Still Chewing

What is a photograph?

A photograph is light or information on a surface, telling us something about something. But does that make flattened cardboard boxes, for example, Matias Faldbakkens Five Flat Boxes, or other non-photographic surfaces act as photographs if presented as such? I am drawn to images and works that tend to reach out to me and barely touch a subject or theme, without really giving away what or why. The works that reference reality but still don’t reveal the full picture.

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “Diorama,” photographs of dioramas from the American Museum of Natural History, represent to me something both vague and specific, something that, for a glimpse, is clear as day but disappears into the brain fog the following moment. Attempting to rephrase it seems like an impossible challenge, yet perhaps this is why I find them interesting. It is the same with Matias Faldbakken’s Five Flat Boxes; I struggle to articulate precisely why they captivate me, but at the same time, I see clear parallels between the two works.

What distinguishes viewing Sugimoto`s images from observing genuine dioramas at the Natural History Museum? Sugimoto said, “I had found a way to see the world as the camera does.” Maybe the photographs offer us a fresh viewpoint, a new perspective where our sense of understanding the world is slightly interrupted. This notion resonates well with Faldbakken’s cardboard boxes; we are encouraged to look with a different set of eyes.


Why analyse?

Is a photograph and a ready-made the same? Both imitating real-life and presenting it outside of context, both detached from their own reality and dependent on an outsider understanding, or not understanding. What does it mean to understand? Do we need to understand?

Lucas Blalock`s hot dog images are somewhat of an enigma. Both accessible and out of reach. The photographs are simple, hot dogs arranged in numerous different ways on a white background. Grotesque, calm, childlike, and inaccessible. The hot dog is a symbol for many things, but when arranged like this, it is deconstructed into pointless objects. And while they carry a sense of humour, the images are loaded with evaluation of the human experience. Consumerism, fast-paced living, family picnics, mass production, disease, summer. But they are also just that—photographs of hot dogs. Shouldn’t that be enough?

I tend to be intrigued by works that offer me fresh perspectives on familiar sights and experiences. After all, most art is completely irrelevant. A constant rephrasing, re-contextualising, and reshaping of what is already known. It is inherently selfish to be an artist; we are creating things to put our name on a vast and undefined map. But then again, is it not this that makes it interesting? The fact that it is nearly impossible to say something new, yet we never stop trying.

The same points could be made when talking about the writing of art. The endless task that is to connect the dots, to create meaning and narrative, where there is not necessarily one? I’ve always thought, why bother, can’t we just let it be? Let it be felt and experienced. On the other hand, I am writing this. I am expressing my doubts, beliefs, thoughts, and associations. So for me to say we should stop writing is hypocritical at best. But I still think there is something to be said about how we approach art and how the tendency often is to interpret and dissect.


The museum experience

As a child, paintings were boring. Most sculptures as well. I remember enjoying interactive or site-specific works. Installations where all senses were activated, and I could actively take part in them and immerse myself. A few recent ones come to mind,  for example Børre Sæthre`s My Private Sky. The installation features a sort of dystopian waiting room, and behind a small entrance in the wall is a long blue room with a unicorn in the far end. Or Goro Tronsmo`s Staged Institutions IV – The City, the Courtyard, the Light: an installation disguised as a multi-level apartment, both interactive and performative, asking the viewer to interfere with the work itself and to question what is a part of the show, and what is not? This feeling of total immersion is not anymore determined by the complexity of the installation, as I am getting better at allowing this to be felt in works that are dependent on only one or two senses. Photographs, paintings, sculptures, and videos. It doesn’t have to be all engaging; subtle hints in a photograph or a sculpture are enough to rearrange the way I had just previously related to my environments.


Do we need the exhibition space?

Apart from being a place of prayer, the church, or any other religious construction, is also a zone for contemplation and reflection. Whether it be the fabrics, the carvings, the smells, the art, or the architecture, it creates an atmosphere of stillness and presentness. I’m not particularly religious, but most times I have been inside houses of worship, my sense of connection to the past, to the contemporary, and to other people is significant. And the same goes for a museum or gallery. Entering an exhibition space, one expects to feel a shift in focus, and whatever is normal on the outside suddenly holds no value. Perhaps it is this certain expectation and context that turns photographs of hot dogs into art. It is a room devoid of the logic that tends to regulate everyday life. The museums and galleries in our society serve as a place for experience, consideration, and introspection.




Blalock, Lucas. Late Work.;slide:2


Faldbakken, Matias. Five Flat Boxes


Sugimoto, Hiroshi. Diorama


Sæthre, Børre. My Private Sky

Tronsmo, Goro. Staged Institutions IV – The City, the Courtyard, the Light