Martin Erik Andersen

from the source of a river to its mouth – with usura the line grows thick, 2011.

(Interview – EN)

Friday 11 November Martin Erik Andersen will open his exhibition from the source of a river to its mouth – with usura the line grows thick at Galleri Suanne Ottesen. The exhibition will display new works spanning sculpture, installation, paper works and embroideries. In conjunction herewith we have asked Martin Erik Andersen to elaborate on his artistic praxis which has resulted in the following interview.


Q: “Knittings, embroidery, plants, carpets, silver leaf and bamboo – why are you using precisely these materials?”


A: “Perhaps the material register has to be viewed in a somewhat broader perspective than what you have just lined up. I would prefer to say that this time around, the register spans from concrete to Ezra Pound – and not in a hierarchical way – with plants, Freud, silver leaf, polyester, and a whole lot more in between.
I suppose that there are certain very detailed – and a few more general – reasons for this being the case. By the way, I have to say that I never do anything for one reason alone. On the contrary, there have to be many reasons for me to act (and this, of course, serves in itself to elaborate a complex material register). The detailed motivations verge halfway on something that stands apart from language, whereas the general ones are, naturally, more cultural. Choice of materials is similarly the choice of reference space and in that sense, choice of signs. The material register, in the broad sense, where the text-like references are embodied, constitutes, for me, a kind of grid or landscape of connections and intermediate spaces – in an ongoing exchange between control and loss of control, where the differences that the materials establish need to be capable of being, at one and the same time, sharp boundaries and frayed transitions. And, for me, what this requires is something that might be a little bit marginalized, semi-spaced-out materials, like those you mention.”


Q: “Is there a link between the many varied materials you are using and the general concepts you are working with in your sculptures?”


A: “Sure – by and large, there’s nothing other than links (and sometimes deliberately broken ones). Materiality and thinking are not separate capacities to me. Pound and concrete are of the same category of function in my praxis. Let me try to unfurl this. We’ve got to start with two basic assumptions: (1) my praxis is a kind of grid, something that has do with mappings or some kind of mental-aesthetic topography and (2) the topography is stretched out between control and loss of control. With these two premises in mind, you could try to say that my visual-artistic practice is a rag or a cloth. A special kind of rag; you could say that it’s a rag that’s fluttering in nothingness. But, of course, for something to flutter, it necessarily has to be attached or clasped to something else. This is where the extended material register has its function: silver-leaf, Pound and concrete are bucklings on a common cultural pole. Out on the other frayed and fluttering side of the rag, we have the nothingness, the mistakes, the destruction, the waste. And in between we have the grid, the rag or the topography, with all its folds, curls, surfaces and extension; detailed movable micro-situations that, at first glance, might appear arbitrary and chaotic, but which are totally contingent on what and exactly which fastenings there are operating along the bar. The singular artworks are hiding in the folds.”


Q: “You often choose materials and working procedures where inertia and inconvenience constitute the point of departure – could one imagine you working in some other way or is this a prerequisite?”


A: “There are several aspects in this. Negotiations between detours and shortcuts could be said to be preconditions of the rag’s elasticity. Varied time-related aspects curl and stretch the folds in different ways. I suppose that I am fundamentally interested in differences: a landscape without differences would presumably be invisible. The working procedures are cultural choices and bucklings, and here, in my way of looking at it, inertia might offer a method of impelling materiality, body and mistakes into the conceptual organization. Ergo, a sub-part of the bucklings’ adjustments along the pole. And you could zoom back out to another level and say that I have decided, quite some time ago – maybe as a prerequisite – that my rag had to be sewn together of half silk and half dishcloth, with all the inconveniences and opportunities this consequently provides with respect to how the folds fall.”


Q: “Where inside the distinction between the various aspects in the artwork do you find the artist subject and how conscious are the choices that are being made in this way?”


A: “I prefer not to infuse the distinctions into the works themselves. The works, I would say, are cessations where what emerges, when all goes well, is local and independent micro-consciousness: complex and strange folds that coagulate. Folds that eventually turn into new potential claspings, generating micro-culture (this is probably why I typically, over the span of many years, have been working in circularly self-referential ways). In relation to the process, they take on the external character and advance slowly in toward the culturally common or, in order to remain in the picture, in toward the pole, with which they slowly morph and serve to extend. This is, of course, not my private project; this goes for all art. Putting it a little pathetically, you could say that the nothingness that settles over the works, remodeled, slides over into the universal. This is culture, a social transformation, in which the works cannot become works without there being a series of externalizations and exchanges of the gaze and the folds. The gallery’s or the institution’s mountings and hyper–fetishlike contraptions are active parts in this process.


Images and models are, by their very nature, reductions but some of what I like about the metaphor of my praxis as rag is that it cannot sustain the conception of an aggregate totalitarian artist subject. There is at least a tripartite division of the subjective sensibility transpiring on different levels: there is the hyper-sensibility, in and around the fold, where each and every little speck counts – and there is the cultural sensibility out there in the organization of distances and features in the references – and then there is the expansive and eccentric long-term space surrounding what the rag’s fabric actually is. In my view, being in these three very different modes requires that one remain hyper-awake in whatever mode he/she happens to be in, while also, in parallel with this wakefulness, being totally disengaged. A rotating triangularity between focus and blindness. So the answer to the question is probably that the choices are conterminously highly conscious and highly disengaged. And this, I suppose, is actually a serviceable key to understanding why my things look like they do.


As praxis form this is not ahistorical and it involves series of objective selections and rejections. For example, I could have been a jingoistic fascist and claim that my pole was a flagpole fluttering the Dannebrog (the Danish national flag, which is said to have fallen down from Heaven in 1219). In an artistic context, this would of course amount to some kind of stagnated cultural parody. The type of pole on which I have chosen to hang my praxis is rather a branch. Or some kind of universal cultural ramification that is constantly bifurcating. And one could say, maybe in carnivalesque accordance with Bruno Schulz, that it is made of papier mâché.”