Making a Change
In the midst of the installation Lars Laumann talks to Objektiv about his exhibition Kompendium.
Nina Strand: Your work has been shown at renowned international institutions like MoMA, Tate Modern and Kunsthalle Basel, but seldom in Norway other than your gallery VI, VII. Now, Kunstnernes Hus is not only premiering your latest work Season of Migration to the North, which seems extremely relevant in these times, but also presenting what you've insisted on calling a ‘mid-career’ retrospective.
Lars Laumann: It’s work from the past ten years. I feel that this will mark a change in my artistic oeuvre.
NS: Is this a plan, or something you think will happen?
LL: I hope and believe there will be a change, another way of working.
NS: In an on-going conversation with Stewart Uuo for our next issue of Objektiv, you mention you're turning 40 soon. So is this a mid-life crisis?
LL: Not at all. I feel I've been going through a mid-life crisis since I was seventeen, so in a way it will be nice to be done with it.
NS: Everyone should probably do this after ten years. Maybe it could be seen as a sort of evaluation.
LL: It will be more like a personal evaluation for me, something I think all artist should do every five or ten years.
NS: With a retrospective, you get an overview of everything you've made.
LL: I feel I've made everything I said I would make. And it's interesting to see that my latest work goes back to the way I worked with Berlin Wall (2008), with voiceover and found material. So that might have been investigated enough now.
NS: Berlin Wall is one of my absolute favourites. (The work focuses on Eija-Riita Eklöf- Berliner Mauer, a woman who described herself as ‘object sexualist’ and ‘married to the Berlin Wall’.)
LL: She made me believe in objects. We have her model of the wall down in the basement, ready for installation. Mats [Stjernstedt, artistic director of Kunstnernes Hus] personally drove to her house to pick it up. Eija-Riita has sadly just passed away in a fire in her house and the catalouge is in memory of her.
NS: That’s so sad to hear.
LL: I’m very sad to lose her. She was an eccentric, she was my idol, my muse and my hero. Erica Eiffel, also from the movie, is here for the opening which is comforting.
NS: How did you find Eija-Riita and the idea for the film?
LL: On the Internet. I read about her and hoped, while I was reading, that this wasn't already an art project, which it wasn't, luckily for me.
NS: Do you start many films like this?
LL: Many projects have come to me like this. My fascination with the object has been with me all my life. You could say the research for my Morrissey video started when I bought my first Smiths album when I was twelve. There are so many clues in his covers.
NS: It’s crazy how many things are connected in your Morrissey Foretelling The Death of Diana (2006). [A montage of existing film clips that evolve into an intricate and conspiratorial narrative of two pop culture icons.]
So, let's talk about your new work, which is very topical. First, what’s it like to be an artist in these times?
LL: The world has changed profoundly in these past three weeks. It’s like with the Oslo attacks – you couldn't make the same art afterwards as you did before. You have to make sense of it in a different matter and this is something we need to figure out. I feel that my latest work is very political and became even more relevant.
NS: In Season of Migration to the North (2015), refugee Eddie Ismael tells his story of coming to Norway from Sudan, and as a parallel story we hear the diary of Ruth Maier, an Austrian refugee in Norway during the Second World War. And this started with you reading a book about Ruth Maier?
LL: Yes, I read The Diaries of Ruth Maier. She was called the lesbian Anne Frank, and had this amazing romance with Gunvor Hofmo, who later became Norway's most prominent modernist poet. They were the first open gay couple that we know about in Norway. But they only had their affair for a year or so before Maier was sent to Auschwitz.
NS: In your conversation with Uuo, you say the best stories are your own.
LL: I believe in that, or that you have to make the stories your own. Eddie’s an architect, and knowing his story, the work became more about the fact that Scandinavia isn’t the humanist gay-friendly utopia you think it is. He said he’s never experienced as much racism and homophobia as in the Norwegian gay community.
NS: Tell me about the installation in which you're showing the movie.
LL: The audience will sit on scaffolding, because I wanted to stage a fashion show. And there’s this voiceover telling his story, and Eddie also designed the installation of the scaffolding. He also refers to Ruth Maier’s diary in the voice over.
NS: So this is very much a collaborative project, as you've done before with Kjersti Andvig and Benjamin A. Huseby?
LL: In a way, all my projects are. I don't want to create something just from myself. Maybe that's my new phase – that I’ll become very introspective.
NS: So what would you like to do now?
LL: Maybe the animal rescue centre I've started in Palestine. They don't like dogs there. When I was there, some friends were taking care of some dogs, but they really didn't know what they were doing – they didn't know how to handle dogs. I had to help.
NS: Will we see a video about this in the near future?
LL: No, this is just something I do. It has nothing to do with art.
NS: But will it ever become art? Have you done any filming there?
LL: I have filmed a little, but I don't think so. I'm also getting a driver’s licence. Palestinian people seldom adopt dogs, so we need to bring them over to the other side by car. No one wants to go across the border from Israel to Palestine, so I'm going to learn to drive after this is over. I'm neither an Arab nor a Jew, so I'll be fine.
And then I'm building a studio at my home in Brønnøysund. All my projects have been connected to the places in which I work. Now I'll try to create two bases – Brønnøysund and the Middle East. I'll try to make sense of the two places in order to become a new person.
NS: What are your hopes for the people coming to see your work?
LL: I hope they’ll download the catalogue. I feel I've succeeded when people go home and read more, google my work and keep on thinking further. That’s a great compliment.
You can download the catalogue for free at www.drsprucebooks.com.
Kompendium opens this Friday at Kunstnernes Hus, and will premiere Lauman’s latest work Season of Migration to the North (2015) among other videos like Morrissey Foretelling the Death of Diana (2006), Berlin Wall (2008) and You Can't Pretend to be Somebody Else, You Already Are (a collaboration with Benjamin A. Huseby from 2009–2011).