Reassemblage: a conversation with Johanne Teigen

Wednesday, February 22, 2017





The manipulated photographic image gained recognition as far back as the Surrealist movement with artists like Man Ray. It can refer to that of photos without any perceptible imagery or a prominently obfuscated subject. Or in the case of Gursky or even Wall, with the help of technological advances the photograph’s original state is seamlessly altered-- in some of Wall’s cases even before the image is captured—in doing so, it opens up ideas of objectivity that photography promises and rather offering alternate worlds. Johanne Teigen’s work falls somewhere in the continuum of this image/reality manipulation lineage. Teigen is only interested in the captured imaged as a starting point. She is not satisfied with the image’s ostensible objective representation. Instead, using digital means she stretches, over saturates, crops, blends, twists, skews, and blurs what was once discernible into something completely idiosyncratic—making us question what it is that we are seeing. With the provisional sculptural installations of her over-sized prints she further creates and build new visual possibilities whereby the materiality of the photograph is palpable and active. The Oslo based artist recently engaged in a conversation with us on her practice and creative background among other talking points below.




How would you describe the emerging arts/creative scene in Oslo right now?


Oslo is on its way up when it comes to art. Artists and galleries in Oslo are now more mentioned internationally. This is because I can see eager in the emerging artists and the artists run galleries. There is a mentality that says don't do what the system wants and very good grant opportunities.


I would say that many galleries in Oslo are fascinating because they take distance from the white cube principal, as for example 1857, Pink Cube, Podium and Schloss. A big applause to Astrup Fearnly museum when they had the show NA - NA - NA,  it was only emerging artists in the show. The negative side is that there are too few opportunities in Oslo that gives recent graduates and emerging artists a chance to show them self early in their artistic development, at least when you did not graduate in Oslo.



How is it making creative work out of Oslo in terms of supporting your practice financially, professionally, finding what you need to create your work, and also space for exhibiting work?


First of all it is a choice I take while I look at my budget. For doing an residency or in need for an inspirational or research trip there is not a high chance to get funding, if you cannot link it together with an exhibition you are going to have, that you can show to in the future.

I find being out of Oslo very intriguing. I don't have a studio and I work too much at what I call my "money job". Being away from your everyday courses and having the time and space to only think about art is liberating. You meet new artists and locals that gives you a lot of new ideas and new ways of seeing your own art. I work very intuitive and site - specific, so I would say I don't have a problem finding a way to work and work with what I have or find where ever I are that helps me in the process of a project. Where I have been, finding space to exhibit has not been a problem.



How was your experience going from Norway and continuing your creative development in the UK?


Even though the UK is just over the pond it was very liberating to get completely out of my comfort zone. It was a whole new landscape I could dive into. The core in my work was made there.






Oh, I, I, I, 2016, photo paper, 300 x 290 x 25 cm










Your work seems to start from a lens based process and then continues into other forms. What got you interested in the way you use images in your work and how you then sculpturally present them?


One of the visiting tutors at Camberwell college of Arts, Ian Monroe, recommended me at one point to look at the movie 'Red Desert' by Michelangelo Antonioni. At that time I was making small props looking like film scenes without actors in. In Red Desert there are several times great mise - en - scenes, one example is where he zooms in on a wall and a window frame where it becomes an abstract image instead. This intrigued me to start taking abstract images in the environment that surrounded me, and this is a continuous happening. Since I started art school I have made installations and/or sculptures so the three dimensional just became a natural part as my image related work evolved.



Installation view from exhibition Aberration



Pendulous, 2016, pvc and nylon cord, 320 x 120 x 140 cm.



When I think of “abstract” it can mean/refer to a lot of things…when you say you take abstract images from your environment to me you are still making representations of the environment…that image is still connected to that environment. There will be possibly colors and shapes that refer back to that initial subject you took an image you mind clarifying further, in what sense you mean by “abstract”?


To me abstract is when I withdraw something from something else. The images are taken out of their original context and size and therefore abstracted. To me the value of that moment I took the image is now in the image. So for me that connection is gone, and not important anymore. Yes the viewer is teased with a glimpse of colour, a suggestion of form and texture but they are never given enough to make a whole connection.  I have kind of taken away that reality. Which I mean is "abstract", because there is no way for the viewer to actually know what it is, I will never tell them. So they have to make up their own meaning or reality of what the shape, colour and texture represent.






"What I get from abstracting[...]images is creating something new and unknown. It is a process of destruction and rebuilding."






Why choose “abstract” and what do you find you get from “abstracting” the images as opposed a “non-abstract” image?


It just became natural as my work evolved and right now I am intrigued and pleased with the outcome. It is the different shapes, texture and colours that you did not think would fit together that intrigues me. The contrasts together make new, abstract and unknown images.   What I get from abstracting the images is creating something new and unknown. It is a process of destruction and rebuilding.



What was your relationship with images/photography before you started working in the way you've been critically working with them in your current work? 


 I mostly used a camera for documenting work, sometimes when I doodled/played around I did quick sketches/work that was photographic. 





Installation view from exhibition We Crumble on this Glitter.







And Then It Falls, And Then I Know, 2016, photo paper and pvc, 120 x 90 x 210 cm




How did you start using materials like PVC to print your images on? What do you think the significance of printing on unconventional materials like PVC does to content of the work itself? 


At some point my work took a turn and it became more about the language of advertisement. I printed my images on poster paper. That's also when I started to wanting to print in a larger scale. I was inspired by big billboard sings and those mesh - banner adverts hanging in front of buildings when they are renovating, and how they always gets my attention. I found a printing company in Beijing that do advert printing, I first started playing around with mesh banners and now it is mostly PVC.

PVC became a natural choice for material, with no big intentions with it in the first place. For me it is used because of the possibilities within shaping and creating a new depth in the work. It becomes all about the formalistic decisions, and the intriguing ability it has to not giving me completely control. Often it folds/ crumble itself after only one or two touches by me.



What is the decision behind printing at the scale at which you do? And how do you think that relates to the content of the work?


The larger my images get the more abstract and obscure they become. When I choose a scale to print them in, they get manipulated just by the new size, many turn into something new and almost unrecognizable from what they looked like in the start. The bigger the print is, the more possibilities I have to manipulated it even further by folding , crumble or roll it. The unrecognizable/unknown becomes part of a tease and seduction towards the viewer.





Fold Up, 2016, pvc, 45 x 330 x 250 cm.





I find the way you hang and “install” your work interesting and particular; it very loose, makeshift, and seemingly improvised…I’m curious about your choices for the way you present the work…why you choose to present it in this way and especially since you mentioned the work take cues from the language of advertisement?


My work is site specific, the choices are formalistic decisions made on a whim. Also I choose to present it like this because of  the seduction and the tease it gives viewers. My work is there, but it is not fully giving accesses to  in the meaning where some parts are hidden; it is folded, crumpled and cut from view. It is like a rude game where access is given and access is taken away.






Installation view from exhibition Verse Three Paragraph Seven. 

Work from the right: Untitled, 2015, vinyl sticker and plexi glas, 100 x 70 x 10 cm. Untitled, 2015, steel strip and texile, 150 x 140 x 20 cm





What is something that surprises you as a person and as someone that creates?


Where the ambitions and eager to continue comes from.  


Can you remember an early time making something you can consider came from a creative place?


When I was in the age of 5 or 6, making narratives when I played with my barbie dolls. I could do this for hours alone after kinder garden and school.


Where would you like to see your creative career go in the future given unlimited resources?


To own a big space where I could have different printers who did the printing job that I would be in need of , and to have enough space to play around with very large scale work.


What is something that you've been currently curious about?


Last year I had a few exhibitions and in We Crumble on this Glitter, I saw that my work became different, and taking another direction. I'm now doing research to find the new context in what I want to show.


Lastly, if you have a life motto what would it be? 

Live in the moment.







Images courtesy of artist.

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