Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Interview: Anti-Social Realism (Mikko, Pasi & Siikala).



[PURESTENCH: I'm not sure which of you defined and penned the definition for the term "Anti-Social Realism" but as humans you each have to have a different view of the meaning of your work and how it fits into the general scheme. What does the term mean to you? ]

I coined the term and wrote the manifesto. It was discussed with others and I presented my thoughts about why this fits to each artists work - Or at least one side of it! Something what ties together some key elements of each artists approach. I had been thinking of definition and approach for years, yet it finally started to progress further when idea of exhibition (by mr. Siikala) set concrete goal.

Manifesto itself speaks for my behalf very accurately. However, it was necessary to keep it to-the-point and not derail into too small details or all the vast possibilities how to interpret it. One side missing from manifesto is whole discussion I have had privately about is it "anti-SOCIAL REALISM" or "ANTI-SOCIAL realism". Conclusion is that it is both. I personally believe vast majority of so called transgressive art actually is nothing but contemporary equivalent of basic methods of social realism. And that I personally reject in my own works. In many ways, it is more towards surrealism, than realism. It goes beyond the mundane reality.

I'm personally so bored with a lot of "transgressive art", for example these directions of "un-pop" or "hate art", where they use the iconography of extreme politics or political incorrectness, or sexual perversions in amusing and softly provocative manner. Yet most of all it appears to present kitch hitler image with exact same message as it would be with Che.

Or your typical female artists with the strong image of violated female, would most often add the message of continous injustice, sexist society. Or sexual perversions appear as form of seeking acceptance or testing free speech, etc. 
I can say, that I have been looking, and I have been wanting to find, but can't find more than isolated incidents of artists who depict works that either are psychopathically lacking empathy or carry message which is the message of....well.. Anti-social realism! Not that it's only thing I'd be interested, though.

One can find what are traits of "anti-social behavior" and put it in context of art. It doesn't remove almost any potential in content or quality. Some critics have expressed this would be merely corruption and lacks ideals and lacks of social content, yet it is only true, if their city-liberal leftwing egalitarianism is considered as synonym of "social context". I believe art goes much further and that some sides of it remains still in dark shadows. 

Within ASR, many things are approached for aesthetic value or study of intensity and contradictions, eventually fueling emotional responses and connecting with personal elements.

[PURESTENCH: You have said that a lot of your work conveys (but is not limited to) decay in some form. What is it about the process of decay that you like? What is it about the process that influences, and finds its way, into your work? ]

I like the unpredictable nature and it's great textural forms. It is not only my own work, but generally speaking. Lets say statues. How much more interesting once clean and shiny status will be when peeling surfaces, erosion, corrosion, etc takes effect? How much more we find interest in old furniture which has wear and tear, as opposed to cleaning fluid smelling IKEA product? How much more dusty noble hand made and crafted leather bound book pleases, as opposed to laminated pulp paperback? How much more you get from woodcuts, etched images, silkscreened images etc. as opposed to inkjet prints? How much more pictorialist approach to photography appeals more than photoshop effected digi-image snap shots? It works for me on every level. I don't enjoy living in 100% order and lifeless tidyness. I don't get much satisfaction from sharp and cold colored digital photos or photoshop simulated paintings. The clots of paint. Physical forms. Grain of film, texture of paper fiber, sonic magick of magnetic analogue tape, etc etc. They are all so much more than "problems" found in obsolete old media that need to get cleaned up and professionalized. These artifacts are among the key elements what makes things work. They expose the ideas and works to sudden unexpected (at least in some degree!) elements, which makes it much more than just matter of calculated choices. Just like human figure. There is very little matters of interest found in unnatural "beauty" of american plastic blonde. As soon as you have something "wrong", something "real", human figure becomes interesting.

In my own work, I plan and put into reality the grain, wear, ruggedness, etc. Yet it is still beyond the absolute control how exactly photographs will turn out when hand developed by century old chemical method or how collage changes when it's subject of being burned above open flame, drowned in- or splattered with liquids, torn, hammered and finally dried and covered with layers of laquer. I like to see the finished work appear as man made. As result of craftmanship rather than digital processing. Unique piece, which has much more bigger story- or mythical feeling behind it.

[PURESTENCH: It seems that most of your pieces are portrayals of one specific scene, what some artists refer to as “close ups” rather than landscape or whole, large scenes, what do you think these close-ups offer that the latter does not? ]

-I have nothing particular against landscapes, but it is true vast majority of my work - also in nature photography - is based on details and close-ups. It is related to few things. First of all, texture and composition of photos, where placement of object close to viewer is essential or where it's not as much about whole target of image than it is about texture of object.

Second, there is a high degree of voyeuristic images, where specific object (human) is the target, and surroundings may be merely small addition. Third, I have lots of obsessions towards specific body parts. Not just "sexual", but something I can't take my eyes off. If you see me staring at your crooked teeth or some imperfections, it's not really to be taken offense, hah. It is something what catches my view and is very hard to let go. In photography and also painting, I like the image that is cropped to represent the focus of interest. Where the standards of "regular" photography or painting doesn't apply. In form of writing, one could check out quite similar method used in "THE CORE" piece in IOPS vol 2 magazine. It may be void of all the literary value, yet it's cropped and structured with different aesthetics in mind. Of course target and mood itself is part of how things are made. And since nobody has seen the whole body of my artistic works, it's hard for any outsider to see full nature of it. 

One of my favorite photographers Sally Mann works started as close-ups and portraits. It slowly shifted in direction where people got smaller and smaller where surroundings took bigger role, until people suddenly disappeared and it was purely landscape. Still, managing to catch many of the similar emotions and feelings. Her return back to bodies - dead or living and aging, appeared very natural. Bigger concepts than "close-up" / "landscape" mean more in the end, although I tend to lean strongly towards first.

[PURESTENCH: Your art is definitely open-ended when it comes to interpretation. Is this what you intended? Tolstoy, I believe, said that art is not art until someone else connects to it outside of its creator. Do you think that art should always be interpreted by the public, or does that translation not matter? ]

I personally think everything is open-ended for interpretation. Artist can mean something, but it isn't the end of it. 
I think one of the definitions of art is, that it is creative 
works that allow people to be inspired and what communicates with viewer. What awakes emotion and questions. First of all, my own works have appealed to me on such level, already in process of making. Best works are something I don't want - or can't let go once they are finished. They are too important. Perhaps this is one of reasons I don't personally think art needs an audience. It can exists, even when there is no audience.

Before ASR exhibition, I did some actions one could theoretically file under "installations" or "performance art". One could mention for examples projects as engaging in sexual activities in public places, and documenting it with camera. Where it would be hardly "pornographic". End result would be for example photo of parking lot asphalt with splatters of cum, and group of youngster with their bikes standing in horizon. Clearly interested what is happening, yet staying cautiously in distance. It would not be performance with real audience - yet, actually it was exactly that! Pure and simple. 

As example of installations, one could mention placing used dildos or such objects in places where people won't expect to see them. And to go weeks later to check the places if someone actually found them. Which they had. These installations are taken away from context of "gallery" and from context of art-enthusiasts experiencing happening in expected and perhaps even institutionalized places. I can not know what the audience felt about them, and it really is quite irrelevant in the end. I can't limit the actions or installations to be just into some social network of automated feedback or attention. Art and "creative impulses" exists, even if they are not reported and promoted in section of your career-artists CV.

[PURESTENCH: When you are working on your art is there a process that brings forth the "genius", so to speak? For example, some people get drunk others just "have to be in the mood". ]

My only necessity is time. I have much more ideas and plans than I have time to put them into reality. I don't need any substances or special inspiration, although I usually work in phases. Usually I focus on something specific, do it for a while and then move on to next thing. To get some phase completed is satisfactory. So it's not merely endless route of unfinished business (life?), but specific concrete goals completed.

[PURESTENCH: How important is your actual process to the content of the work itself? ]

It is crucial part. For collage works, I have set rule that I do not use material from internet. Not sure if I'm going to stick with it, but most likely yes. It is huge, yet inspiring journey to collect and own every piece that eventually ends up in collages, instead of visiting the same blogs and scan archives everybody else has already seen. Or be satisfied with whatever lame xxx mags you came across. 
Pretty much every piece of work has longer story behind it. Either as what it relates to, how idea came or how I came across that specific image. I would doubt many people in world could say they recognize or know the exact source of images used in collages. It is also crucial how images are transferred to paper, how paper is treated, what kind of surfaces it is pasted on and how they are treated or coated. I do value strongly the process and artistic output. Merely gluing couple prints or magazine cut-outs next to each other doesn't meet my standards as maker or some piece.

When doing photography, I often work with mixed methods/tools. I use contemporary state of the art digital gear, but the end result is often created with cynotype prints, where chemical and optical details are what determine final outlook of photo. With this process, image may transform to something very different. One example could be how the nature of voyeuristic photos developed to pages of old sex magazines of pulp paper quality become something very different than if there was regular photopaper used. The process of taking the images secretly with tele-objectives, darkroom environment, and finally even the materials/surfaces where to develop - it is the crucial process in core of nature of the final work.

[PURESTENCH: Besides simply painting on paper you have also used other things such as panties for your "canvas". Within Noise and Power Electronics/Industrial there is a process of finding pieces of scrap metal, barrell/drums, items for field recordings, etc. Can you tell me about a favorite collection of found items, where did you get them and how did you end up using them in a work of art or "music"?  ]

-Found items may be wrong term. In a way they are found, but most often it's something I knew I need and went looking for it. This one image developed on panties is photography, not painting. I simply replaced the paper with panties, applying the chemicals to it to make "photopaper" out of panties. It was purely experiment, but works well for cyanotype contact prints. Also other surfaces has been used, like mentioned before. I try not to hoard too much. It goes both, to equipment and objects that can be used for sound. I think one memorable found item was buying microcassette dictaphone from fleemarket on steet of Tokyo to make city field recordings, but the tape that was in, included so bizarre moaning, breathing and giggling sounds - utterly decayed and malformed - that I wouldn't dare to record something over it. Mysterious sound quality and material appeared like something you could just put out as a release. 

[PURESTENCH: Does the actual process itself of finding such items add to your artwork or "music"? ]

-Yes, like explained before. In music, some call it "sound fishing", some call it with other names. You may aim for specific sounds, yet most often it's about process of finding sound by accident or semi-spontaneous manner. It can be field recordings, it can be going through vast amount of source recordings/improvisations you look to find perfect material for loops.
I have talked of making photos and collages in some previous answers.

[PURESTENCH: Any tunes you are listening to in your studio, or are you more of the work in silence type? ]

It depends on the case, but most often I do listen to music while I create visual works. Hardly ever in life I feel like "I need silence". More often it is that I need some noise.

[PURESTENCH: As most people know you have been active in the Power Electronics/Industrial scene for quite some time. Does this have any bearing on your work? Does it drip into your art in any way? ]

One can say that either my art drips in noise or noise drips in my art. There are very rarely direct "nods" in trivial manner. Perhaps one could say the baseball bat collage with "White Land White Rule" is only very obvious one? Otherwise I would say my personal interest are dealt in everything what I do, whatever the format or approach. Therefore cross-over and bleed can not be avoided.

[PURESTENCH: Do you sell, or plan on selling, any of your work? ]

What comes to original works, I don't seek for opportunities to sell at this point. Some of my paintings seen in IOPS magazines, are no longer in my own possession. Friend of mine bought them as gift to people I knew. I have yet to decide the payment, and whether I need one, is hardly relevant this much later. 
I feel there is a problem of price. I get much more satisfaction of owning my own original works than some small amount of money could give. I don't want material to be too cheap, so person who buys them doesn't need to have any emotional attachment to it, but perhaps even discard to garbage bin when he's bored. But I don't feel comfortable asking "art prices", which I personally consider most often inflated scam than anything else. At highest I have paid 1000,- for original piece of art, yet I can't see asking such money for anything.

[PURESTENCH: Do you think that working with the specific idea of getting money changes an artists work? Why or why not? ]

I think it does change things. Especially if you allow it to corrupt the maker to become lowest level of gun for hire. Where you make things just to get by, not because there is at least small personal attachment towards the job.
Or the usual style of art industry, where creator is brand and therefore it is his name you pay for. Not what piece is. I trust that every artists is only as good as his works are. There are many examples of once great people who ended up being less than they could. Simply because status allowed them to get more than they should. 
Some of my friends who are active in the so called real art world, always tell horrid facts about people who simply do not move their asses unless they get paid. The idea of being educated artists, who needs to get either funding or sell his works at exaggerated prices to be motivated to create, sounds repulsive. While watching the surroundings, whole art scene in every field - be it music, comics, painting, etc - is filled with art school graduates who cry about lack of support from state. Or musicians who dream of life of rock'n'roll gods. 

This is the reality in ex- welfare state, where nothing is ever enough. They most of all reflect the capitalist plague they are integral part. I rather belong to world of blood, spirit and ideas. Therefore I rather separate myself from institutions and art scene. They have nothing I need to get things done. I have been in past part of group exhibitions in museums and galleries, next to big names of pop art like Roy Lichtenstein, but looking back in time, it looks if not repulsive, at least irrelevant. I rather disconnect my ties to those activities and focus on the only really satisfactory exhibition which has happened with mr. Siikala and mr. Markkula.

[PURESTENCH: If we take your records and writing into account it seems that you have a vast body of work. Has there always been a theme or concept you have kept through-out all of your work or does it change with each body of work? ]

-There are some red-lines which are found in everything what I do. You can connect each project with something else, and despite there are changes, I have no interest to create something "different" or "new" for sake of different or new. I value much more the true interest and true emotion. I don't get bored easily and I can find new inspiration from things over and over and over again. It may not be the case of audience, yet as said, ultimately I create from and for my own needs, not to impress and entertain others.


[PURESTENCH: Out of all 3 your work seems to be the most crude in terms of how it is put together, i.e. ripped pictures taped together and weaved into a sort of collage. Why is this type of style appealing to you? ]

-I like to spit things out. To create with rage and mania. 

[PURESTENCH: What does or doesn't the term "Anti-Social Realism" mean to you? ]

-Hate and lust.

[PURESTENCH: You have been around the P.E./Noise scene for some time as well. When you see or hear a piece of music or art that you created years ago, how do you tend to respond to it? What progression or changes have you seen in your materials? Do you think you have matured artistically since you began or has the ideas and subjects generally stayed the same? ]

-Same subjects. Right now I am interested slow motion stuff, slowly changing putrid filthy massive (in a BU [Bizarre Uproar] scale) noise. Like in Military you are marching as long as its pain in the body, then you stand in position as long it starts to hurt. Slow gap stretching...  

[PURESTENCH: Any last words? ]

-White Power!


[PURESTENCH: I asked 2 other memebers of this "Anti-Social Realism" collective what that term means to them. What does it mean to you? Who came up with the term? ]

The term was originally introduced to us by Mikko. Personally I take the term as a certain attitude towards people as a social entity. The entity being an object of exploitation motivated by inner demands. The great aspect in this kind of perception is the honesty of vision, because there is no need for social approval. People tend to cover up the urges that doesn't support the wellbeing of society. In the field of art there are no need or use for such barriers. That's the core importance of art in my case. The field of free actions.

[PURESTENCH: The work you guys do may be considered by some as "perverted" or "dark", or any other word that generally means the say thing. When people see work like this they usually have an emotional response, sometimes good other times bad. Are there things that you won’t ever delve into with your work, any taboo subjects? ]

It would be very challenging to paint an image of my mother in sexual context (Freud would probably say that, this is what I
have been doing all the time). In material reality I respect people's and animals' rights, but on canvas I feel free to do whatever I wish as long as the idea and the quality of painting work satisfies me. I understand that taboos have their part in processes of human mind as a supporting frame in a same fashion as religion or nationalism. The importance of the support correlates with the strength of the person. Strong mind doesn't need the taboo structure. It just blocks the free flow of thoughts and feelings. Person who want to create something meaningful should strengthen his/her mind by challenging
himself with visions that doesn't come out easily. Although playing with taboo subjects for the kick of it produces just entertainment.   

[PURESTENCH: Tell me a little about your process for developing the magery in your work. Once an idea or scenario pops into your head, where do you go from there? ]

As a first thing, I write the idea down or save the image that has something in it. Usually it doesn't sound or look so good next day or after one week. Sometimes it needs to be mixed with a new idea or image that pops up later. But the ideas that I really like, are more like unclear visions with a certain feeling and they grow up slowly. These ideas have always more depth than the ones that feel good right away, the intellectual ideas. For example, I have one image in my mind at the moment. I have been carrying that for months and I know that I will do a painting based on it, but I am not sure how yet. I saw the image in internet. It is a still image from a porn movie: a woman in bed, naked, spreading legs. Yes, always a good subject, but this certain image gives me shivers of horror and sort of excitement that doesn't go away with masturbation. I want to find the source of that terror and make it somehow more visible. It is like a quest, a challenge.

[PURESTENCH: Do you currently sell, or plan on selling, any of your work? ]

All of my works are for sale.

[PURESTENCH: You hear a lot about building a cohesive body of work in the arts, do you ever feel pulled in different directions, or are you purely a painter/canvas type artist? ]

I feel better with limitations. It is confusing to have too many choices. Sometimes I try new things, but I have always returned back to the core competences: oil on canvas. It is the same with subjects. I am obsessively after a certain feeling that I can't put into words very well. The best description would be: 'The feeling created by contradictions in a phenomena. The phenomena being the pleasuring excitement arising from destruction'. The paintings that doesn't build around this feeling feels like waste of time. Sometimes I can also feel forces pulling me away. I follow foreign art world enough to catch the current that is flowing under the trends. The current can be very seductive, especially the trends in painting style. I have to struggle to stay near the source, to keep concentration on instinct and use as little as possible the stylistic elements.

[PURESTENCH: What is your process for creating your body of work? What informs that work? ]

I don't understand the question: 'What informs that work?', sorry.

The process is as following: I hatch the idea until it feels ready. Then I make a model image with computer. Nowadays I prefer to use my own photos as a basement. In a beginning I paint following the model image, but later in some point, the painting takes the course of it's own. I seldomly get paintings ready, I just consume the idea until I am fed up with it and continue painting until the outcome is satisfactory. Painting is a platform of irritating details. They keep showing up endlessly. I just have to stop the process in some point.

[PURESTENCH: After finishing a large piece do you take a break or do you keep on with it? Is there any time when you absolutely don't want to be bothered with such a thing as art? ]

When I paint, I literally live with the painting. I spend a lot of time watching the results during the process. Partly I surf with the feeling that I have maintained, partly I try to concentrate on critical view. So when the work is ready, I am really tired to it. Usually I just turn the image side towards the wall.However, I can't keep my thoughts away from paintings for a long time. I can be on a holiday trip, but I keep writing down small notes. I think being an artist is a sort of observing view to a life. Shutting down this observative mode would be like shutting down the brains. Well, that is also recommendable from time to time. I do that almost every evening with crappy tv-series, music, alcohol..  

[PURESTENCH: Thank you for answering the questions. Any final words or comments are all yours... ]

Thank you for your interest.   

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