Things That Take Time
Getting around to interviewing Swedish visual artist Anneè Olofsson was always in the cards for C-print from the very beginning of our online publication. Setting out with a wish to do so back in the early days, it would take to this very point passing a five-year-mark to finally arrive there. The notion of things taking their due time fittingly is one that recurs in conversation with Anneè. While currently participating in the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale, she looks back at her body of work to date, while sharing as well her to two cents' worth on the present artistic landscape on home turf.
C-P: As we were e-mailing recently, I was saying how your exhibition The Face of All Your Fears at Kulturhuset in Stockholm back in 2011 still serves as one of the most memorable and poignant exhibitions seen inside there for me. What always fascinated me about your most iconic images is this notion of what lies beneath the surface in domestic and private spheres. There’s often an apparent act of or hint of menace present. Does it occur to you that some of the images bear a particular relevance in a time of social media and heightened reality, where most of us consistently keep up appearances, masking the real extents of our domestic realities?
A.O: Yes, I think my head and mind has always been a way ahead of time…I have always been very aware of what's going on around me, like having constantly actice tentacles. There was for instance forseeing slowly how my parents were heading towards a divorce in 1995. It was like I had to put everything on the table and I still do when it comes to what relationships really are about between parent and child, man and woman and so on, because domestic realities are everybody´s concern and responsibility. The only way to solve an issue is to talk about it and to bring it out into light. We all have the experiences, but in different ways. I put myself out there for you to mirror yourself in that. For me it's important to undress in front of the audience, literally.
For example in my photographs with my father, it had to be my father; his hands, his back, his legs and so on. No one else could take that role. Because when it comes to our parents, partners, children and friends (also enemies), they are between one's skin and clothes. To make works that will hit your soul, you have to remain in real life while doing them, otherwise it gets too flat and one-dimensional. Well, at least in my opinion. So to answer your question, yes of course some of my images bear a particular relevance in today's time of social media and heightened reality.
C-P: In a recent photographic series Black Current – The Interrupted Series you revisit some of your older photographic works where your late father appears alongside you; a series that appears a homage to him. You’ve said his passing made you review your artistic career and that the series itself represents a last time of working with him, so to speak. The series allude both to deconstruction and reconstruction where a new work emerges in the process where the printing of an old work is interrupted. The visual results are very engaging.
A.O: My father's life was interrupted just like that, without any signs or warning. Aging also comes as a surprise. It suddenly just interrupts youth and suddenly you are old. But with age and time you change…a lot. You think in a different way about life. The fast and furious is exchanged with slow and thoughtfulness but also with suspicions of youth that include suspicion about one's own past and works.
So what is a life? So suddenly interrupted and what is a photography? What happens when you suddenly interrupt it? When the printing machine stopped, the colour red was bleeding out into the black…like a scar. Very interesting process that you can´t control, just like death.
C-P: One of your most captivating works is A Demons Desire that departs from a controversial album cover for the Scorpions’ release Virgin Killer where a 12 year old girl is found posing naked; an image that has been the subject of censorship. For the series of work you reconstructed the scene around the photograph’s making together with the original photographer Michael von Gimbut and his wife. What are some of the things that drew you to the story that informs the original photograph?
A.O: First of all the album cover itself - what an image! I am very interested in music and especially vinyl records. I have been buying records since the age of 12 so my home is filled up with them. Many years ago at a vinyl fair this album occurred. It is very rare and hard to get hold of. There were only around 100 copies released with this cover before it got banned and fast taken out of production and replaced with another boring cover. The cover reminded me about my own artistic process. The way I use black as darkness rather than a colour. The depth of black is eternal, like the universe. And the gaze of the girl's eyes, for me is not pornographic.
I think the title Virgin Killer and the glass crack over her genitals and also the fact that it is a male hard rock band makes the image provocative more than the actual original photograph itself. I did so much research around the cover and its history that I finally ended up in the original photographer's flat in Berlin checking it out in person and talking about the shoot and the making of the cover in 1976. Seeing just the photo in a golden frame, on his wall, I realized there and then that this photograph had to be a part of my mentioned exhibition at Kulturhuset in Stockholm. So the show ended up with my video, a sculpture and Michael Gimbut's original photograph in a big installation. People told me I would get in trouble due to this photograph but I told them that I didn't quite think so…and I was right. Without the text and crack etc. the image does not really provoke.
My installation told something else and this installation was surrounded by a lot of other of my older works so people didn´t react negatively. Maybe our gaze has changed, I don´t know. But the cover is still up for scrutiny, and it was deemed child pornography in a court in Sweden I think back in 2015. Well, the work around this is not really finished yet and there is one more piece of puzzle left for the future.
C-P: Your body of work also extends to sculptures which makes me think of your exhibition Until Tomorrow Doesn’t Always Come at Galleri Andersson Sandström a few years back where you showed the sculptural series The Solitaires in which the sculptures were made from figurines brought from your father’s estate, using 3D printing techniques. Tell me more about this sculptural direction in our work.
A.O: My education is actually in sculpture. I studied sculpture 5 years at the art academy in Oslo 1990-95. So it's fixed in my bones. My photographs always have had a sculptural and 3D-feeling and approach. I think along the lines of 3D in all my media. In 2009 I did a porcelain figurine with Rörstrand and when I started with my 3D- sculptures The Solitaires, I felt my interest and curiosity in sculpture being revived. It feels natural to combine sculpture with video and photography…in a way it's all photography and it's all sculpture.
C-P: Your artistic résumé is fascinating and very impressive, with yours being represented in noted collections like that of MoMA in the midst. Having worked extensively overseas for years, what are your thoughts on the current artistic landscape in Sweden?
A.O: Ha ha, well thank you! MoMA is like a feather in the hat and I'm very proud of that. As far as thoughts on the current artistic landscape in Sweden…hmm…a tough cookie to answer. First I would like to point out that I think that the art scene is very nervous and anxious in general. It's a small world with too few parties acting in it. Too many art schools and too few galleries and too few opportunities provided to feed all these young people that leaves art schools every year. It's a pity that not more young artists get together to start their own spaces and initiatives. But Stockholm rents are horrible and to start something far outside the city is tough if you are not super-connected. Take Kummelholmen as an example! What a great place! But I mean Jan Watteus knows everybody. He is super active and has a strong voice. It's a great great initiative but hard work!
Also the studio situation in Stockholm is a real disaster! Politicians start waking up! Everybody wants art but if the artists don´t have a place to make the art…we are pushed further and further out of town. Artists even move far away out in the countryside or abroad to be able to exist. The anxiety also grows with social media. Social media can be good but also a killer…A female artist in her sixties went out on Facebook and said that a gallerist visited her studio and told her after asking her about her age that he wasn´t interested anymore…It's 2018! I think the scene would flourish if we didn't need to be so anxious and nervous all the time. The art world should be fun and creative with a lot of air to breathe and with broad scopes and perspectives.
C.P: You are currently representing Sweden in the inaugural edition of the Bangkok Biennale which revolves around the theme “beyond bliss”. What has your experience of the biennale been like and what are you presenting in the biennale?
A.O: I'm actually only showing older works. Three large photographs and two video works. I actually asked the head curator and director Apinan Poshyananda (who invited me) to choose my works. He also invited me to the show he did together with Moderna Museet many years ago; a show of Scandinavian artists touring Asia. It was called Beyond Paradise, but we never met then. So now finally we got the proper chance. He has such a huge and interesting network in the art scene around the world. It's amazing to see what people he managed to bring there; not only artists but also members of their board and sponsors. This kind of event is totally new and unseen in Thailand. The scale: a contemporary art biennale with 75 artists from 30 different countries. There are a lot of really interesting Thai artists in the show so it was a great experience to go there and I feel blessed to be a part of this show. It's up till February next year!
C-P: What are your plans for the remaining year and more specifically in 2019?
A.O: A lot - as always! First is to finish and publish my book I Annee Olofsson with Art & Theory. Sandra Praun is the book designer and we've finally set the design. She is picky and I am picky -but we are a very good team and it's important that things take the time they need. So now it's work work work so that it can come out soon in print! It's been a long process with a bit of delay. But it will be super! There is a group show at The American University Katzen Museum of Art i Washington DC, USA in January, curated by Klaus Ottman and Jennifer Sakai. I am working with 3 public art commissions that will intensify during 2019. I really need more time now to start working on new projects and finish a video project that I started working on already in 2005 in NYC. It's a project that had to stop for many years due to various circumstances but I really like works that take their time in the making.
I'm going to The Venice Biennale since my great and old friend Miilovan Farronato is curating the Italian Pavilion. I will finally spend more time in my studio and read read read! And of course hanging out with my 7 year old daughter, that is the greatest thing of all!
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