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In his new solo exhibition Askoas, showing at SKF/Konstnärshuset, Stockholm-based conceptual artist Oscar Furbacken takes an interest in how the timely notion of forest fires appears both a traumatic and cathartic state for ecosystems in nature, by reminding the viewer of the existence of pyrophile species. "I began to study the phenomenon after actually experiencing a small fire near my studio.", he says.

Oscar Furbacken

C-P: I found your exhibition Askoas to be quite sublime and a personal reminder to mind of how distanced - both visually and physically - I myself actually am from the wonders and curiosities seated and found in natural surroundings. And that of course just means, as you were saying over a conversation, that in an algorithm-driven ”reality”, someone like myself will just get increasingly more and more distanced from them. Your looking at these, for many overlooked microscopic notions and fixtures, and presenting them in a macroscopic-supersized fashion is quite humbling as a view. In the Anthropocene, your art bears much pull, as I would see it.

O.F: Ha, it’s interesting to hear about how you perceive my work. Some years ago I too was blind to most of these organisms, and I still remember the day I discovered lichens. I had been staring a while at a greenish patch on the bark of a tree by Strandvägen (ed. note: street in the Östermalm area of Stockholm), when I gradually began seeing the magnificent complexity of a coral reef unfolding to my amazement! This happened before the time of mobile cameras so I had to capture this concealed treasure with pencil on a sketchbook. This discovery was eye-opening and became a vital source of energy for my life and artistic practice.

As we now spend most of our lives in cities and in front of screens, increasing effort and awareness is needed if we are to maintain a healthy exposure to the natural world. Unless humanity begins to treasure biodiversity it will keep degrading due to the Anthropocene. If it changes how we perceive the world even the simple act of contemplating a patch of moss, can be progressive, but it requires attention and time. In my installations I experiment a lot with perception by tweeking the parameters of time, light and scale. Because as you noticed, these “microlandscapes” may inhibit a sublime quality which, at best, might convey something new about our existence on this planet.

Oscar Furbacken, from the series Pyrophytes, concrete, parian porcelain, sand, wood, acrylic, installation view, Askoas, SKF/Konstnärshuset, Stockholm, 2021

C-P: For this exhibition you more specifically take to how forest fires appear both a traumatic and cathartic state for ecosystems in nature. I had no idea whatsoever about the the existence of pyrophile species before your exhibition. What can be said to address the materialization of your exhibition and the presented works?

O.F: Well, I began to study the phenomenon after actually experiencing a small fire near my studio. Also moved by the worldwide increase of extreme events like forest fires I took my cameras along to fire struck places in the nearby woods to observe and gathered material. I made hovering shoots and time lapses from these apocalyptic and cindery landscapes. Developing the soundscape with Robin Af Ekenstam was an important parallel process. Over time I discovered a range of fascinating organisms among the ashes.

So I decided to also develop objects in concrete and Parian porcelain resembling the different pyrophytic fungi that often are the first organisms to pop out of the scorched ground.

Oscar Furbacken, Still from the film Cinder Oasis, HD-video, 2.1sound, 7 min loop.

C-P: How does Askoas relate back to your most recent solo gallery exhibition, Nodes with S.P.G in Stockholm last year

O.F: Even though it had no relation to fire, the show Nodes did featured microcosms in a video installation and wall-mounted pieces, so there were similar conceptual and scenographic qualities. Texture and materiality is often critical in the shaping of my sculptural works. So without the experience gathered from the previous sculptural series I wouldn’t have been able to make the blackened structures that are presented partly on the floor here at Konstnärshuset.

Oscar Furbacken, from the series Pyrophytes, concrete, parian porcelain, sand, wood, acrylic, installation view, Askoas, SKF/Konstnärshuset, Stockholm, 2021

C-P: You recently had a work acquired into the collection of Moderna Museet - congrats! You were also awarded the Carl-Axel Vallén Award of 2021 and in that capacity are participating in an ongoing group exhibition at Eskilstuna Konstmuseum. What are you showing there?

O.F: Thanks, yes, I am greatful and honored. During the past years I’ve developed a few series of illusory concrete plates to discuss the vulnerability of civilisation. The surfaces have cracks and the inner cave systems seem to stretch far beyond the wall. At Eskilstuna Konstmuseum I am showing the latest and largest piece so far in the series titled Chambers. It is on view until February 13.

Oscar Furbacken, installation view, Askoas, SKF/Konstnärshuset, Stockholm, 2021

C-P: What’s next in 2022?

O.F: I will be working on a public art project for the new Ålsta school in Barkarby. In the summer I might show my ongoing photo-based project Urban Microhabitats at Fotoparken in Värmdö. And thanks to a travelling grant, when the world opens a bit, I’m looking forward to meeting researchers and discover new microhabitats.

Ashik Zaman

Oscar Furbacken's solo exhibition Askoas is showing until Dec 4 in Stora Galleriet, SKF/Konstnärshuset, Stockholm


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