DOWNTOWN 500 ZINE IS ECLIPSING A GREAT TALK WITH ONE OF SCANDINAVIA’S DARKEST ARTISTS?
IS THE DARKNESS SO DARK AS IT SEEMS? OR MAYBE, THERE IS AN ILLUMINATING ENLIGHTENMENT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TUNNEL?
OTHER ARTISTS MAY FEEL CHALLENGED DUE TO THE FACT THAT MORTEN’S WORKS IS DRILLING A UNIQUE POSITION IN THE SCANDINAVIAN ART SHELF, MUCH THANKS TO HIS UNCONVENTIONAL CHOICE OF MATERIALS, THEMES AND PERSONAL MEANS.
HIS GENTLE PERSONAGE WORKS WITH DIVERSE EXPRESSIONS: FROM CONCEPTUALLY BASED OBJECTS, INSTALLATIONS, AND PERFORMANCES, TO PAINTINGS, PRINTS, AND PHOTOS. MANY OF US REMEMBER HIS BABY RATS IN LOCAL GROCERY STORES, AND HIS PAINTING-TECHNIQUE USING A DEAD PERSON’S HAND.
MORTEN IS QUITE SHOCKING FOR MANY REASONS… HIS UNTRADITIONAL MATERIALS AND TECHNICAL CHOICES ARE VERY PROVOCATIVE AND HAS CREATED A FLARING DEBATE THROUGHOUT NORWAY, THOUGH MORE IMPORTANTLY – MORTEN VISKUM GENERATES A NEW INTEREST’S DIMENSION AND TEMPT OUR CURIOSITY TO ROLL OVER THE EDGE.
DT 500 ZINE MET WITH MORTEN VISKUM HIMSELF, WHO’S MASTERING IN HIS OWN INDUSTRIAL HOOD, IN OSLO SUBURBIA, – VESTFOSSEN.
”DEATH, DEATH, DEATH! ”
THIS IS HOW ASTRID LINDGREN AND HER SISTER GREETED EACH OTHER WHEN THEY TALKED ON THE PHONE.
WE ALL STRIVE TO KEEP DEATH AT BAY, WELL KNOWING THAT WE ALL WALK THE SAME ROAD. NOT NOW. NOT TOMORROW. ANOTHER DAY! NO ONE WANTS TO PLAY CHESS WITH DEATH, RIGHT? WE EXERT OURSELVES TO THE UTMOST DESPITE KNOWING THE UNAVOIDABLE OUTCOME.
STILL, WE LONG FOR DEATH, THE ULTIMATE LIBERATOR. DO WE? WHY IS IT SO?
THE WORKS OF MORTEN VISKUM MAY SEEM PROBLEMATIC, EVEN OFFENSIVE. SEVERAL OF HIS WORKS ASK EXISTENTIAL QUESTIONS ABOUT LIFE AND DEATH, RELIGION AND POLITICS. HE TESTS YOU BY SHOWING YOU DIFFERENT FORMS OF DEAD ANIMALS, HUMAN BODY PARTS AND OTHER ORGANIC MATERIALS LIKE BLOOD AND CANCER CELLS.
AT THE ART ACADEMY, MORTEN VISKUM LET HIMSELF BE INSPIRED BY YOUNG BRITISH ARTISTS (Y.B.A.) SUCH AS DAMIEN HIRST, TRACEY EMIN, MARCUS HARVEI, AND SO ON. THEY ALL GAINED ATTENTION THROUGH STRONG AND SENSATIONAL EXPRESSIONS. MORTEN SEEMS TO HAVE SOME OF THE SAME TENDENCIES:
♣ HE IS COURAGEOUSLY HONEST, TICKLY DIRECT
♣ EVEN ON THE VERGE OF BEING BRUTAL. (PSST – JUST LIKE DT 500 MAG.)
Any way, DAMIEN HIRST ONCE SAID:
” TO SHOCK IS THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE LIFE AND DEATH VISIBLE ”
DT 500 MAG SHARES THE CONTEMPORARY ART CONTEXT OF MORTEN VISKUM AND REQUIRES MORE ATTENTION AND REFLECTION OVER TIME, IN ORDER FOR SEVERAL LAYERS OF MEANING TO BE ABLE TO EMERGE. WE MUST HAVE A DEEP AND HONEST DIALOGUE WITH THE ARTWORK IN ORDER TO GET ANYTHING OUT OF IT.
SCANDALOUS AND BOMBASTIC DEVICES MUST BE DIGESTED; ONLY THEN WE CAN ASK OURSELVES WHAT THE WORK MEANS AND WHAT IT CAN TELL US.
THE GENIUS OF VISKUM FORCES US TO ANALYZE:
♣ OUR OWN ATTITUDES,
♣ OUR FEELINGS,
♣ REFLECTIONS AND ETHICS,
♣ AS WELL AS TO EXPLORE THE RELATION BETWEEN ART AND SOCIETY.
VISKUM’S PERSONAL HISTORY AND BACKGROUND HOLDS GREAT SIGNIFICANCE CONCERNING HIS ABILITY TO MAKE ART THAT IMPACTS THE WIDER SOCIETY.
NEITHER ART FOR ART’S SAKE NOR ART FOR THE FEW IS THE RELEVANT MANTRA, RATHER AN ART FOR EVERYONE!
DT 500 MAG DARES YOU TO BE TEMPTED BY THE INSPIRING CONVERSATION WE HAD WITH ONE OF THE MOST QUINTESSENTIAL AND RARE CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS AROUND, HERE BY A NORWEGIAN FJORD
DT 500 MAG – Let’s start from your roots Morten, what did you play with when you were a child?
MORTEN: – I was always more interested in the process than the results. As a child I was more of a nerdy type, I kind of enjoyed my own company, building things, using my hands, making sand palaces, destroying them and building them again. The process was the most important to me, more important than the goal. I had fun with matchbox cars, building roads, bridges, and so on.
DT 500 MAG: – Kind of like a young, creative engineer?
MORTEN: – More like an architect, I was more concerned with ideas and visions than solid results…
DT 500 MAG: – Any stories from the past that can give us some mint impressions of you?
MORTEN: – It all started so long I remember myself, nature was fascinating me, so dead birds did as well, at 5th grade me and my friends were doing bird-ringing, which was inspiring to me at the time. I also remember some impressions I got from art pieces. I remember an exhibition of Yves Klein from one time I went to a museum as a small boy. He made art using flames.
DT 500 MAG: – Morten, you studied for 6 years to become a Veterinarian – then you decided to quit for the Art Academy… Can you shed some light on why you decided to change your profile so fundamentally?
MORTEN: – I had always dreamed of being an artist. But my grandfather advised me that I should get a more serious education, and do art when I had finished instead. I started veterinary school and did very well for some years, but I was always more interested in art. I was way more interested in animal nature than in Latin names. My private art interest was always dominating. The process of making the great switch took some time, but in the end, I just couldn’t reject myself.
DT 500 Mag: – Never reject yourself homies! What is about your fascination with rats?
MORTEN: – I did ”RATS / OLIVES PART I” in 1995, and when that happened, my family fully understood that I would never become a veterinarian.
” The thing with the rats is not so visual but conceptual, it is important that the rats once were alive. “
DT 500 MAG: – any other animal candidates?
MORTEN: – I also tried to work with cats and puppies, but it turned out that the concept was too intimate for the audience and it could be discussed too easily.
” So I started working mainly with rats, which would be easier for people to translate directly into their understandings. I want to question the reality that a lot of people don’t want to identify themselves with.”
DT 500 MAG: – Yes it is a dilemma….
MORTEN: – The Norwegian Embassy in India was actually interested in buying my work if I was willing to change the title, which was “Blood, Cancer Cells and Colour I ”. I made 2 versions, the other one called ”Beauty ”.
DT 500 MAG: – What is it about your fascination with dead body parts? Your marked chopped-off hands?
MORTEN: – As a veterinary student I got used to studying animal corpses, from horses to insects. In 1996 I made an artwork with a pig head installation specifically for the Fall exhibition.
” The visitors got a possibility to meet me and talk to me, and a lot of people asked me why I had chosen a dead animal. I answered: because I didn’t have the possibility to get a human body. From this moment on I started involving human bodies in my artworks.”
DT 500 MAG: – How did you get your first hand to collect?
MORTEN: – That is a mystery! It had to lay in formalin for six months before I could use it. For a while, I doubted the project. After six months I could finally use the hand and I made a painting named “The hand that never stopped painting I “ . 17 years later I still use this hand in some projects.
” I even did an exhibition where my visitors could choose if they wanted to see or not when I was drawing with the hand.”
DT 500 MAG: – How many hands do you have?
MORTEN: – I have 7 different hands, 2 women’s hands and 5 men’s.
” I did a painting named ”Rest In Peace” made by the hand of 22-year-old man, who took his own life.”
DT 500 MAG: – What is it like to use the hand of a person who is actually dead?
MORTEN: – First, I want to say that I treat all my human and animal parts with the utmost respect.
“I have been contacted by a few new-age groups as well, asking me if I am falling into a trance-like a shaman, and I have to say that no, I do not.”
DT 500 MAG: – What inspires you?
MORTEN: – I let the history inspire me, Yes.
“I had an exhibition in Venice once, and the local police officer was really destructed by my hands, I am a Protestant and we have a bit of a different view on things than Catholics, so I don’t see this as a requiem, it has a whole other status for me. I use 50/50 human or animal organs.”
DT 500 MAG: – In your work, you use controversial characters like Breivik, hands, coffins, rats etc… Kind of rebellious for a banal mind… Morten, do you feel possessed in a way?
MORTEN: – I have a work named “SELF-PORTRAITS”. It’s a series of myself in various stages. Every year on my birthday, I order a silicon cast specially made for me in a particular pose.
DT 500 MAG: –YES, we really love it. Homies-you’s have to see it in Vestfossen. Highly recommended! Morten, pls tell us more about that artistry….
MORTEN: – The cast then becomes a part of an even larger installation in which I present myself in various contexts. I once posed as Jesus, and NRK was following me around on my exhibition in Paris at the time. I have also posed as a Scientist, which reflects more of my science background, a “Perfect Sculpture”, where I visualized the body-fixation in our society, a Financier – I made myself into a man crushed by the financial crisis of 2008. I named it ”NO WAY”. I made my own Breivik after the tragedy of July 22nd, 2011. I was thinking for a while and decided to present him as a clown in his typical clothing style. Actually, the Breivik-figure has only the hair and beard a la Breivik, the rest is actually mine. In 2010 I even performed myself as a Transvestite.
DT 500 MAG: – EVERYONE! -We were bewitchingly “tortured” by Morten’s “Breivik sculptures“, it was literary blowing our minds out, we were tested by his dark visionary, deeply diverse in the range of emotions. A lot of Impressions. Impressions by his gelid work will pull persistently for a long time in your unconsciousness before you will figure out a right place to land it down into sanity. You can suck it out over and over again, and again for richer inspirational moments of darkness by stretching the truth… A Master – Morten. Take a trip to VESTFOSSEN, it is the right place to experience his artistry. Morten, any newcomers this year?
MORTEN: – This year I had my Jubilee of 50 years and I made myself as Charlie Chaplin, I was inspired by “Charlie Hebdo”. This work is exhibiting in England today. My next exhibition will show all the copies together in the Haugar Art Museum.
“I am not a rebel. I want to show the reality, and that reality, not every person can manage.”
DT 500 MAG: – Christ vs Satan?
MORTEN: – I am Christian with all that includes… doubts hope and so on. I believe in the afterlife, but I have a Scholar in me that says the opposite. There are so many wars and cruel things in the world these days, but still, I do not believe in the Devil ha-ha.
DT 500 MAG: – Do you feel like a neo-dadaist? How are you discovering your style?
Morten: – I would not choose a neo-dada as a denotation. I have been called a maximalist. Actually, I do not care about names and brands. Well, this is your job… I want to inspire and whatever name comes out of that is up to the audience!
DT 500 MAG: – A maximalist the great! Any gigs in Norway these days?
MORTEN: – These are really exciting times for Oslo and Norway. Today you can experience whatever you wish. Like, on the 29th of February 2014, I became a member of the Norwegian Freemasonry. It gave me a sense of peace that helped me sort out my thoughts and it supported me to be a better, more compassionate person. It is a closed community and not just anybody can be part of it. Both my father and grandfather were members.
DT 500 MAG: – Let’s do open more rebellious doors, what do you think about the outsider art? What is today’s art form?
MORTEN: – That is a really good question… I am traveling a lot, and there are many good and bad artworks around. In Norway, it’s kind of important to have some kind of knowledge or even a degree, you can call yourself an artist or you are an artist… there are various forms of art, like ”outsider art” or “art brut”, an art form outside the boundaries of official culture, there is also the art of mentally challenged people, like talented, mentally ill people, which there are a lot of examples to take from.
DT500 MAG: – Yes, like Kusama, she is a funny granny, she is actually having the atelier/studio in a mental hospital at the same place she is hosted. Morten but what do you think personally about Art Brut?
MORTEN: – I personally think the outsider artist is the artist who uses a deductive method. Or ”top-down” logic. People who don’t have an academic degree in art. There are a lot of famous ones. I believe the most important is to make your life good!
DT 500 MAG: – Live Art Brut! You have some pieces in your personal collection of art, can you name some faves?
MORTEN: – There is a woman named ROSE WYLIE, she is English, I have always been fascinated by her works. I met her and we had a really exciting dialogue. I bought a few art pieces of hers which hang over my bed today. She presents a kind of Primitive Art with very unique romanticism. Her work is really honest, she makes things we already know, feel new. Rose demonstrates an organic approach to the materiality of paintings, her playful virtuosity matching with monumental power.
DT 500 MAG: – Yes, she is a fine one! Thanx again for a book of her mastery. Let’s talk about us, our project inspired by ”The Downtown 500” NYC, the legendary “Underground Crew” of creative people from the East Village in the 80s: J.M.Basquiat, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry and so on. What is your impression of that time?
MORTEN: – I think that at that time there were less who dared, and there was less global awareness considering the talent. There were fewer people who were clear about their need to express themselves. So the Downtown-crew made the right move, in the right place, at the right time…
DT 500 MAG: – Compared to the 80-ies, there is a lot of technology boosts at times today, what role will it play in the future?
MORTEN: – I remember when the first mobile phone came out, I paid like 15 000 kroner for it and it was huge! Today we use iPhones….but I don’t think we can go ahead forever with technology.
” It will bring more possibilities, sure, you can do whatever you want at any time, our phones bring us closer to ourselves, but sometimes it can go wrong when we use technological devices rather than talking to people in person. A smartphone is a very practical tool in everyday life, but sometimes turning it off can be extremely liberating.”
DT 500 MAG: – How is Oslo these days? A top 3 á la Morten Viskum of things to do in Oslo?
MORTEN: – I would recommend Grønland, it is a really exotic and interesting place in Oslo. The whole area is a jumble of people, spices, and fabrics. My second tip is, of course, the Astrup Fearnley Museum, it is essential for Oslo. Otherwise, I thrive well in “Dagligstuen” with my dear friend Unni Askeland!
DT 500 MAG: – Unni Askeland the legend alive…-Legend Alive and Visual Artist Unni Askeland sits down at #DT500REDSOFA with us, remember Chronicles Series. Talking about art, the kiss, a killer and Andy Warhol. Follow Up, More to Come)
DT 500 MAG: –What is next to Morten Viskum?
MORTEN: – I have a project going on at Pere Lachaise In Paris, where I look after graves of the dead and take photo portraits of the pictures on the graves. This is a project I will never end. There is always a new grave. I am also a General Manager at VESTFOSSEN ARTLAB. My studio, my office, and my gallery are there. It’s where my whole job takes place. I will probably work there for 5 or max 10 years until I find a strong leader to take over. After that, I can go all the way being a full-time artist.
DT 500 MAG: – WATCH OUT! There is an exhibition of Morten at FINE ART GALLERY
ABSOLUT VISKUM III
RETROSPEKTIV 1993-2016, 7-17 APRIL 2016
Graphic Design by: Biotom
Interview by: Arthur Sopin
Photographer: Andreas Roed
© DOWNTOWN 500 MAGAZINE