Focusing on involuntary acts, specifically those driven by affect, Ingrid Eggen examines the body’s non-verbal communication and symbolism.
A conversation between Ingrid Eggen and Nina Strand.
Nina Strand: Your latest photo series, Knegang, is as if created for this issues on the flexible image. The project fuses internal and external emotional experience into one. Can you expand on that?
Ingrid Eggen: I work with symbols and signs based on communication, exploring different ways to dismantle and distort body language. The gestures I use are both common ones, such as those used in formal gatherings or meetings – i.e. raising one’s hand when wanting time-out – and from more obscure contexts such as activist groups, biblical and occult imagery and fantasy. Dismantling and distorting these body signals reduces them to powerless gestures, though covertly offering resistance to and commenting on the situations within the motifs. My goal is to create a new language, through the body’s way of collecting and storing information unconsciously. The unnatural is cited as the natural so as to portray life’s absurdities.
NS What inspired this project?
IE I’m concerned with the body and its affective actions, i.e. involuntary ones, the ones we deem irrational. These actions are on a par with affect theory in that they turn us away from the rational and towards the notion that something more basic informs our actions, such as muscles, reflexes and instinct. How do we act if our senses determine our movements and utterances, e.g. in relation to our decision-making processes?
NS Our issues consider the relation between image and text and the image as action or symbol.
IE Knegang also considers signs and symbols in light of the ongoing simplification of language following the abundance of social media and new technologies. Conversely, our range of expressions of emotion and states of mind has broadened.
NS Tell us about your process so far.
IE I’ve been working on Knegang for the past year. The motifs have developed through multiple takes. To meet the demands of bodily strain that the image entails, I’ve used various models for each motif. It might be that the joints of one model are too tight or short, or there’s an impromptu shivering, which ruins the ambiguity of that particular work. By using myself as model I tentatively approach the motifs before getting models involved, yet the end result is impossible to predict. I find that exciting. My intention with this project is to put the various pieces into a conversation. I’m trying this out at Galleberg Gallery this fall. Cautiously titled Kneganger, the exhibition opened the 29th of October.
NS The group exhibition Vårsalong at TM51 Gallery this past winter featured works from your series RestrictedFlora. These images created a buzz for their performative character. I’m so happy we’re featuring works from this project in this issue. You are working on a new flower project, FloraTulips. Can you tell us about it?
IE The tulip with its simple and elegant lines, in many ways the flower of modernism and functionalism, is in its own right a visual perfection of nature. I’m interested in the tulip as a means of communication, as with the RestrictedFlora motifs. FloraTulips will consist of numerous bouquets of tulips displacing, distorting and challenging their natural form, as aesthetic object and symbol. It’s all about violating that perfection.
NS Your consistency has earned you recognition. Steffen Håndlykken’s text for your collaborated project with Admir Batlak FORHØST at Gallery 1857 last year underlined this: “On the one hand there are clothes, on the other hand there are photographs. There are bodies in the photographs and the clothes fit on the bodies, and cover up the bodies, and show off the bodies that are in the photographs. The bodies are doing all the work, unzip this, button that, hook it up and tie it down while the camera collects its fractions of moments. Clothes posit poise, while the camera postures posing, punctum, full stop.” These works underscore your expressive consistency and become acts.
IE The image is no longer a representation, but rather an action. We see so many images today, so it’s crucial that the image isn’t confined to any one reading.
NS Yes, what makes us stop and look? My feeling is that everything is so recognisable. I was scrolling through Instagram before you got here, and saw over 30 images in two minutes. That’s a lot of information, almost too much.
IE We see this kind of confinement in writing as well – shorthanding with smileys and symbols.
NS Is it that we simply don’t have the time to stop and look? Are press releases becoming obsolete? Maybe a single image would suffice.
IE At the very least, a press release should expand on and add to the current exhibition, not explain it to me.
NS I agree. I don’t want to see answers on the wall, I want question marks, something more than what I just read in the press release.
IE Images that obstruct and stir something within themselves and simultaneously within us.
NS Both D2 and Kunstkritikk recently argued that photography falls outside the scope of contemporary art, and the interest we’re seeing from the larger institutions is novel. But that’s not true, is it?
IE Is the photograph exhibited less than other media?
NS No, it’s everywhere. The latest interviews we have published online includes AURDAL / MUGAAS at Kunstnernes Hus, Weaknesses, Secrets, Lies by Mattias Härenstam at The Vigeland Museum and Beyond the Veil by Geir Moseid at Noplace. That’s three camera-based artists shown in Oslo just this last month. (March 2016.)
IE I agree, the photographic is more visible. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the exclusively photographic exhibition spaces are crucial when studying the medium. How durable are these spaces when confronted with such extensive visibility in other venues?
NS Time will show. Fotogalleriet turns 40 next year, which might be a watershed for that space at least. In my opinion, a publicly funded gallery like Fotogalleriet should set the agenda and reflect the current photo-based art scene. In 2007, for its 30th anniversary, the gallery, with Ida Kierulf at the helm, asked Tom Sandberg, one of the initial founders, to curate the celebratory exhibition. He showed relatively unknown photographers Morten Andenæs and Ola Rindal, putting his finger on the pulse of the current scene. Lillehammer Kunstmuseum made an attempt to give an overview with their May exhibition Slow Pictures, on contemporary photography. You were in it?
IE The exhibition, curated by Janeke Meyer Utne and Christine Hansen, examined various notions of contemporary photography, with heightened attention to the digital impact on the image. By way of the photograph as object, materiality and light, the artists are underscoring the idea of the photographic. The works generate a notion of delay, creating a silence and space to reflect.
NS In a way, we’re back where we started. So why do we continue to create when surrounded by all this static? What is it that we want to convey?
IE My feeling is that we want to offer another perspective, a potential fracture or opening, and sometimes pause. What viewers ultimately gain should be largely undefinable and non-restricted. Even when art is rigid, when it’s good it leaves room for the viewer to reflect.
This interview was first published in Objektiv #13, The Flexible Image Part I.