Benedikte Bjerre → Interview

Can you tell us a bit about your practice please?

It‘s simple I am a sculptor.

You studied sociology in Denmark before going to two different art schools at once, Städel in Frankfurt and Royal Art Academy in Copenhagen. What lead you to this decision and where do you see your process in relation.

Yes, I recently graduated from Städelschule in Frankfurt, and I studied sociology at the University of Copenhagen before that. I was 19 and my parents had this idea that it would be a good for me to get an education, and since I did not have another plan, I followed my academic interest which was sociology and figured it had potential as a foundation for whatever else I would come up with later on… by the time I finished the bachelor degree, I was deep into photography and applied to the class of Simon Starling who was teaching at Städelschule at that time. I studied by Simon for four years, and after that Peter Fischli took over the class and I studied by him for two more years. The change of professor was lucky for me because I by chance got to learn from two so different artists. Peters approach was nearly like an antithesis to Simons practice and this radical change of perspective was surprisingly productive. It was around the same time I decided to attend the MFA at The School of Sculpture, within The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art. That decision came mainly from an excitement about the focus on sculpture, which was a good supplement to the professor based program in Frankfurt.

The way I work has been, and still is, a quite organic development both on a daily basis and in the long run. It never worked for me to force thing‘s, I know when my own bad intentions are sneaking in. Ideally one thing leads to the next, and I am watching and following. Most things I do by trial and error… It should be fun.

Most of your works start with a fascination for certain sociological occurrences/tendencies: the „booster bags“ or „hotproducts“ are, for example influenced by a shop-lifting cult excelled through youtube videos - can you elaborate on these works and their relation to your background, please?

That is right, or often my work comes from noticing something in daily life.

In the case of Hot Products, it started with a fascination of first these shoplifting mirrors that exists more in Germany than elsewhere. They are hanging over the counter so the staff can look behind the costumer and see if the customer is shoplifting. They are legitimated by the attempt to avoid shoplifting, but the site effect is that the body of the customer is objectified and disciplined by the gaze of the rest of the customers in line, who is looking in the mirror while waiting. Some months later I was in California were I noticed these oversized lollipops on a particular display system. The lollipops seemed strange to me because they had a size that made them unsuitable for children - and which also made them sexual in some way, and the display was pointing in all directions as if they were asking to be put in a pocket.

Some time after I started to read about shoplifting in a historical perspective. I talked with a friend about the books I was reading, and he showed me some pictures of booster bags that the police had confiscated and put in the newspaper that week, to make shops aware of the phenomenon. Much later again I was asked to take part in an exhibition in Vienna and I found that the space and the context would be good for a work with the lollipops and the mirrors, so I started to make the work, but the plans got changed, at that point I had decided to continue with the lollipop displays, the mirrors and the booster bags, I found some D.I.Y booster bag videos online… the rest happened in the studio.

What role does the internet as a source of inspiration and sociality play for you?

I use the Internet to access information, and not that much more, but I am very concerned with what the Internet does to everything that isn‘t online which could be said to be a type of internet interest. I guess I am insisting on the relevance of bodily perception and spatial awareness.

Taking it even further, the internet/its availability established a series of works, such as „Prime“. For this work, while being at the residency Villa Aurora in LA, you ordered all parts via Amazon Prime. Was this a practical decision to safe shipping costs and get all materials delivered to your address, or does it also reflect consumerism, social behaviors and current movements?

Both. It was pragmatic a decision for me in the same way as I think Prime ordered are a pragmatic decision for many regular users of Amazon.

The difference is of course that I use the products that I ordered as a sculpture, something that does not have a function beside of being a sculpture. As sculpture it points back at its own history and highlights certain elements such as where it came from and where it is going, which we in this work can read on the Amazon packaging which is acting as a plinth for the sculpture. I think that this history points at a certain circulation of commodities, which again reflects on social behaviors and quite directly on a type of consumerism detached from social contact.

Amazon products are produced by machines, packed by robots and will soon be delivered by drones. They represent a highly developed de-humanization of the world of objects, which stand in contrast to three-dimensional art, that traditionally act as a sort of link between the world of objects and the world of humans.
Another element is the international travel, as long as objects are within the system of goods they travel freely (within U.S and within E.U), but as soon as they belong to an individual, or have to cross the wrong borders, they are much harder to bring from A to B. So I figured that it was exciting to see what type of translation the work would go through by being transported from some objects and then later reappearing as the same sculpture but with new objects.

What does that devaluation of the essences of the particular objects mean?

Further it could touch upon levels of temporality. Amazon Prime offers a free return within 30 days of purchase. Hence the work could be only accessible for 30 days, yet everywhere installable for free thereafter.

Are you interested in a certain level of ready made / assemblage of such given structures?
Yes I am. Hacking systems and spatial ready mades.
A few years ago I did a show with some friends in a hotel that only host‘s women, we had 40-50 women visiting during the opening, but the hotel never got to know that we maxed out on the use of the rented.

Similar to the ready mades previously mentioned other works are assembled by found, lost materials. In Copenhagen you once stumbled upon the complete architectural image archive of the Royal Danish Academy of Architecture from around 1935 to 1955. The art work itself is presented as a stack on a palette held together by black clinchfoil. yet you previously archived, scanned and copied every single slide (all together there were 7000) in what relation does the production of an art work, the found object and its content only visible to yourself stay?

I am really bored by the project format that is dominating our society, not only within arts but certainly here too. Projects as we use the term today are often suggesting a type of self-important storytelling, which has to fit the current fashion and ideology. We talk about what we are ‚interested in‘ and we likewise confirm a story by saying ‚oh that is interesting‘, and often it isn‘t, it‘s a smokescreen both for an actual content and for less language carried developments. The archive holds a great potential of playing out such ‚interesting project‘, it is a piece of cultural heritage - an original collection. After I had worked with the images in the archive for some time, re-photographed, printed, organized and analyzed the 7000 slides, I knew that the question for me more was about changing the status of the archive from having potential as being about this or that, to turn into a work while actually being what it is. So the first process led to the conclusion that the relevant move had to be to bring it out of its dusty attic and give it some perspective to it self by letting it travel, and this is more or less what you see when encountering the sculpture - with its opaque clinchfoil its is dressed as a old archive in transit.

While here the discovery of the archive, hence the use of found material for a work of art seemed like a lucky coincidence, you continue to work with found material. The ongoing series „dancing queens“ for instance, exists of found hubcaps. This time, the material seems less „precious“ (compared to the archival images), but more of a deliberate choice to generate the final artwork that is then visible. Could you please elaborate on the difference, similarities and relevance?

The dancing queen series is different in the sense that it is generating a sort of archive out something that most people don‘t have any interest in as cultural heritage nor as value or fascination - hubcaps. But I think the way I treat the archive has a lot of similarities and a sort of ignorance of one things value over the other, it is maybe pushing another edge of some of the same questions as the archive. What happens when the work rejects to be ‚interesting‘?
To me the it seem to be confident in their own position, being what they are, hanging out on their own.

You recently graduated from Städel School in Frankfurt. The work you showed in your degree exhibition was a subtle room intervention out of tent poles spanning across the complete space. Being barely noticeable it at the same time run across a large area, from floor to ceiling and along and even through works of your pears. How important is site specificality and the environment/context you are exhibiting in?

Space and site is very important as well as context and format, most of my work partly grown out of these four parameters in one way or the other.
The graduation show is a group exhibition in a relatively small space for 34 young artists with completely different agendas. It holds the potential of being a real mess or to be a boring democratic distribution of space. With this 38 meter long flexible tent pole of aluminum, I wanted to make a work that mapped out, interrupted and challenged the specific situation while also functioning as a piece on its own. It is negotiating space with this double quality of being both supporting and disturbing. It is made for the specific space and the other works, while being fairly autonomous too. It packs together in a bundle the size of a large flower. It is called Romancing in thin Air.

If one would want to understand your working process - do you have an idea and then work towards it?, an observation, which you research further into and visualize your take? do you stumble upon elements, that you connect? Is there even such thing as a continuos line of operation among your practice so far?

I think we already mentioned it, I work with what is there; a space, a site, a context, a material, an observation, existing systems or what ever it might be. I simply try to make something suiting of situation I am in… Of course there is certain elements that runs through my practice so far both in terms of themes, materials and tools - for instance a sociological perspective, I might be forever stained by that…

Several of your works/projects operate on a larger field, collaborating with different stakeholders and incooperating various levels/elements. For example you have been an active protagonist of Museo Aero Solar, initiated by Tomas Saraceno or you initiated the Cinema-Teatro Apollo with several colleagues - a film festival in Italy which resulted in an exhibition at the Weltkulturenmuseum in Frankfurt. How important are collaborative and larger projects, beyond an exhibition in relation to your work and practice for you?

Art is a hyper social field in the first place, and I think making things together as a bigger group is one way of exploring that… this was something Simon Starling was good at as a professor, we made several collaborative works as a class, which I think lead me to think in big scale. It has been important to do these collaborative works, because you are confronted with different potentials and problems when you work big and as a group. The problem is that the work often gets lost in navigation of group dynamics, financial management and external demand‘s.

Whats next?

Work work bitch, you better work!

Benedikte Bjerre
01 / 08