Sveinn Fannar Jóhannsson opens Sinking Holes, Circles, Holes and Other Holes at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin tonight. We asked him four quick questions before the opening.
Could you elaborate on the title for this show?
The title is descriptive in regard of the content of both of the pieces that will be on display without disclosing all that will be to see. It is also adding a poetic layer and a possible doorway for the audience to discover connections between the works that are related to storage, disappearance and understanding of information.
Untitled (Holes) is an installation in which photographs of so-called "sink holes" – sudden fissures in the ground that appear all over the world for a variety of reasons and are therefore frequently documented in the media – are presented in the context of filigree-like, silver-coloured grid-based sculptures. You write that you develop your work starting from the premise that photographs in the digital age have no material quality initially but are pure data, saved and constantly retrievable, could you tell us more about this work?
The piece plays with the notion that the ground on which you are standing right now might just suddenly disappear and swallow you with it. This phenomenon serves the mainstream clickbait media through its combination of outward appearance and sensationalism and is therefore frequently reported on with a distanced excitement. Yet its hasty appearance through online sources originates from a radical natural condition that serves the idea of an indexical effect within the medium of photography. In the exhibition, I take one step back and stage these images in a fragile grid-system uniting a physical experience with ideas of collapse, disorder and attempted control.
Our issues of 2016 looks at the current state of the (photographic) image, as it seems to expand into two distinct, yet related manifestations: the image as text/sign versus the image as operation. The image as text: the image as readable sign: We were inspired by Aperture's issue Lit. and want to investigate if the image has taken over for the word, and if the gestures are taking over for the images. The written word is pressured in our quick, visual world. This is something Nancy Newhall already wrote about in Apertures very first issue 1952: “Perhaps the old literacy of words is dying and a new literacy of images is being born. Perhaps the printed page will disappear and even our records [will] be kept in images and sounds.” And so we ask everyone we interview about their relfections on the flexible image?
I am as concerned as I am intrigued by the changes and the possibilities within the whole specter of photographic development. I do believe that photographs per se are downright context-dependent and especially even more so by virtue of the sheer mass of photographic material produced, consumed and shared today. On one hand there is a very important contract between text and image, each nurturing and or manipulating the other, and I don’t see this changing. On the other hand, there is no doubt that photography of today is the main base for constructing and maintaining a social identity, in which the image has the upper hand.
You are also showing Untitled (Newspaper) from the group exhibition Diclocating Surfaces at Kunstnerhes Hus this spring. The newspaper contains archival materials, taken from online news over the last two years. Here you look closer at the relations between author, reader/viewer and content. A new book, Collected Good and Bad Ideas, will be presented on the occasion of the art book fair Friends with Books at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, in December 2016. Could you tell us more?
This particular book contains scanned images of handwritten sketches, notes and drawings from the last couple of years. They’re all made on paper recycled from my own more or less personal everyday and are shown with both the front and the back, revealing work in progress together with receipts, prescriptions, unfulfilled works and other ephemera. And it is subtly packed with references to my own production, art history and life in general.