Talking about my Degeneration

What are you trying to achieve with this new project?‘, Anthony asked.

‘In the beginning I wasn’t really sure, what I was doing, it was mainly an impulse that was driving me. I felt a very strong urge to force myself out of a strange Cul de Sac. I guess my main motivation was just to do something, whatever that was. To create Something out of Nothing’

So there is no meaning to what you are doing

‘You could argue that. On the other hand, the meaning is created by a process that happens over time. But that’s a separate and perhaps more general issue regarding my work. The point of this particular project is to question – for myself – the process that I use in my work. This process originally helped me to stay clear from the seduction of formality and superficial aesthetics, but gradually turned itself on its head. By trying too hard to remain true to my own principles, I ended up with a working process that had become a force of limitation and, ultimately, formality.’

Are you starting a whole new way of working with this project?

‘Not at all. I am still using the same process of working, but my aim is to disregard its key principles….’

Isn’t it paradoxical to say that?

‘Yes, I am aware of that, but it is something that happens all the time, for instance when artistic concepts, ideas or innovations are appropriated by the commercial world. The meaning is then replaced by a product, and the process becomes a pure technique or style that helps to sell this product. It becomes an imitation of itself.’

Is this the moment then where you finally go commercial? 

(Laughing) ‘Perhaps, but I am not interested in exploring the oxymoron you hint at. Not in this project. I am not trying to make a political statement, let alone blame anyone, except perhaps myself. I think the fear of selling out often stands in the way of true creativity, because it can make the work too conceptual or cerebral. In my case, what I fear most is the idea of degeneration.’

Degeneration into the meaningless?

‘That too, but I am mainly talking about degeneration as a technique, such as the material or analogue degeneration of images. When I was studying some years ago, a friend of mine, Terje Fjellstad, made a piece called Talking about my Degeneration. I loved the piece, but even more the title, because it really summed up our generation of artists then, who were all somehow obsessed with the surface of images. But today, this statement could be true for society as a whole. With everything being digital, we yearn for a sense of patina, and degeneration as a technique lends this patina, or at least an illusion of it. And yes, I am worried about degenerating into that sphere.’

Are you?

‘That’s not for me to say. The point is that I shouldn’t worry about it, because, really, my work is not about degeneration….’

Another paradoxical statement. It seems that you are trying to justify what you perceive as a weakness in your work, by saying: it does not exist.

‘You certainly have a point there, again. But as I said before, this is an experiment to analyse and question my own work. And the fact is, that the starting point of my surface gateway project series had nothing to do with degeneration as a technique. It was about the concept of time, in particular the idea of connecting specific moments. The time that passes between those moments is integral to the work, and that can sometimes be years. When I worked on Imparando da Firenze during a residency in Florence in 2014, I realised how important this fact is to me. In terms of the working process, I see my work in the tradition of people such as Botticelli or Raffael, who would sometimes spend years on a painting. The problem is that the passing of time, represented in images of the key moments, creates degeneration naturally. In order to focus attention away from this ‘side effect’, or rather to clarify what’s happening, I have been trying to find ways to communicate the passing of time through the work itself.’

How is that a problem?

‘In theory, there is no problem. In reality, it is futile to attempt the reproduction of time in an artwork, especially if it is a static one. Even in film, or music, true reproduction of time can never be longer than the length of the piece itself. Anything else by default is an illusion…’

A pretty obvious statement…

‘…yet an incredibly complex issue at the same time. In a world of digital media and image manipulation, it is almost impossible to distinguish between real and artificial degeneration [of images], which affects our perception of time, memory and history. For my work this means the layers of moments, represented in layers of images, could have just as easily been produced digitally, including a false sense of image degeneration. That’s why I often use a combination of video and printed images in my final exhibition presentation’

And that is a problem for you?

‘Not as such, I love video, and combining it with printed images, but I came to a point where it felt the two media are there only to justify each other. To say ‘Hey look, this is actually real!’. Also, the format of video, and in particular the way I’m using stop frame animation, means that all the images I use have to fit into the 16:9 format, which is itself is limiting. All in all, this has stopped me from freely experimenting with the second subject that I am trying to explore with this project series. And that is to approach the city, and my printed images in this city space, as a canvas of fragmented spaces. Ultimately, my aim is to sculpt time and space through a visceral process into a visual expression that has similar qualities to painting. That’s why in this current project, I am trying not to worry about the concept of degeneration. I hope this will help me to bring back a more visceral and free approach to my surface gateway project series.

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