The seasons_ Karl Omarsson
March 13 - April 4, 2013
We are Both Imagining Things is the coffee performance that calls for audience participation, how did that come about?
Many years ago; I had dropped out of formal education and was working on a construction site. We used to gather for a cup of coffee in the morning. You would find yourself sitting on a bag of sement by a table, made from a piece of drywall - drinking coffee and chatting away. We used to improvise cups like these because anything else would break or become grimy and unusable within the day. The next morning you would find yourself sitting in the same place again, drinking coffee but the bag of sement would now be a staircase somewhere in the building and the drywall coffeetable would have become a living room partition, so we would arrange some electric wire rolls to sit on and find a stack of insulation to use as a table. Coffee appeared to be the only constant presence in a whirlwind of transformation. I was always fond of these cups and later when I became an artist I was determined to share this experience somehow because it had ment something to me at the time and it still does.
Who are the agents imagining things?
I suppose it could be myself and anyone who chooses to participate in the experience. However, I suspect that in the beginning the word ´both´ in the title referred to myself only and I applied the plural pronoun to include the speaker and the listener in a more private inner monologue. Although the coffee ritual is a social affair – a moment of sharing, it can also be a delicious private experience.
What is the role of the audience?
The participation is very important to me. Anyone can approach the work and make a choice that corresponds to their own desires. You can reach out and grab a vessel from the shelve and it may be a work of art or it can simply be a cup of coffee. There is already a transformation in progress though, because the vessel will have been a marmite pot or a jar for pitted olives in some previous live. I don’t want to simply dictate that this is a work of art – I want the objects to linger in that realm between the precious and the familiar and for the audience to make a final decision.
Is there an end result either way?
Audience participation is too often a convivial affair or somehow clearly a benevolent gesture on the part of the artist. This is more ambiguous because we are sharing something that is essentially a poison. Furhtermore, the final step to complete the transformation is in the hands of the audience. If there is any one thing I would like to accomplish here; it is to slow down or interrupt viewing (and drinking coffee) - to lift a veil of familiarity. That would correspond to my own experience on the construction site to begin with - seeing through walls in what I called ‘a whirlwind of transformation’ earlier.
Is there any continuity between this work and the photo series Duration of My Chemical?
The method of pressing on blindly through a process without having a clear end result in mind is what I usually do and it is certainly the case with both of the works in question. If there is any thematic coherence it would be the slowing down or interruption of viewing to ‘disturb the indolence of the mind’. When I say pressing on blindly it means I’m only responding to what I feel like doing wihtout contriving a message or anticipating the end result. Also, when I talk of upsettting the anesthesia of familiarity it is not a benevolent gesture or a service, it is merely what I feel driven to do – motivated by my own curiosity and nothing else.
Tell me first about the paper sculpture in the pictures.
It is a piece I made in Germany while visiting a stately mansion with an interesting and somewhat turbulent history. Its location in a rather provincial town informed the work heavily. The copper mines surrounding the area, the architecture and the people inhabiting it - and their stories. Eventualy I purchased a single watercolor pan and some graphite paper to record my experience there in a series of drawings. The single pan of watercolour was flesh pink and the graphite paper was semi transparent with a turquois grid. Since the paper is not appropriate for the water colour it warped and pulled the images into contortions which I cut out to examine further. It was the name of the watercolour (fleischfarbe) which attracted me and set off the process so you could say I arrived at this work through language.
How did this lead to the photographs?
I wasn’t enirely satisfied with the images and since it had started with language, gone into drawing and eventually three dimensional objects with the warped paper, it was only natural to take it further still. One afternoon I noticed the glutinous, milky light of an early sunset pass through and briefly inhabit the building. It struck me how many wildly different people must have witnessed the same spectacle in this space. It was quite a liberating experience – sharing something transient like this in such a timeless fashion. So I placed one of the objects in the sunlight, wherever I could find it throughout the building and took a photograph. It was an attempt to make the experience more tangible with the paper sculpture as my surrogate.
Please elaborate on how this relates to the coffee performance.
My immediate concerns about the mansion and its environment had become less pertinent once I could imagine such a great duration of time in one space. This allowed me to stand back for a perspective I had experienced before. It’s this perspective that connects the works. On the construction site where my sense of permanence had come undone in the tumult of erecting a building, stepping back in much the same way and focusing on a whimsical object like the coffee cups had been reassuring. Both occasions had really brought home the dictum: consciousness is painted upon everything - the emergent property of being is in constant flux and this oscillation can stir up great anxiety or it can galvanize a man.