Last week to catch “Sultans of Salvage”, a duo show @kristinehamnskonstmuseum in company with @clay_ketter. Certainly glad I won’t be around to deinstall this one. #theotherside #samebutdifferent #mirroreffect #cube #notatoycar #clio #containerstack #blueisthecolour #kristinehamnskonstmuseum #michaeljohansson
The Swedish artist Michael Johansson is known for filling spaces, cramping each of its last corner to create a sense of saturation that doesn’t necessarily suggest nausea, just a certain type of end. Or maybe a beginning. The particular usage of items—often furniture objects that are carefully arranged in color—serve as a composition of playfulness and improvisation. The works of Johansson provoke ideas of functionality and their silences, what it means to exist for simple sake of existing.
Michael, you’re interested in irregularities of life. Can you give me an example of a recent incident?
It is not any kind of irregularities of life that fascinates me. Not those who appear when something extraordinary occurs, but those who are created by an exaggerated form of regularity. For instance, when colours or patterns from two separate objects or environments concur, like when two people pass by each other dressed in the exact same outfit.
I’m in Sweden at the moment, installing a larger work at a museum. So after a long day I was just relaxing at the hotel, flipping through the channels on the TV. It turned out Bruce Willis was starring in two movies at two different channels at the same time. So by going back and forth between the channels a few times, he eventually started to interact with himself. The fascination wore off rather quickly, but for a moment it was quite entertaining.
Do you think you consciously seek to find these irregularities? Have you been interested in this since childhood? I’m curious how or when it started to grab your attention…
I just think that’s the way my brain is wired, I'm intrigued when things that initially weren’t meant to be connected suddenly interact in one way or another. It can be anything, when a word is used in a context gaining a new meaning. Or, things in my close surrounding suddenly appear in a way that differs slightly from what I’m used to. It doesn’t have to be extreme. Sometimes a slight shift is enough, when ordinary life suddenly plays out for me to find myself entertained. I can't recall if it’s always been like this way, or when I first started to pay attention to it. Some days, of course, I am more receptive for these notions than other times. But when I am, I do appreciate the shift in focus it introduces to my daily life routine. And, in some ways, I think this shift in focus is what I wish my art offers others as well.
Sometimes you fill gaps, like the in-between of houses (i.e. Tetris - Witte de With). What’s a gab you’d love to fill, but haven’t had the chance yet? Any dreams?
Oh, there are still so many interesting gaps to fill. I’ve been forced to give up on the idea to manage them all a long time ago, even all the great ones. A while ago I wouldn’t have mind filling up a major passage of sort, a space highly visible to everyone in that area, forcing people to take an alternative route to wherever they were headed.
But lately I’ve been more focused on how to manage the items of which I fill the gap, rather than the gap itself. Since lately my focus has shifted a bit, from collecting a range of items connected to a certain place creating some kind of abstracted image of that site, I am now more fascinated by creating systems where there’s no beginning and no end, in which the items I organize in one way or another bites its own tail. So right now, any gap that offers the illusion of some kind of mirror effect, or repetition of sort, would be a good place to start.
You often stalk things within things. Like a latter, underneath another one, and so on. Or the camping van, stuffed with all types of things. What do you wish to provoke here? There seems to be something about filling voids… silences…
It is not so much about filling voids as such. The open space is just a starting point, and creates the context for items to follow. If it’s the empty space of a chair that looks like it belongs in a study, then items that are connected with that specific space are later used to finalize the work. If it’s the empty space underneath a kitchen table, then I look for kitchen appliances to finish the piece. Also notions such as colour, shape or texture in and around this space set the tone for how the work later will turn out.
But once the criteria for the work is established, the focus is not that much on filling the void, even though that is an inevitable side effect. It is more about finding a state of mind where you feel nothing can be added, or taken away. Where everything seems to have found it’s right place and you don’t question why it’s there, or where it’s placed. Maybe silence, or a kind of calmness, is a good description. Even though I hope there is a range of things to experience within that silence. A combination of colours, shapes, textures, memories and stories, that all coexist within that limited, defined space.
“The Move Overseas” was installed 6 years ago for Beaufort Art Triennial by the Sea, an exhibition that extends along the entire Belgian coastline. This years edition is now open for public, something well worth a visit if you’re in the area. #containerart #heavylifting #finalfit #zeebrugge #beaufort04 #triennial #bythesea #michaeljohansson
Is it important that the stacking of things ends up in a square shape? How so?
I think the square shape has its pragmatic and conceptual reasons. Since I’m interested in creating an illusion that every item I use are morphed together as a whole, it’s easier to accomplish while using items with straight angles. But I also like the minimalistic feeling of the strict grid where all items are organized using the same logic. And when I create a free standing piece that doesn’t use any site specific dimensions as a starting point, I also tend to strive for a cube as the final result. It is almost like an invisible unquestionable logic ending up with a piece where all the sides have the same dimensions. In some way it makes most sense that way.
What’s been one of the biggest challenges you have faced as an artist?
Ever since I first started making art, I always think managing time has been quite challenging. Not only in terms of how to meet a deadline, but also how striking it is that in every project the usage of time is so very different. When sometimes one day you can achieve wonders, and other days you get nowhere. Each project has different challenges, of course. Though it’s fascinating how you always find a way to make everything work in the end.
Images courtesy of MICHAEL JOHANSSON
interview LARA KONRAD
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