Modernism detaches itself from broader history, and I don’t think that should necessarily be the case. I learned much later about the Renaissance and antiquities. You find traces if you dig deeper into it. I felt it necessary to add historic layers for my own sake, as a learning process. I think that’s how that started. Also, I started to travel much more to Italy and looking at fantastic things that are part of the cultural production. The boxes came much earlier, and they have much more of a modernist context to it.
I was raised Catholic and went to church every Sunday, and I hated it. But today I feel fortunate to have been raised with this crazy iconographic imagery. You have to respect it. It’s a culture that’s brutal and bloody and perverse.
It’s taken from popular culture. It’s all done with a bit of humour [laughs]. And it’s liberating, I needed that. In the beginning, I had difficulties expressing those words, but now I feel fine with it. That’s good enough for me.
[Laughs] I think so. It’s not provocation because it’s about myself first of all.
I think almost everything—society and social constrictions and expectations of what is happiness, etc.—is constructed by other people. I was raised with ideas of things that didn’t fit me, and I think they fit very few people in general. We have to push these aside to be able to insert ourselves into them, to find a space for ourselves.
We were all raised with this expectation that if we get a family and a good job, we will be happy. It’s just not right, especially in my case as a gay man from another culture, raised in Denmark, that’s a lot of baggage. From very early on I had to renegotiate these things, and yes, I think this is reflected in the work I’m doing.
Of course, it’s terrible. But it also expresses the structure that defines it. It would be different if it’s a white man making abstract paintings because it comes from the dominant structure. If it doesn’t get expressed, then we don’t define it.
It’s like two guys holding hands in the street 20 years ago; people would say that they were bringing their private life into the public. But if a man and a woman do that, it doesn’t get defined because it’s hidden within the dominant structure.
Or like burkinis. You can lay naked on the beach and it doesn’t get noticed, but if you’re wearing a scarf or covering up, people are outraged that you’re expressing your private life in public. What is this? What is the public and who defines it? It’s a really tricky definition. It’s what I oppose. And it’s not a fixed structure either. That powerful structure moves all the time and we’re not even aware of it. I think that is why we have to challenge these notions.
Yes, well I have had too many teachers and priests in my life [laughs]. I don’t want to act like them and impose more dogma. You can suggest things, and people can use it or not.
If I knew that I would be a very rich man [laughs].
It’s very simple. When I put things together and it becomes too direct, then I feel that it’s not right. It’s a constellation of things that still leaves openness and freedom. It’s allowing people the space to still insert themselves into the work.
Yes, the dialogue, and freedom, for sure.
Yeah, it’s a risk every time because I don’t work with a studio. The exhibition space becomes the place of experimentation, so I have some ideas and materials that I bring with me, and then I get to work.
I think, of course I have a reason that I use certain references and imagery, but to be honest when I install it’s primarily aesthetic. When you see the fridge with the box (Lick me, Lick me), it’s all fragments inside. And then the cardboard Budweiser box has fragments of a flag inside, but you barely see it unless you know that it’s there. That’s the same idea of when you have a fragment. You only need a piece. You don’t need the whole thing, just a piece to give you the freedom to imagine. —[O]