Amalie Jakobsen at Gether Contemporary

Talking about mastering the spaces in between objects, people and color with Danish artist Amalie Jakobsen

Published:
March 30, 2017

Words:
J. Scott Stratton & Amalie Jakobsen

Artist Links:
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Obtaining an understanding of the space between objects—if other words, the relationship between positive and negative space—is a fundamental building block for artists, designer, architects, interior designers, etc. Yet, while these fundamentals are often the basis for good aesthetics between exterior object outside of our own bodies, rarely do we include our own physical form into the equation. Spatial awareness is reserved for navigation throughout the physical world, not for contemplating whether or not our presences effects the Feng Shui of a room. How many times have you walked into a room and asked yourself how the introduction of your presence has changed the aesthetic? How many times have looked upon an artwork and pondered on how your gaze alters it.

Outside of the genre of stage arts and performance, It is rare altogether for us to include organic beings into the discussion of spatial representation unless those organic bodies are explicitly being used aesthetically. It is almost as if we are predisposed to think of inorganic and organic matter as to whole separate things in relation to space, with “human” matter to be the pinnacle silent observer of everything. In other words, we often fall into a thinking that the world exists solely for us to gaze upon, and our own physical bodies are irrelevant to aesthetics of space.

What struck me as interesting about the sculptural and performative artwork of Danish artist Amalie Jakobsen is her explicit exploitation of our natural human tendency to remove ourselves from the spaces that we enter. It is not in our nature to walk into a gallery space and start to contemplate our own bodies affect the space and the artworks, and Jakobsen is very aware of this fact. Her work is based on research studying how spaces and color affect us, and she crafts her work specifically to exploit that.

We often forget our own bodies until an overwhelming emotional or physical sense reminds us of our relationship to the corporeal—be that through elation, uncomfort, pain, etc. Jakobsen’s sculptural work is crafted in a way to interrupt our natural laziness of drifting through a physical space.

For her upcoming exhibition at Gether Contemporary, I reached out to Amalie to get a better understanding of her forthcoming series of work entitled, Wrongdoers, focused on sculptural iconography and how these symbols affect us.

Can you tell me a little about your background as an artist? When it was that you made the choice to live the (often) financially unstable life of an artist?

The need to make things and to experiment is one of my first memories as a kid. As a teenager I painted, made installation, designed cloth and bags and growing up in Grenå (tiny city in Denmark) I was bullied in school for being different, making odd things and having ideas. So as soon as I had the chance and turned 18 I moved to London. To me London represented a multicultural metropolitan and freedom of expression and where I became friends and worked for other artist. At this point in my life I couldn’t imagine that art could be my life. I had a short detour where I studied art history for one year in Copenhagen before I decided to study art at Goldsmith University of London and move back to London. Goldsmiths was an amazing education with highly critical thinking and nearly no structure, so me and my peers constantly made shows and parties. Yes art is a very financially unstable life and probably the economy that’s is closet to drug dealing. But to me it is an important way of existing in society: Having time to reflect and do mad installations to see the world from an odd angle.

Can you tell me a little bit about your background with sculptural and performative works?

My fascination with performance grew out from the experiences of global movements: airports, supermarkets. My fascination and fear of the manipulation of the mass. The situation where we are programed to act in a certain way. As an example the distance of a door of 80 cm will always produce transit. And distance of 160 as in an airport queue you feel comfortable to stand and wait for more that 15 minutes without it feeling claustrophobic. I started to experiment with these proportions in my installations through purely forms and color.

My installations are spaces made for the human body, to articulate the given space and placement of color in space. It interests me to see what happens when such and such a color is introduced in a certain way; How is the room articulated? How are patterns of movement defined or altered? In what ways are the connections between those present shaped, enabled or prevented? Such questions inevitably have political, social and economic dimensions as it forms how we act in society. Space is for me more than volume, it is a complex of materials, multi-levelled realities and patterns, surfaces, bodies, forces and potential interactions to be experienced, examined and reflected upon.

How did you develop your particular style?

This is just what I do and this style, language or expression has developed throughout my life. I remember the way I designed clothes as a teenager was through an obsession with the cloth existing in space and having movement, transparency, and light. Those interests I still pursue now. I am interested in visual and spatial communication: signs and machines. All the mechanisms behind how we read a red triangle compared to a blue. And in order to understand the complexity of that symbol lies an understanding of how the word red was invented, street signs, infrastructure, cultural difference and global consciousness. So to me working with abstract art and developing my particular style comes through an awareness of how abstraction is used in society, experimentation, fascination for color, form, and composition.

Can you tell a little bit about your process about how to start a piece?

I can make a piece anytime… there is no beginning or end. It is like a continuous machine, which then needs to be fed with information, experiences and visual stimulations in order to function.

The process for making an installation is a planned and engineered process. It takes a lot of technical production and first during install I see the work for the first time. Whereas making sculptures is extremely quick. I never sketch beforehand, I work directly with the steel or aluminum and painting, which gives a lot of freedom and allow for new sculptures to appear.

Your works often dominate or transform the gallery space—do you develop your works specific for the Gallery space?

Yes, the context of my work is within art and it is indifferent if it is a gallery space, warehouse or my studio.

You sometimes use performance in your work, as in ‘Recursive Demarcation’ and ‘Untitled 2016’. Can you tell me about how your process relates to performative work?

Recursive Demarcation is a performative installation that examines vision, power structures in public space, and means of occupation. The two mediums—sculpture and performance—offer different approaches to these ideas: The geometric sculpture employs flexible, soft industrial materials, suspended to create a linear drawing in space as temporary architecture. Whereas the performers, clad in hard aluminum costumes designed after the opening sequence of the film Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (1966, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? by William Klein) offer a dynamic response to the space.

The nine dancers do a session of silent clubbing; they move to music that only they can hear on a Bluetooth earpiece, each listening and responding to different types of music. Their movement will be a manifestation of their own energies in conversation with the sound they hear, and the formal qualities of the sculpture, its shapes, architectural references, and lines.

The performance at once embraces and disrupts the autonomy of the sculptural form, suggesting its contingent nature—another form of architecture to be inhabited and through which or against we shape our movement.

Can you tell me a little bit about your research for the upcoming Gether exhibition.

The show at Gether Contemporary named WRONGDOERS is 21 sculptures in bright blue, red or orange towering shapes bend or askew. In a multitude of forms and colours the sculptural works will take charge of the gallery space. With their twisting and turning shapes they break with the rectangular formal lines of architecture bending perspectives and creating an uneven and dynamic state around them.

The triangular shape plays a central as it becomes an reference to signs, monumental statues and the urban framework we live in. I really like the physical impact of a triangle, it unstable you sense of balance, it can produce hyperbolic and parabolic, shifts between being a sign or architecture.

I use colour almost as propaganda. Whether to scare us off or to lure us closer, colour plays a central role in visual communication. Flags of nations, commercials, warning signs and so on make use of our unconscious reaction to colour. In the exhibition lies several indirect political references. For example the poster for the exhibition is a photo of a stripy towering sculpture in red, blue and white associating to the American flag and written above it says wrongdoers. Which is a recurring symbol in the exhibition as well as the Danish and British flag.

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