Former Commodity #3

In the third installment of the Former Commodity series, we see the exploration of the minute spaces between idea and execution.

There are these minuscule moments that exist where an idea is in it’s purest form—unblemished by whatever drives us to shape an idea to meet our own ambitions. And this tarnishing of a pure idea, or pure creativity (which we sometimes like to call refinement), is a conditioned response. It’s an environmental learning we acquire.

When we are children, for example, we can have an idea about a dragon, then draw five poorly-shaped circles on a piece a paper and say, “look at my dragon.” That innocent idea and ill-shaped five circle dragon is not polluted by conditioned technique or a learned understanding that “five circles do not make a dragon.”

This idea of how we somehow condition ourselves to dilute our pure ideas and creativity is what started stirring in my head as I sat with artist Alexander Holm and self-proclaimed “non-artist” Chris Shields, to talk about their collaboration for the exhibition of Former Commodity No.3

For the collaborative exhibition of VID EDDA, by these two men–one who makes a living as an artist, the other that has always created, but never had a desire to adopt the moniker of artist–it all came together by chance.

As the one spearheading the entire Former Commodity exhibition series, Holm was first introduced to Shields at a concert. Following a few more chance encounters via a tight network of friends, the two found that they were of a like-minded disposition, which sparked Holm to invite Shields into a collaboration for the third Former Commodity series.

As with the two previous exhibitions under that moniker, they in some way revolve around the melding and meshing of sound art practices and visual artist practices–usually in the form of the artist collaborating on making an album and a series of visual installations to accompany that album.

“I think Chris and I are, in many ways, in the same boat when making visual work. I definitely feel more confident making music, but this went beyond that. It was like a project where we had to use the music making process and have the confidence to turn it into something else.”

With that connection to music as an inevitable truth with this exhibition, the concept came out of a collaboration to create an album. Over the course of some months, the duo began to gather samples and small pockets of sound which they could form into the album. Simultaneously, the two began each developing their own visual works based on the concept.

Both the sonic and visual elements of the outcome of the entire VID EDDA project was framed by a concept of trying to capture pure ideas en masse, then exploring what they become in the eyes of the viewer when compiled in idiosyncratic and nonsensical ways.

“The sculptures that I have included in the exhibition are intricately milled on CNC, and took a lot of machine labor and programming to create them.”

“I think there is actually two parts of it. There is like this aesthetic of working really fast from idea to object which creates this kind of honest sharing of something you just put out there. But there is also another, more nuanced, aesthetic there which is much more mysterious and shaped by the viewer’s interpretations of the work.”

There is a kind of tension when looking at an ambitious object that, through its craftsmanship, looks as if it should have a purpose–or some sort of use as an object. The form is in some way recognizable, but not quite functional. There is also the subtle mystery of knowing something is art, almost recognizing it as a usable object. These are the foundational tools that Holm and Shields used while developing the visual element of the exhibition.

During the process of making the album, the element that is both the qualifier and the addition to the exhibitions of the objects, Holm and Shields worked closely together, sometimes behind the desk together, other times by sending each other tracks, sounds and sample via email. The mixing of the album was more of a holistic collaboration between the two, with Shields taking the lead to ensure a red thread and flow throughout the tracks.

Stine Fransen & Isolde Daun

As an addition to the Former Commodity exhibition, Holm invited artists, Stine Frandsen and Isold Daun, to set up an exploratory research that they are conducting on the perception of sound and touch.

Within this large box, with something of a doghouse hole in the front, I was invited into the box to receive a sound tattoo. I was asked by Frandsen to choose one or two images out of a collection of about 50 images, which you would like your tattoo to be based upon I chose a snail because they are an obscure animal.

I was then asked to chose a spot on my body when I would like this sonic tattoo. I then laid down, was asked to put on some headphones which were connected to a microphone that Frandsen had in her hand. I closed my eyes and the tattoo began.

Frandsen began to sing and make subtle noises as she drew out various shapes on my body. The sensation was rather confusing at first, because my senses were being stimulated in two ways, neither of which seems to correspond with each other. It wasn’t as if she was making a sound impression of a tattoo gun, nor was she singing. While at the same time, the drawings and touches that she was making on my body weren’t in some kind of simple finger tracings of a snail. And yet, somehow that was what my conscious was expecting.

For the first 20-30 seconds, my mind trying to wrestle with this nonsensical stimulus, but eventually I gave into the sensation and it became quite hypnotic and calming.


While Former Commodity No.3–like its predecessors–is only a short pop-up exhibition, Holm (along with the collaboration of Shields) has developed a platform for collaboration and the exploration of the relationship between sound and physical object that I have come to enjoy.

During our conversation, Holm informed me that he has planned the Former Commodity will be a Quintuple exhibition series–with the last two in the series occurring later in the year. Regardless of whether Holm continues his unique collaborations beyond that, I will be eagerly awaiting the next Former Commodity.

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