If you sit by a fire telling stories you need wood for the fire to burn – Max Ockborn – research and development

If you sit by a fire telling stories, you need wood for the fire to burn.

A text by Max Ockborn about his previous works, work process and perspectives. September 2016

I work above all with spatial installations that comprise sculpture, painting, crafted objects as well as found objects that I sometimes modify. These usually end up containing different materials with as many different stories linked to them, some of which are told while others aren’t. I write texts as complements for the pieces and work quietly with maintenance work in the places where I am, a bit like an unpaid janitor or cleaner. I try to implement an eco- and resource-friendly thinking in my work.

In the registering and observing moments of my process, what counts to me is comparing and sorting impressions in order to be able to bring something up for discussion. Series of material samples that leave traces in the material lists of the pieces are always present. The tests are conducted in order to get to know the materials and see what they might have in mind and to get to know the site they occupy. In the same way I test the places that we inhabit, the spatial area. How we act there, what we seem to want, how we experience the portions of the space and how these divisions may be fluid in subjective, objective and collective experiences. Transformation plays an important part in my work. How different things and actions shift, how parallel storytellings unfold and simultaneously become form. Nothing can ever be sure to be exempt from editing or deconstruction, however the selection of materials should be able to reveal something about the place.

I want to negotiate and communicate with my environment through sculpture, discuss what sculpture and spatial installation can mean and how it could look.

I like to work thoroughly with the spatial imagery where I exhibit, and the installations may claim the whole space. The border between work and the rest tends to become vague, it exits the space and acquires a social dimension. The pieces might come to resemble people or portraits. It is an advantage and slightly diffuse what the piece actually is, if it manages to hide in itself this way. The expedition travels inwards, but as a projection onto the physical world. If you are careful and offer all things in the space a chance, you can in some way get them to collaborate among themselves, a system is established, that can be sensed by others. The cleaning and the repairing are both vital functions in order to make the environment blend, as well as placement and engagement wiht the social interplay. That the installations are specific to the sites is often more important than the specificity of the sites themselves.

We are able to work withouth physical entry points but might be able to find something else via the physical, in form, a base for conversation, by presenting a context through the materials of an installation, but also by trying to get rid of them. I think they could be a channel for something else. If you sit by a fire telling stories you need wood for the fire to burn. The sculpture becomes a means for a discussion or a negotiation with those who come in contact with it. By understanding about the materials, one will be able to get rid of them. As if trying to reach a subjective, projected understanding of what one thinks the materials want and what their potential functions might want, in order to then leave it behind, mentally and physically. Most likely, the materials or their functions don’t have a desire of their own; they won’t care about what you want from them.

As a memory the artwork becomes a story or a part of a story, a comment in a discussion. In a subjective visual observation one always excludes all angles except for the one that the eye focuses on, but the central visual perspective of the eye covers a very small percentage. The eye wanders in order to build up an image of the space. Meanwhile, in the peripheral vision a negotiation takes place between the memory and the eye; sight is thus not only occurring in the present, and the eye is an instrument. It is not the eye, but the brain that sees the picture. The impression of a spatial image that is beyond sight but can be accessed by other senses influences the overall impression a lot. Remembering the way a material feels can mean that you add this sensation to the visual image, once you see it. We are only capable of living directly in what we call the present, outside of dreams, and a sculpture is something you can touch at once. It isn’t covered by a screen, no layers need to be removed before the contact happens, and this suits me.

Some of my interests are far-reaching, others short-sighted, some are based on collaboration. If it benefits the work I will scrap the old. I am interested in our outlook on existence and how these views trigger separate expressions in different fields of work and daily life. There are points of contact where we draw comparisons between language or traces of signs. These can be interpretations of what exists in the hidden, about others’ knowledge of materials, the relationship between affection and reality, in existing via associations to other things, how one can relate to aesthetic and automatic choices or about the fact that the wants of nature and human beings are probably quite different in our time, about our separation from nature. There is at the same time a contemporary adjustment to older rituals and studies of these in my work, hopefully but not explicitly containing traces of ritual thinking. If I were to explicitly perform a ritual, there is a risk that it would be destroyed once it is named. It is hidden, unannounced. I try to remove or set aside overt symbolism in my work by reading about how symbols work and have been worked, as if trying to discard them by finding out more about them, just as I do with materials. It is what we don’t know that looms above, in common findings.

 

Connected Images

Image from work in progress by Max Ockborn 2015 Courtesy the artist and Cultural Documents

Image from work in progress by Max Ockborn 2015 Courtesy the artist and Cultural Documents

Image from work in progress by Max Ockborn 2015 Courtesy the artist and Cultural Documents

Image from work in progress by Max Ockborn 2015 Courtesy the artist and Cultural Documents

Image from work in progress by Max Ockborn 2015 Courtesy the artist and Cultural Documents

Image from work in progress by Max Ockborn 2015 Courtesy the artist and Cultural Documents

Image from work in progress by Max Ockborn 2015 Courtesy the artist and Cultural Documents

Image from work in progress by Max Ockborn 2015 Courtesy the artist and Cultural Documents