Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Morten Andenæs.
Lives in Oslo, Norway
How do you describe your own art practice?
I have always been deeply fascinated by photographs and their verisimilitude; sucked in by how an appearance is perceived, felt and understood to stand in for the thing itself. There is something so strange to me about how the homogenous, two-dimensional surface of a photograph is translated into the illusion of a differentiated, three-dimensional space. Photographs are slippery, deeply complex, and in this they mirror real-life experience. We seek simple answers, predictability, clear-cut definitions and order, but the world is messy, full of conflicting viewpoints, and I’ve always been interested in trying to make images that cannot be reduced to simple catch-phrases or easy answers, but exist as experiences that are as ambivalent and laden with emotion as a face-to-face encounter.
Which question or theme is central in your work?
I have always found the idea of home really interesting, and looking back on the work I’ve done ever since I was a student, it dawned on me that this first world of ours, is the locus around which everything spins. I work with photographs and text in an effort to mirror and understand better how it is we go about making sense of our surroundings at all. How do we move from what seems to be an indefinable and undifferentiated nothing, individually and collectively, to a supposedly meaningful something, what part do images and how we make use of them play in that process, and is it possible to see beyond the horizon of our upbringing, in terms of language and images?
What was your first experience with art?
I have absolutely no clue, you’ll have to ask my mother!
I have become increasingly interested in how social a medium photography in fact is. We learn to look at and live with images, in the company of those caring for us. Children’s picture books for instance, though not considered art in the classical sense, are the foundations upon which all later representation will be experienced and understood.
At the same time, we have all grown up with a certain inherited image-repository that, like language, will consciously or not steer us in certain directions, both in terms of aesthetic preference and as conceptual frameworks. I recall the woodcuts of a Norwegian artist, Nicolai Astrup that hung in our house, as well as those of my extended family less for their “artiness”, and more for certain parts of the image that I would return to again and again during a Sunday dinner for example, small details in the images that grabbed my attention because they seemed unintentionally out of place in the overall structure of the images themselves. Having gone back to look at these images as an adult, what strikes me the most is that these points in the image I’d transform there and then, what looked to be a cartoonish cooked chicken for example in the middle of an 1850’s farm, was in fact nothing but the root of a tree – and yet, I can’t unsee that chicken. It’s still there…
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
I know it sounds lofty, but I’d have to say how fortunate being a parent is, seeing as it were evolution play itself out from day to day.
That and my own shortcomings (though my wife may disagree with this)! Though it’s a pain in the ass, I do like how life is a very steady stream of mistakes and fuckups. An old teacher of mine once said that it’s often forgotten that millions upon millions of failed experiments provide far more useful data, than any number of successful ones.
What do you need in order to create your work?
Though I find it really hard to swallow (and this I think my wife will attest to!), I need resistance, someone to ask me what the hell I’m doing, and I need time. It is one of the greatest privileges we as full-time artists have – being able to spend days, months, even years, slowly working something out, coming to understand it not as an outsider, but from the inside, as an embodied experience. There are very few other spaces in our lives, where this is feasible at all.
What work or artist has most recently surprised you?
Two drawings my daughter has made (at age 3 and age 10) and that I’ve recently seen side-by-side, that both represent her. I find this need to represent oneself to oneself, to see oneself from the outside as it were and narrate the story of ourselves to ourselves, so fascinating.