Remove all computers, phones, relationships and obligations, can you face yourself?

In today’s age, our lives might be better described as a series of networked relationships – work, family, etc. –  in each network the performance is defined and so is our perception of ourselves as well. This premise might fail under some readings as actor-network theory with each object associated in these performances performing in this network as much as the humans. So, the mobile phone, the iPad and all technologies form both a mediation between us, but increasingly we have this relationship with an object that makes us act in a certain way; it’s is an actor as much as we are. (See the pervasiveness of text messaging over phone calls.)

What happens when we have to face each other with nothing else, or better yet, ourselves? This is the question embarked upon by Finnish-Swedish artist Hans Rosenstrom’s body of work, whose current work Mikado is on view at the Pigeon Wing in London (and the topic of discussion with our own Stephen Fortune and Renee Carmichael on Thursday, April 28th). The work forces you to spend 4 minutes staring into a mirror listening to an unsettling narrative.

We caught up with Rosenstrom to discuss how he creates experiences.

Many of your works are site-specific. Can you discuss what’s it like when you make a site-specific work?

I believe that time and space affect the way one interprets a work, so at some point, I started to take the surrounding of the work in the process of planning the work. Many of my works start from the space where they are shown; for me this is not architectural or sociological approach, I rather look for some sort of “feeling” in the space. Lately, I have been taking part in many different exhibitions and feel that the quality of the work is not in it being site-specific but that it melts in and becomes a part of the site. This way justifying the works existence and also opening up for a new reading of the site and the one’s presence in it.

At the same time there is some sort of confrontation is often involved in your work, whether it be a mirror held up to a viewer or people listening to a narrative facing each other, can you discuss what draws you to make such confrontations apart of your installation?

It is true that I am very interested in the actual encounter in a work of art; with this encounter I have tried to create a very personal and private situation where you as a viewer no longer look at a specific work but hopefully see a glimpse inside yourself.

Do you think the confrontation is different for the audience in a Nordic context verses say an American one? That is, do you think that in certain places people are more uncomfortable facing each other in an intimate setting than in other ones?

I believe that confrontation is individual and happens on many different layers. Of course, there might be differences between American and Nordic audiences, but I would assume that it starts already at a more personal and local level.

Do you think it’s hard in today’s culture to ask people to reflect on themselves for four minutes?

I guess it is fairly easy to make the circumstances for that but it is very hard to create work where the audience would actually take home that experience.

At the Pigeon Wing in London, you’re showing Mikado which requires that the viewer face themselves four minutes in a mirror. I’ve heard people have a hard time to looking at themselves in the face for that long. Why do you think that is?

Maybe they find things they wanted to forget?

Mikado is on view through the 30th. Rosenstrom will have a piece on view at the Prague Quadriennial in June.

The Pigeon Wing

Hans Rosenstrom

Actor-Network Theory

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