All my life I’ve been building things. In my childhood, I often made my own toys or modified the ones I had. Now it might sound like I come from poor circumstances and the truth is almost rather the opposite. It was probably more that I grew up at the countryside and there was no access to any toys that I saw commercials for on Cartoon Network or read about in comic-books. There simply weren’t any Spiderman figures or Batman cars in my little village’s only toy store. So, I had to make them myself. I am fortunate to be the son of a civil engineer with a great interest in hobby carpentry with focus on model airplanes. So, throughout my upbringing, I have had good access to all kinds of tools that could possibly be needed to complete a project. I have never had any toy saws or plastic hammers, my father gave me real tools from the start, obviously adapted for a child’s small hands but still real tools. I am also the son of a loving open-minded mother so my upbringing has been characterized by joy, curiosity and creativity with very permissive behavior and development of my imagination. I have a bachelor’s degree in fine art photography and at the time of writing this text I am on my way to getting my master’s degree in the same subject. Perhaps I am intrigued by the connection between the engineer and the artist because I am an educated and certified carpenter and worked in this field for ten years before applying to Valand Acadamy. Incidentally, at this time I did not know that institutions like Valand existed. Nor that it was difficult to be accepted to them, which in retrospect may have been my strength. The fact that I ended up at a carpentry high school was rather a big disappointment than a choice I made. I should actually have studied at a sport high school with ice hockey as a major, but the town in which I grew up in did not pay the fee’s for such an education. The news that my hometown was not willing to pay for the ice hockey high school came relatively late and most places on the other high schools were already full. All except the building gymnasium. So, in last minute I ended up in woodworker’s high school and my first dream was killed. This education turned out not to be something I as a person appreciated at all. I am and was more aesthetically inclined than my classmates, so I really didn’t fit into the environment that prevailed at this school. In short, I was basically ostracized by both students and teachers. Yes, it even got to the point where I thought about dropping out. In today’s eyes, this could probably be classified as bullying, but I contradict myself as I am not a victim and always stood up for myself and fought back every time someone tried to push me down. However, everything got better when I got to start my internship and didn’t have to spend so much time at school. I quickly learned that as a carpenter it is not always possible to follow an architect’s blueprints to complete a project. No, you need to be good at site specific problem solving and this without jeopardizing the quality of the end result or the safety aspect for the building to pass the inspection. These times made me mature as a human and taught me to work very hard. A carpenter working day usually starts at 06.45 and lasts until 16.00. Then you also must get to and from the workplace and this means that you spend more time in a work context than with your loved ones. This is also the reason why I gradually got very tired of this kind of job. Imagine yourself standing outside at 07:00 am. On a Swedish January morning to build a bridge in the snowdrift. Even if the money is good, it takes an awful lot on both the body and the psyche. I eventually quit carpentry not only because I was about to burn out but because I got a book contract to publish my poetry. But that is a completely different story. To summon this up, my time as a carpenter developed my work ethic and fine-tuned the dexterity I always possessed. I have benefited greatly from this in my later years when I chose a more artistic path in my life.
I’m not an artist
I don’t see myself as an artist, but despite that, things I’ve created have been exhibited in eight countries at the moment.1 Things that to me were mostly cool things were suddenly valued as art by individuals other than myself, things that I have built and played with since I was a little boy. One might think that all of this happened thanks to the fact that I was accepted to Valand (First attempt, both bachelor’s and master’s) and all of a sudden the things I made were viewed with different eyes, but this is not the case. No it all happened thanks to that I posted a video on Instagram of my installation Luxtriplicata. In short, this video went viral and since that day I get a lot of fun offers from all over the world where they want to see my installation presented, for example Burning man or Currents New Media Festival in Santa fe. U.S.A.
I’m not an engineer
Nor am I an engineer by a long shot. But I have the ability to construct works that can be scientifically interpreted in several ways. I guess it has to do with my desire for experimentation.What separates me from an engineer may be that I don’t care about the result that much. Like most artists my work process is very much based on intuition and impulse. However, I often have something scientific as inspiration as the basis of my artistry. I have understood during my time at the academy that my own practice often is an experimental process but my own process differs pretty much with the engineer’s approach to a problem. An engineer calculates a hypothetical end result and continues to research and experiment his or hers way through the whole process until the wanted result to achieve from the start is achieved and no longer just hypothetically but finally. The artist’s path to a problems solution is often different from the engineers. As I mentioned, an engineer must achieve the expected end result otherwise the result could be fatal, in let’s say the construction of a skyscraper or a bridge. For an artist, on the other hand, the process of making a project can be constantly changing. Many times a misstep can lead to an improvement of the project. Maybe it wasn’t even a problem there from the start? When I think about this it feels like my own practice is a mix of both of them. I got inspired by the engineers’ inventions and use my artistically skills to make my own versions of them. I modify the experiments that engineers have done with a sprinkle of my fantasy. People often ask me where I get all my ideas from. I only have one short answer to this. Algorithms. I am convinced that my algorithms differ greatly from a lot of people. When I watch videos about etc. cymatics, a lot of other interesting things naturally appear in my feed and then I ”steal” them. In a critique class, I was asked how I know when a project is finished or not. This is also one strength than the carpentry profession has given me. A project must be completed within a specified time frame and I have taken this with me into the art field. For me, it’s very easy to get done with something. I am satisfied with a relatively quick result. Instead of trying to refine something to perfection which is also an impossibility, I instead create another one or move on to the next thing.
A scientific experiment can never fail?
Billy Klüver was a Swedish-born engineer that in the 1950’s worked on developing laser systems at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, U.S.A. The scientific work with lasers didn’t satisfy him very much so his big interest for art led him to visit New York where the rise of pop art, happenings and minimalism have started to bloom. Klüver was mind blown of the new art he discovered in New York and he soon befriended some of the leading artists in this new field such as Andy Warhol, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and Jean Tinguely, just to mention a few of them. During this period Klüver foresaw the potential of mixing art and technology together. He was inspired by Aristotle’s who’s claimed that it was no differentiation between science and art. Klüver believed in a collaboration between the engineer and the artist because he thought both of them could develop a lot of knowledge and be a big help for each other in their respective fields. He wanted to create a meaningful dialog between them. In 1966 Klüver founded E.A.T – Experiment in Art and Technology.2 E.A.T encouraged collaboration of engineers and artists across America in interdisciplinary technology-based art projects. E.A.T. was officially launched in 1967 by Julie Martin, the engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer and the artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman. E.A.T has done so many groundbreaking projects and exhibitions where art and engineering meet each other that it is difficult to pick out something that represents, but I first choose to focus on one of the first collaborations between the engineer Billy Klüver and the artist Jean Tinguely and their fantastic construction of the self-destructing machine. Jean Tinguely’s self-destructive machine, version no. 1 was built over three weeks inside Buckminster Fuller’s dome at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York. When the machine was started on March 17, 1960, a spectacle of beauty, humour, poetry and confusion began. Tinguely’s machine performed for half an hour and during the time destroyed itself. When Jean first told Billy about his idea for a self-destructing machine, he wanted a large assembly hall in Manhattan.The machine would perform a variety of crazy things and ultimately destroy itself. A fascinating example where the engineer and the artist differ somewhat is found in the construction of this extraordinary machine. The self-disrupting machine basically consisted of Tingeulys paintomatic machines, bicycle wheels, various motors, drive belts, pianos, flamethrowers and many many more obscure things, most of it came from New Jersey dumps. Something that fascinated engineer Billy Klüver during construction was when some of the machines didn’t work as they should, Tinguely didn’t care if the machines worked as they were supposed to or not. In his opinion they looked good and worked aesthetically. In his opinion they fitted perfect. Although they did not fulfil their purpose. Perhaps this is a prime example of how an engineer and an artist think differently? That the engineer thinks that the machine must work in order to have a function otherwise there is no purpose for it? This against the artist, who in many cases uses an object for something completely different from what, for example, an engine is for. Examples of this are plenty in the conception art field. Another E.A.T. example when the engineer Billy Klüver cooperates with an artist is with Andy Warhol in his project Silver clouds.3 From the beginning of this project, Warhol wanted to make a floating light bulb and contacted Klüver about this. However, it was not possible to manufacture such a light bulb, thanks to these times current battery technology.
Andy Warhol then suggested that they instead should make clouds. He bought several books on different cloud formations and Klüver began researching different materials that could be suitable. Upon further investigation, Klüver came across a material called Scotch-Pack that was used by the US Army to wrap sandwiches. This material could also be heat sealed. Klüver came across a roll and gave it to Warhol who soon discovered that it was very difficult to get round curves to make the”clouds”. It turned out to be basically impossible to heat seal the curves. However, when Klüver came to Warhol’s factory a few days later, Warhol had instead folded pillows out of material and then filled them with helium. An engineer in most cases had continued to research and develop the material until what was needed was achieved. The artist’s instead trusts the feeling and can change what they basically wanted to achieve during the project and in this case it was perhaps more of a philosophical cloud than an exact copy of a natural one. Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds was first shown at the Leo Castellis Gallery in 1966 and consisted of a large room filled with masses of these silver clouds. This approach to an objects function might be one of the key things thats separates the artist and the engineer’s mindset. It also makes a lot of sense that the artist can be satisfied with reaching ”just” an aesthetic or a non- function function. This because in most cases the artist doesn’t have to deliver an end product that have to fulfil a function that is” important”.
I think I’m interested in the connection between these two professions because I like to deprofessionalize them both. As I mentioned, I’m not particularly interested in art. But most of my installations have been shown in artistic contexts. However, my prism installation Luxtriplicata works just as well (if not better) at a rave party or at a children’s party. It also works great in a performance or placed on the street like a street musician. Yes, it even works as a turntable to make a DJ-set. The work also been exhibited in fine art galleries many times. This is what I mean by de-professionalizing the art. I tear the white cube down. Im a certified carpenter so this is no problem and then I float freely between the gallery and the street. I want to show that a work of art could work in many contexts. It has to have, In my opinion many levels and perhaps not even at first glance be seen as art at all? When it comes to de-professionalizing the engineer, it is somewhat more difficult. But somehow I think I do this unconsciously. Luxtriplicata, for example, can be read on a total interdisciplinary level. It is possible to apply the theories of light and colour to my work. I can use the work to explain; how and why these colors and patterns occur when white light breaks through a prism. I like that my works often have multiple levels, that they can be appreciated both by a child of preschool age and by a person with a scientific education. I like to show that it is possible to do high-level experiments in your living room with things you already have at home. I have to admit that a engineer and an artist are much more similar than I first thought they would be.
At first I tried to pit them both against each other but when reading countless texts and watching lots of videos where this is discussed and debated, I have understood that these two professions are very close to each other. Just with a little different approach. I want to finish with a question that have rised in my mind during my research. What would have happened if a hand had been extended from Valand’s or Chalmer’s institute? I think this would have benefited the development of both institutions and maybe it is what is needed to take the next step into the future for both the engineer and the artist? Of course there is Acute Art, which in a way takes art and engineering into the future, but Acute Art offers only well-established artists a chance to develop their ideas and maybe Acute Art mostly impresses an older generation than a younger? Is it really a difference between the AR works that are presented via their App and a Snapchat filter if you are a person that grew up with these techniques in your everyday life? I’m really wondering what would happen if our institutions would offer a collaboration? To really take art to the next level and include a new generation I think this collaboration is needed. What great ideas would arise in an elective course where students from these professions would interact with each other?
I know nothing about photography and that’s why I know everything…
My work Luxtriplicata is a hybrid where artistry and engineering merge. The basic function of my installation consists of how prisms react when white light is refracted through them and the resulting color spectra. This is called dispersion and has been developed by engineers throughout the ages. If I break down the components of the work, they come from engineering design. The prisms that I use are actually meant to be used to refract and angle laser beams inside measuring instruments that use this laser technology. Then we have the rotatable plate that the prisms are placed on. It is a regular serving tray from IKEA with the function that it rotates. The rotatable function is based on ball bearings, which itself originally came from the brain of an engineer. The idea that the plate can rotate comes from a thought of an engineer/designer, maybe with the fantasy of an artist? The flashlights with the white light purpose is primarily to bring light into the darkness, also have been developed by an engineer/inventor at one point. When I analyze the origins of the parts my installation is made of, it is clear that it is an example of when engineering and artistry merge together. Maybe it’s a hybrid of both? The work can be placed within conceptual art or used as a tool to explain light and color theory.
Since 2018 I have had over 40 exhibitions, international, national and also in cyberspace. During the year 2022, my art was exhibited in 4 countries. Italy, Spain, England and U.S.A. In America, my installation was chosen as the cover image for the entire art festival. In the same year, Luxtriplicata was also selected to participate in an exhibition in Stockholm at Sergels torg inside the Superellipse. The gallery has large windows and the exhibition was open 24 hours a day. Approx. 70 thousand people pass Sergel’s square daily, so during the time the exhibition was going on my work was seen by over a million people. The funny thing about the work is that it has its origins in photography. When I first acquired the prisms for the piece, it was to photograph them and the amazingly beautiful color spectrums they provide. This was during a summer course I studied at Valand back in the days. I had borrowed very expensive camera equipment from my dealer at the time, the only problem was that I didn’t know how the equipment worked, so there were never any good photographs, of course I could set the camera to automatic, but there was still something missing. The days was counting down to our exhibition and I didn’t really know how to present my photographs. Until one day when my teacher in the course said. – Can’t you display the prisms?
Placing them in the gallery would have been an installation that can be placed within cameraless photography… at least in a philosophical interpretation. Prisms are found inside most cameras and the prisms’ reactions are actually based on light and dark, the cornerstones of photography. Can’t you do something about that?……
Acute Art. https://acuteart.com/
Artist, definition, wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artist
Currents New Media, Luxtriplicata, 2022, https://currentsnewmedia.org/work/fairgrounds-luxtriplicata/
Engineer, definition, wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineer
Hand, Martin, Ubiquitous Photography. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012.
Källman, Johan F, https://www.johanfkallman.com/
Källman, Johan F, En strand af kanyler. Stockholm. Vulkan, 2012
LUXTRIPLICATA as Turntables. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0o2m70wbj0
Schultz Förlag. Teknologi för livet, Om Experiments in Art and Technology, Norhaven, Denmark, 2004.