Video, Pictures and Memories

An objective (and unbiased) interview with Klas Eriksson and Simon Mullan

by Alida Ivanov

This interview got me thinking about moral and ethics when it comes to curating and art critique. This piece is based on neither.  I can start off by saying that I’ve known both Klas Eriksson and Simon Mullan for years. And now I’m curating this project with them and I’m very excited about it. In other words, this won’t be unbiased, or objective. But I want to come clean from the beginning.

The other day I got an email from Simon where he asked me if I was happy with how the project was developing and I have to say I am. Why so? And what is this project about?

Eriksson & Mullan will be finalized in a collaborative work of art and a live performance. The project was launched in the end of November 2012 as a webpage and is updated continually. It has the outline of an Internet-based storyboard. When one posts a video on the webpage, the other will answer with another video. 

Well, first of all I like that this is an online project, it automatically makes this a democratic issue. This is an age where artists are able to directly communicate with their audience. The other thing I like about it is that it is Simon and Klas. I had a vision that I wanted to combine their sense of humor and their themes into one big project. It becomes a clash of two great minds and a meeting of two amazing artists (my unbiased opinion).

Klas Eriksson (b. 1976) is a Stockholm-based artist, who graduated from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. Klas Eriksson’s point of departure is mass-culture, and by applying various strategies he explores our notions of authenticity, power and artistic expression. He borrows expressions from popular culture, subculture and different power structures.

Simon Mullan (b. 1981) is an artist from Vienna in Austria, but is based in Stockholm and Berlin. He graduated from The University of Applied Arts in Vienna and the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. He has, throughout his work, searched, explored and questioned conceptions and clichés of masculinity, macho culture, human fear and passion. Both artists work mainly with video, performance and sculpture.

The project is not aimed to be a battle, but it is interesting to see how these two relate to each other and to the web site.

Alida Ivanov: How is the project developing?

Simon Mullan: Very exciting. The concept of uploading videos on a daily basis, in conversation with a colleague, is a very challenging but fun work.

Klas Eriksson: It unfolds in an independent way! I’m getting more and more addicted to the project, longing for a new post from Simon. Its nice to get a fresh video from a fellow artist, and that I can interpret it in my own way. 

AI: Do you find each other inspiring?

KE: Yes, I’m inspired by Simon’s videos. Even though the language is quite different from mine, I feel that it triggers me in a creative and momentary way. It’s really like a dialogue. Putting too much thought into it would probably make it pretentious. Now it’s the first thing that pops in my mind that I stick with. And I find it important to me, and I guess for Simon as well. Each time we make a new and fresh video, we don’t use old footage. My camera is scrappier, but I like the visuals of this kind of quality, it works with me, and with my temperament.

AI: What is interesting about this project?

KE:It’s a total ego trip in one sense; I am the first to get a new “artwork” by Simon (pure luxury) and I have total independence in interpreting it. But for the viewer it also unfolds an artistic practice in a very raw format. It’s almost like blogging with a connection to each other’s visual language. In the end it will be interesting to see the whole compilation as a film, to see what comes out of it. Especially, its quantity – I really can’t remember what I posted last week. I think it could be nice if we attached psychoanalysis to the final outcome. It would definitely reveal a certain state of mind in different posts during the project.

Simon Mullan. Photo by: Petr Davydtchenko

AI: What do you say, Simon?

SM: I guess you could say that the project has some kind of lightness to it. The works are created very rapidly. The single action loses some impact, if you think of the videos as a chain of thoughts.  There are very interesting jump cuts in the videos. The thought of time and space becomes tremendously present through online sharing. I look at it very much as a type of a film essay.

Each video pictures memories. They are often fast produced (and in some cases the first thing you think of). It raises the question of how one could remember anything without pictures. As Klas and I at this moment are in different geographical locations, it helps us to create a wide range of pictorial experiences.

AI: Simon, would you say that this is a case study of how memories work?

SM: I wouldn’t say that it’s a study of how memories work, but it is definitely a take on pictures as a sort of medium of transporting memories. Ever since we acknowledged the “pictorial turn” in the beginning of the 90’s, a picture has become more important than a word. It is a crazy. A never-ending stream of pictures floats through our media every second. It has brought us fantastic new ways of communicating, it has made it possible for everyone to produce and publish pictures and, through that, share these picture memories.

In a film essay, like the one that we are currently working on, you could see an inside story of an artist’s working process.

AI: How has the response been?

SM: Mind-blowing.

KE: I don’t know really. But while talking and presenting the idea, people seem to be happy. The clicking digits on Youtube reveal some of the interest. I think Simon has the lead in this! But it’s all about his Go-pro camera.  (Laughs)

No, but the response seems nice, and I’m only focusing on responding to Simons video, it’s really addictive. 

AI: What is its goal?

SM: To live forever.

AI: Of course!

KE: To create a new kind of artistic film, where two independent artists interpret each other’s visual language, create their own reading of it, and then post it online. This is a storyboard that will be edited uncompromisingly as an art film. We are also planning to create two separate performances.  

AI: Be honest: is it a competition? A battle?

SM: Of course it is, and there can only be one winner.

KE: I wouldn’t call it that. Even though, it has some competitive feeling to it. Doing the videos is really a relief. It lacks prestige. It’s a game, where you, in the end, state your artistic practice. Simultaneously you develop it, in terms of the different ways of reading it and finding new interests.

AI: Who’s winning?

KE: Ok, since I am a humble Swede and since I’m in this with an Austrian artist, I won’t answer that. But I would definitely say that I’m on top. AND! I’m older. 

SM: Me.