Wavepool – When viewing your work, I find myself constantly questioning the difference between fact and fiction. Scientific practice maintains a strong influence as a factual reference, while the suggestion of value borders on something more fictional. Do you distinguish between the two?
Johan Rosenmunthe – No, on the contrary. I’m trying to make objects (including photographs) that would provoke the same thoughts as when you find an object buried in the ground and start researching what it is. What time is it from? Was it an important item or garden variety? To make these objects I research facts and fictional sources and don’t really distinguish between them. It’s exactly the valuation of the objects I make that I find interesting, the potential, the energy – the potential energy.
Wavepool – Is energy an inherent quality of an object, or something that must be applied and determined?
Johan Rosenmunthe – Both scenarios are possible. To me, Iron has a special energy because the atoms line up in a very organised way that makes it the most stable element we know. It has the structure that all other elements strive towards. On the other hand if a normal beach-stone has been in the collection of Scientology and used for something they will not disclose, a certain energy has been applied to that specific stone.
Wavepool – How do you convey that sensation in a photograph?
Johan Rosenmunthe – That’s a difficult question. Sometimes I feel a clean and simple photo of the object and a title is enough. And sometimes the work can be a little more in the direction of illustrations. But what I like the best is when I can find a way to include a system around the object to make a somewhat more potent work. I say in a quote on my website “Energy equals meaning. Materials outside systems are not interesting.”. And by systems i mean also the social context. To me, the pregnant womb is the ultimate sculpture because it is a closed system and at the same time the most complex object imaginable – physically and socially.
Wavepool – Considering that you work so heavily with objects, in what instance might a photograph be more meaningful than the actual object? What about the opposite?
Johan Rosenmunthe – A photograph is meaningful when you want to add the layer / distance of time. The fact that something was captured at a certain point and is not still available right in front of the audience. And when the 2D representation is important – weather it being the graphical qualities or the circumstances related to distribution of the work (for example including multiple works in one small object: a book). Or when the photographic process (including post-production) is part of the work.
An object (or installation of objects) itself makes more sense to display when 1) You actually have access to it, 2) It has a certain aura or energy that is important to feel and be close to, 3) You want the audience to be able to see all sides of it or 4) The simple act of bringing it into the gallery space is important.
Then of course there’s also other methods of exhibiting an object – writing about it, recording it on video or sound, having it as part of a performance, etc.
I guess this is very simplified and basic, but actually this is the first time I thought about it like this, so thanks for asking.
Wavepool – In installations of Tectonic, potential subjects for photographs are often included as objects in the exhibition space or they appear in performances. Can you talk about that image versus object relationship as it specifically relates to that work?
Johan Rosenmunthe – The objects that have been exhibited in relation to Tectonic never stood a chance of becoming photographs. They were selected because of their real-life properties such as being able to be placed on heads of performance-participants and sheets of glass. The things I have photographed for that body of work would have been a dull installation object if they weren’t utilised somehow. And I think increasingly fewer objects that I am making will make it into a photograph, rather than being utilised in the exhibition on it’s own. Photographs should be kept for those cases when the photographic process or the idea of a printed representation of something is a core point in the work.
Wavepool – Can you describe some examples of the opposite, where the subject could never survive as an object and must exist as a photograph?
Johan Rosenmunthe – I hope that is the case with most of my photographic works. They are not just a photograph of an object, but a result of a sort of small performance in front of a camera or in postproduction. An example could be one of the Tectonic images called Flooding the Cave – here I took a straight forward photo of a hidden cave I visited in Portugal. Afterwards I printed it, submerged the print into water and photographed that. At an exhibition I could have chosen to somehow install a real cave – it might actually have been a fun project, but most likely a poor and unfinished installation, compared to the photographic print. Here the print becomes the vehicle of a performative situation I couldn’t have made in real life, because the point also has to do with the water not actually being present in front of the audience, but just an interference in the layers of the work.
The print offers such a limited spectrum of information about the subject, that the possibilities of manipulating with that information is almost endless. That manipulation can either be a a result of a performative action or a wish to produce a certain graphic surface. I guess I use both of these approaches in my work, but I do find the first one more interesting.
To see more, please visit Johan’s website.