnéa Sjöberg, Mom & Jerry and Klas Eriksson. All-in-all we had 25.000 Norwegian kroners (approx €2.100) as the budget in total, which certainly wasn't much. The exhibition became a hit, and especially one piece made the headlines, the now infamous work LOLERZ (+ +), 2014. 

The local newspapers went bananas and the discussions on social media went bananas. Eventually even the Minister of Education in Norway wrote a text that was published (to be honest, it was not a very educated view on contemporary art...). The scandal draw a lot of curious people to the exhibition, and around the same time I got an invitation from Projektrom Normanns, an artist run project room in another city in Norway, Stavanger. I decided that I wanted to give Klas Eriksson a chance to show his feathers to a Norwegian audience yet again, this time in a solo-presentation. The opening is next week, April 17th, and Klas will manage to make both yet another wallpainting and a performance. I doubt there will be the same scandalous treatments in Stavanger, but who knows? We'll have fun regardless. 

The exhibition is entitled I JUST WANNA GET CLOSE TO YOU, as Klas is attempting to both deal with his projections on Norway, but also try to understand how things work over there. 

Here is an interview with both myself and Klas published in CAS, Contemporary Art in Stavanger, and below an interview I made with Klas for the exhibition. Both in Swedish and Norwegian. 

// Klas Eriksson i samtal med Power Ekroth // 

Klas Eriksson arbetar på ett vis som gärna ställer vanliga relationer på spel. Det kan handla om många olika relationer såsom maktstrukturer i samhället, om konstvärlden, om ekonomiska förhållanden eller om gruppgemenskap. Eriksson arbetar med förskjutningar som initialt ses som mycket små, men som ofta får en ganska stor inverkan eftersom det han har gjort har lyckats peta in en kil på precis rätt plats. Inför utställningen på Projekt Normanns kändes det fel att skriva en vanlig utställningstext, det skulle inte ha varit rättvist mot varken publik eller konstnär, då utställningen dels har väldigt många olika lager av mening, och dels för att en mer rättvis text om Klas Eriksson självfallet skulle bli kuppad av honom själv i slutänden hur som helst. Vi beslöt oss för att ha ett samtal tillsammans istället. 

Det här är tredje projektet vi jobbar med, först bjöd jag in dig till en grupputställning i Skien på Telemark Kunstnersenter (TKS) i början av 2014 vilken skapade ett himla liv där, och sen bjöd du in mig att vara redaktör för nr 4 av din tidskrift Reptilhjärnan och i samband med detta bjöd jag in dig att göra en solo-utställning på Prosjektrom Normanns. 

Till nr 5 av Reptilhjärnan är du din egen redaktör, och du har även sagt att det blir den sista av detta fanzine, kan du berätta varför du startade den och varför du nu avslutar den? Vad var idén bakom? 

Idén var ursprungligen som någon slags reaktion på en utställningstext som skulle skrivas. Det kändes inte så bra att anlita någon att beskriva ens verk/konstnärsskap, betala med budget och sen gå vidare med en A4:a om ens praktik som någon annan skrivit. Jag föreställde mig istället ett slags byte, och kanske även en time-out på något sätt. Ett skifte där konstnären väljer en curator/konstkritiker som skriver om mitt konstnärskap utifrån ett givet tema. På detta vis curaterar jag min egen beskrivning på ett sätt, istället för att en curator kontaktar mig utifrån sitt syfte så kontaktar jag en curator utifrån mitt eget syfte. 

Du, Power, blev inbjuden till numret med temat "Art and Institution", utifrån en av alla upplevelser med en institution som konstnär. Jag vill med reptilhjärnan utmana idén om konst och text, utifrån formatet av en fanzine. Jag väljer att bjuda in konstnärskollegor som jag tycker passar det givna temat, sen producerar jag all grafisk form, bilder osv och redaktören producerar texten. Sista numret som kommer ut den 24:e maj har temat "Art is Artist" och följaktligen är jag min egen redaktör eftersom jag är konstnär. Samtliga nummer har tryckts med olika institutioner som uppbackare och de trycks i 100 exemplar per nummer. Jag gillar att begränsa vissa delar av mitt konstnärskap och därför gör jag totalt fem nummer för att aldrig mer ta upp tråden. Jag är stum av beundran över allas bidrag och det har varit jävligt kul.

I nr 4 av Reptilhjärnan som kallas ”Norgenumret” finns urklipp från lokaltidningarna i Skien, bland annat från Kunskapsminister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen. Varför tror du att folk blev så ilskna om ditt verk LOLERZ (+ +), 2014? 

Ja du, det diskuterade jag senast idag men man blir inte riktigt klok på den där uppståndelsen. Jag tänker mycket på fördomar som en sorts kvalité som sprang utifrån det där verket. För att ha en fördom måste du vara lite kåt på det som du har en fördom om, det är en väldigt skön tanke. Jag tror att mångas, inklusive ministerns, cirklar har rubbats lite och de nu tänker mer på samtidskonst än innan. Torbjørn kanske till och med fattar att han har en fördom och är typ lite kär kanske ❤️. Verket var uppfört med tillstånd,och den var temporär. Det är nu borta för all framtid (bankbygget är till och med renare än innan). Med dessa fakta i hand blir det närmast absurt hur stora reaktionerna blev. Jag tror så här i efterhand att jag försökte närma mig Norge som nation, med mina fördomar om pengar, budgetar och konstnärliga villkor. Jag var var lycklig och pepp över tillstånd osv, när jag utförde målningen, och inte alls arg eller sur. För mig var den viktig utifrån aspekter om just ekonomiska villkor för kulturarbetare, närmandet av norsk kultur som svensk konstnär och jag ville belysa att det numer är ett konstcenter och ingen bank längre. Det gick som det gick, jag fick till och med en fakking karikatyr tillbaka: bucketlist ifylld.

I Stavanger kommer du även att måla en ny fasadmålning, LOL på Rogalands Kunstsenter. Är det en direkt fortsättning av LOLERZ (+ +)?
Ja det kan man ju säga att det är, titeln har ju en naturlig connection kan man säga. Jag kommer måla den med samma teknik som tidigare och försöka få in Norsk Black Metal utifrån en moralpanik hos den kristna högern, det kan bli ett fint möte tänker jag, som ett slags referens utifrån det här närmandet som jag nämnde tidigare. 
Redan från första början när vi började tala om Projektrom Normanns och Stavanger vet jag att du triggades av kontexten och började tänka platsspecifika verk till utställningen. Vad är din relation till Norge och Stavanger, och hur kommer det till uttryck i utställningen? 

Jag gillar platsspecifika verk som inte i nån ska försöka lyfta fram det som är fel på platsen i nån moralisk mening. I Stavanger vill jag uppleva hur oljan likt anden i flaskan går upp i rök, transformeras och tar formen av nåt flyktigt – nothing lasts forever, typ. Vidare har jag nån ide om att presentera smutsen i Stavanger inne på galleriet i formen av en murad vägg av tvättsvampar, där det performativa sker i Stavangers offentliga rum och sedan förflyttas in i den vita kuben. Jag tar även med mig en ”svensk död” i form av Volvos emblem. Volvo rullar inte längre där jag bor nu, så det handlar om ett slags balans och att peka på något som i alla år verkat helt och hållet självskrivet, men som visat sig inte alls vara det utifrån ekonomiska formler, Death By Nature ungefär.

Ett vanitasmotiv med Volvo! Jag vet att du också arbetar med målerier till utställningen, med smurfmotiv! Kan du berätta om processen bakom måleriet och även om valet av titlar och motiv, eftersom jag tror att även de har med din önskan om att närma dig Norge/Stavanger? 
Ja någonstans hamnade jag i tänket kring cash & strategi. Smurfen som en typ av spegel av en samhällsstruktur kändes intressant. Jag skapade därför två smurfar som jag på nåt sätt återfinner i Norge, det är dels Oljesmurfen (2015) och dels Schacksmurfen (2015), båda dessa är tydliga karaktärer i Norge. Dessa gjordes i olika tekniker, oljesmurfen målades såklart med olja alltmedan schacksmurfen är utförd i blandteknik av rökbomber och akryl bland annat. De formar som en diptyk över en samhällsordning, kanske.

Hur länge har du arbetat med dessa ”rök-skulpturer” och vad betyder de för dig? Har de olika betydelser på de olika ställena du uppför dem? Och hur hänger röken ihop med dina målerier? 

Jag har egentligen gjort rök-skulpturer sen jag var ungefär nio år, jag kunde röka ner hela mitt barndomskvarter. Jag antar att det berodde på en längtan att se något annat än det givna, och att utmana de normaliserade glasögonen man använder i ens vardagsliv. Samtliga rök-skulpturer anspelar givetvis på olika saker, det har framförallt med den givna arkitekturen eller den lokala historien exempelvis. Övergripande har samtliga verk i denna serie en idé om att skapa ett större spelrum under en begränsad tid för att sedan återgå till det normala, närmast vardagliga, utan att det finns några spår av att så varit fallet. I Stavanger blir det svart rök utifrån det jag beskrev tidigare om förgänglighet, BNP och olja.
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Klas Eriksson (Stockholm, Sweden, 1976) lives and works in Gothenbourg since 2014. He graduated with an MFA from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 2010. Eriksson has been exhibited internationally, most recently at TKS in Norway where his dead smiley over a former Norweigan Bank building caused huge debate. Other appearances include Art Paris, Bologna Art Fair, The Bucharest Biennale 5 and Copenhagen Art Festival. In 2015, his work will be featured at Eduardo Secci Contemporary in Florence, Christian Larsen Gallery in Stockholm and Galerie Steinsland Berliner in Stockholm. http://www.klaseriksson.org/ 

I LOVE DICK

The affinity I felt for the title of I LOVE DICK, Chris Kraus' "novel" from 1997, published by Semiotext(e) naturally had something to do with the choice of bedtime literature, but the read was not entirely based on fleshy desires. 

The "novel" is not a generic novel, it is what one could call a theoretical fiction based on real events. From what I can understand, the book was not received well when it first was published, but has now gained somewhat of a cult status. No wonder. 

Last year, I was in a deep infatuation with the epic Karl-Ove Knausgård series of six, MY STRUGGLE. I know I'm not alone in this infatuation, and I find it hard to explain what I love so much about the books. But the genre of his series is also based on reality, the names in the novels are real and the occurrences are also real. Naturally, the "realness" of the story can be debated, and it is most certainly fictionalized, so regarding to the debates that has been going on in mostly Norwegian media about going too far in exposing the lives of the persons that are close to him, I find it difficult to see how anyone (except for perhaps the directly affected perhaps) can be alarmed by the novels. Which brings me back to Kraus, who writes about her infatuation for Dick, later known as Dick Hebdige, the British theorist who wrote the influential book on subcultures, Subculture: The Meaning of Style back in 1979. Now, Kraus was married to Sylvère Lotringer, a cultural theorist and professor in Theory of Art, famous for introducing the French philosophy and theory to the US through the publishing house of Semiotext(e) which he founded. Lotringer is also "co-authoring" the book as his voice is filtered through Kraus' (and "Lothringer's") letters to Dick, which the novel is built upon entirely. 

I too have had my share of dating theorists (and "gentlemen of culture") in my days, and even though I never experienced anything like Kraus' hangup, and almost stalking nerve Kraus displays for Dick, the recognition factor is going through the ceiling when it comes to how "men of importance" treat female "hang-arounds". Kraus refuse this categorization, thankfully, and leaves me in good spirits and oh lord how I wish I had read this book in 1997 already! Not that it would have changed the course of history or my actions, but it would have helped me smile more overbearingly at times over both the men and myself. I would love to include this book in the curriculum of every art-school or studies of the humanities. For many reasons, and the above being one.  

Here is a good description of the book from Believer magazine, embedded in the intro to an interview with Krauss: 

Deeply feminist, formally both out of control and expertly in control, it traces the obsession of a married woman (named Chris) for a man she’s just met (Dick), mostly through her letters to him. The man is largely a figment of her projections and longing, and her husband (based on the French theorist Sylvère Lotringer, who was Kraus’s partner for many years) plays along to an extent. But the woman’s obsession soon goes beyond the erotic into the political and inexplicable: why doesn’t she have the power this man does? Could she ever? What might her letters accomplish? The book drew on her real-life experiences, marriage, and letters to a real man, and she included his only response, addressed to her husband—a shocking kick in the gut. (The man was later horrified by the publication of this book.)

(Certainly, one can draw some parallels to Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying" from 1973, but they are not that many, we are talking about two very different books.) 

In the past year in Sweden, there has been a debate about these "men of culture" - mostly married men - who unconsciously or not exploits women's affection to them as they seem to flock around these brilliant and self-conscious men. The blame-game commenced in the rather silly debate in the end: is it the men or is it the women who "throw themselves" at the men who should be accused? There was then later on, yet another debate in Sweden, weirdly not really connected at all to the "men-of-culture-debate". This was ignited by another book by Lena Andersson, well, actually two books by her "Egenmäktigt förfarande"/"Wilful Disregard" and "Utan personligt ansvar" (not yet translated, but in my translation "Without Personal Liability/Responsibility"), to which men of culture has been reacting by saying that they are badly disguised fictionalized characters in her book. 

I strongly recommend I LOVE DICK. And the Knausgård-struggle too, of course. And as Kraus and Knausgård represent two different things, and Knausgård can be (rightfully) accused of being a "man of culture" himself, but there are certain likenesses to their approach which makes the comparison interesting nevertheless. And for me, these novels are examples of great f**king Art. 

But even if it is true that I just recently read this book, and that I have been meaning to write something about the novel here (as well as a longer essay on Knausgård) for some time, the real reason for posting this now is the excerpt from a new book, AKADEMIE X - Lessons in Art + Life, PHAIDON; that I just read by Kraus. As I am teaching art students on a regular basis, the text caught my eye, and it has a lot of interesting angles. It starts like this: 

Throughout my twenties I lived in New York and never once thought about applying to art school. Art school, at the time, seemed to be for people who weren't really intending to become artists. I knew all the artists. I even studied with some. But the tuition—sometimes paid for with money, more often intangibly—never passed through an institution. I paid with a loyalty that was often betrayed. But this is normal.
My real education took place in my apartment. Convinced that to be an artist I'd need lots of free time, I did occasional temp work supplemented by low-level scams and some topless dancing. This gave me lots of free time, but at the time, I didn't know what to do with it. Sometimes I slept twelve hours a day. I remember looking in the mirror at my too-rested face and realizing the hardest thing I'd have to learn was how to make my own program, how to inhabit unstructured time without getting lost in it. I don't know if you learn this in grad school.
When, in my late twenties, I began living with a tenured professor at Columbia University, the question of art school, or other graduate school, became tabled. His grad students became my close friends. Before leaving New Zealand, in my late teens I'd unsuccessfully applied to Columbia's graduate program in journalism. In the end, I attended the school by osmosis. 
It's only at times when I want to escape from my life that I regret not going to art school.

Find her full text in from the anthology right here

 

STOCKHOLM

After a few days in Berlin, I was off to Stockholm. Guess what weather it was there? Yes. *S*N*O*W*.

At least I brought the right kind of shoes. There is a show in the works coming up at Kulturhuset to which I am involved. There is a date. There are serious plans. Still waiting for contracts to be signed before going official. But save the date of May 30th if in Stockholm! 

 

GÖTEBORG

After Oslo, I went to dry Berlin, checked the weather report and the webcams for snow in Gothenburg, but as there was none I went with my good shoes. A big mistake. 

I was fortunate to get a lift to the place of reason to go to Gothenburg: Röda Stens Konsthall. This is a place situated off-center, and in a snow-storm one prefer to go there by car, and not by foot.

These are old pictures from 2010, and to the right, curator Edi Muka, who used to run a brilliant program at Röda Sten. 

These are old pictures from 2010, and to the right, curator Edi Muka, who used to run a brilliant program at Röda Sten. 

I have been in Gothenburg on quite a few occasions, I believe that I have been here many more times than the average Stockholm art-geek. I've been teaching, curated four exam exhibitions for Valand Academy and what used to be the Academy for Photography and film and I do have lots of (artist) friends there. I can honestly say that I really appreciate Gothenburg and its inhabitants. And Röda Sten has a special place in my love-bombing. First of all, it has this amazing space inside, named "the cathedral". I've planned many exhibitions here that never took place, the space both triggers me, inspires and challenges me. 

Above from the exhibition of Sislej Xhafa, 2010, with an abnormally large bust of Mr Berlusconi.

I also assisted my partner, Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena when he had a solo show there in 2010 - image from it above.  It was a really satisfying thing to do. I have now been selected to become part of the board, something I'm super proud to be. So my trip was about my initial board meeting. Very inspiring. 

It happened to be the opening of the solo exhibition by Carlos Motta curated by Röda Sten's curator Aukje Leputre Ravn. The main work in the cathedral this time was a large video projection with several films, some smaller installations in the corner - and in the rest of the spaces a display of the archive-work "We who feel different", and a delicate display of several golden miniature sculptures. My favorite was the mini-penis.

After spending a really nice evening with really nice people, I spent one night before heading back again, away from *s*n*o*w*.

OSLO

It is winter. With winter comes snow. I have one sentiment only for snow, and that is contempt. Snow has nothing to do with me or my world. But I had to buy new shoes in Oslo the other week to be able to cope with the excess of it. From my friends in Oslo, I don't really get compassion for spitting out my hatred, even though I do get some bemused smiles. My mother is Norwegian which means that I am supposed to be born with a pair of skis on my feet. Well, I'm not! 

The image above is taken through the window of the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. Someone who knows me, and knows that I'm not born on a pair of skis, also knows that my interests are no way anywhere near Sport or Sport Sciences, but I was hired as one of two art consultants at KORO, Public Art in Norway, to be part of the committee for new commissions of contemporary art to be installed here during the course of the forthcoming two years, while the school built in the 60s is being thoroughly renovated and repaired. My colleague in this endeavor, my fellow art consultant, is artist Torunn Skjelland, who also generously took me in on my stay in Norway. She had to take the hardest hits from my general hate-speeches about *s*n*o*w*.

Supposedly the "right" kind of shoes for the weather. But I could never wear a dead seal on my feet though, regardless of how confortable, warm and dry they might be.  

Supposedly the "right" kind of shoes for the weather. But I could never wear a dead seal on my feet though, regardless of how confortable, warm and dry they might be.  


Anyway, the work is fun and challenging, especially for the artists who will work with this amazing environment up at Sognsvann, an extremely idyllic and Norwegian milieu. When one thinks about "public art" one most often come to think about boring things. About sculpture from olden times or modernistic, um, crapshit. For me, the domain of public art is of course all that, but it also has a flavor of something else, a freedom that artists cannot find in a commercial gallery, neither in the museum or kunsthalle nowadays, when there are increasingly demands and regulations that more often than not kills the artists' intentions. For me, this is truly exciting and enticing.   

The entrance, earlier this winter, when there were less *s*n*o*w*.

The entrance, earlier this winter, when there were less *s*n*o*w*.

Shooting-range at NIH, Norges Idrettshøgskole, soon only in the memory. 

Shooting-range at NIH, Norges Idrettshøgskole, soon only in the memory. 

Some pre-exisiting public art work at the school. Even earlier this fall.

Some pre-exisiting public art work at the school. Even earlier this fall.

After spending a really, really nice time at Kunstnernes Hus I went back to Berlin.