Äkkigalleria's transcription of the interview with Patrik Qvist
on Wednesday September 23rd, 2015.
Äkki: This is your first time to Jyväskylä, and although you have been to Finland 4 times this year, you have never been to Central Finland. What are your first impressions of Jyväskylä and Central Finland?
PQvist: It is very hilly. But it is very modern there are very little remains of old architecture that is why I asked you if this place was bombed.
Äkki: Äkkigalleria has shown about 80 international artists in Jyväskylä but you are our first artist from one of another Nordic Country. What kinds of similarities, differences and possible collaborations do you see possible between the Nordic countries?
PQvist: It’s a very different country and to me it feels very exotic which is good and other than that there are.., latitude possibilities and similarities that would make for a lot of interesting collaboration because you have basically the same biotopes and the same basic sort of nature but as I said before the cultures are quite distinct and maybe to a non-nordic citizen it would seem very much the same but to me Finland is very different from Sweden and visa versa.
Äkki: Could you define some of that difference, is it something you could put your finger on or is it just a feeling ?
PQvist: It has something to do with.., I don’t know if I told you about this performance I did about 2 weeks ago in Vaasa. I walked through the town with a big sculpture, it took me about 4 hours and I am certain had I done that in Sweden or in New York or somewhere else, a lot of people would have come up and asked me what I was doing, or what the hell am I doing or why are you doing this and there would be a lot of people taking pictures in Vaasa nobody said anything and nobody took any pictures. So one of the differences that I find is that on street level it is a very different communication landscape and whoever I have approached and talked to, they have been very nice but it is a question of initiative. I don't know if it is shyness or a sense of letting other people- or minding your own business basically but I find it a bit daunting. I am used to going half way and then have other people meet me half way. I do a lot of performance art in public places and it seems you would need a bigger hammer here.
Äkki (Juho): Does the performance when (if) nobody takes pictures. I asked one Finnish performance artist-, because now a days when you see a performance, you have 20-30 people taking photos when one artist is doing a performance, and I asked him does the performance happen any more if you don’t have this kind of documentation?
PQvist: It is an interesting question because, I like attention, I am a sucker for it basically.
On the other hand most of the performances I have recently been done have been out in nature with no audience and no crew and just me.., and I am filming this. And it has been a very rewarding experience, to be doing something when you know no one is going to see this and of course I do document it so I do show it at some later point at a gallery or show or something but you know when you are doing things in an urban context part of it is or should be the possibilities of interaction with the audience and a lot of times that audience will be incidental like passers by people on the street but it is different ways of working I guess.
Äkki: I was looking through your website and i came across a work Last year the actor/performance artist Shia LaBeouf showed a performance piece entitled “I am sorry” at an art gallery in LA. I am aware of this project because a young Finnish artist Nastja Rönkkö collaborated with LaBeouf for this project. the bigger questions i have is that today, do artists have need to apologize being touched on I am assuming you both are coming from very different places but I couldn’t help make a connection with this work and your work with a similar title “I am so sorry”. Do you think the similarity of titles indicates a larger need that artists have to apologize for the physical, emotional and spiritual state of the world today?
PQvist: I am not familiar with the work by Shia Labeouf ’s which i should be I guess but
what is she sorry about?
Äkki: Basically the piece is, he is a hollywood actor who began to do some performance pieces. and basically it was a piece where he sat in a room crying with a paper bag over his head and invited people to come and sit with him. and more about the project i don’t know ..
PQvist: No. I don’t think artists need to apologize. My ”I'm so sorry” is an apology to nature rather than to other people and the apology is very personal on one hand and pretty general on the other. The general part is that I am sorry that I am a human being and that I am partaking in this mess that we see here. On the other hand, on the personal level ”I am sorry” expresses a sort of inner conflict that since I have been working with environmentally, or art geared towards environmental climate questions I find that I try to communicate these things in my artwork but in my personal life i still contribute to the problem a lot, I am too comfortable and I am too keen to have things work on a practical level to become like a hermit basically and not take airplanes and not drive my car and i think there is some.., when I started the ”I’m so sorry” pieces they bridged a gap that I sometimes need to bridge when I don’t think art should be instrumental but i think art can be therapeutic and for me it has been a very therapeutic process to make these.
If for nothing else then my apology, once explained, and after going into a bit of detail with an audience it brings about a conversation, about where we are at and where we are at as individuals and how different people feel. Because I think what we have ended up in, is a sort of very emotional landscape when it comes to climate change and it is emotional because it touches on very basic and day to day doings and needs that we have and I find that very interesting and so I thought that the ”I am so sorry” would be a good place to start. When you are doing something wrong the first step is to apologize, to admit that you are wrong, and the second step is to try to make amends, to set things right, so some of these ”so sorry” pieces have a part two where I perform something more symbolically than practically, but anyway, where we correct the situation of how.
Äkki: On a global lense, if it is question that a lot of people are dealing with right now from different angles right now. Admitting our place in the world, from that perspective.
Äkki (Juho): One environmentalist said that if you want to have nature you must to stay away from it, so i think the best way to help nature is to live in downtown Stockholm.
PQvist: I have heard that argument too, its kind of along the same lines that a lot of these eco-modernist talk about: the urban solution, that the best way to save the planet is to gather everyone in the big cities and to leave the country side alone, only to maintain parts of it for food production and then parts of it for recreational use. And I think that is a narrative that ties nicely into the whole modernist project of alienating us farther from nature and making things.. the dialog of us and them, culture versus nature I find that very hard to subscribe to. It frightens me because I think we need to go in the opposite direction. I see this happening in Sweden where local politicians will do their utmost to attract more people to the small towns and villages where people are- the young generation are moving out or going to the big cities. And at the same time, and parallel to this, you have a government apparatus doing its utmost to gather everyone in the three big cities in Sweden and basically empty the country side. So there are these different forces going on. And yes, leaving nature alone is maybe a good idea but how about coexisting with it you know?
We need to maybe relearn that.
Äkki: Do you have any ideas about the future then?
Well I have a friend who is writing a book ”the future is a thing of the past” no- that is my title to it , I think his title is ”remember the future?” anyway.
I don’t know I think it can go either way. I mean. I started doing this kind of work when I started having kids, that is the first time I started taking a serious interest in the environment. So my impulse was kind of fear based and… part of my offspring and their future and their ability to enjoy or have the same access I would say, to nature that I have but I think we have a good chance of.. I don’t know, a pretty good future if we do something radical now.
I usually say that we have outgrown our right to democracy. We no long deserve to live in a democracy because we have politicians and leaders who are elected for 4 years and even though they care about nature and the environment, they are too geared towards short sighted solutions that will get them through the next term. And so I think maybe, even thought I don’t have a good alternative to democracy, one vision I could conjure up would be a green dictatorship where somebody puts their foot down and says nobody flies, nobody drives a car, everybody has to just make do with what we have because we have enough stuff. The stuff is here. We have enough
refrigerators, spoons, whisks, parts.. to make us last for another 50 - 100 years– if we can deal with recycling and reusing in a way that is not just a sort of a middle class luxury entertainment so…
Äkki: It seems you have lived and worked in many different cities and countries. What makes a city interesting for your work? or a place, what makes a place interesting for your work?
PQvist: If it’s got different layers of history or surfaces that speak of different activities. I am interested in fringe areas like harbors and railroad tracks and seam line basically where residential areas becomes seam-lined industrial becomes industrial and then country side, so if a place has that sort of- what would you call it? Weave? of different activities and different layers of activities than it is pretty much interesting to me. And on the other side of the spectrum I love places that are tremendously monotonous like the desert where there is nothing going on no people and basically only just a flat horizon line but that is interesting in a different way.
I like cities and I like being outdoors but it needs to have either a complexity or a monotony I think.
So far Jyväskylä is, I mean, to me it is great, I live close to the river i can go to the paper plant.
It is also interesting in places that are- one activity has just left the building and another activity is getting ready to move in it is very fascinating with places that are in the the in-between stage. I guess most artists like that because it means that for a few years if you are lucky, you can move in there, find a cheap studio space, paint on the walls, whatever and then it solidifies into something more official.
Äkki: You have approximately one week to create a new work for the International Kirkkopuisto Photography Annual here in Jyväskylä. Do you know what you are going to do? How does this kind of intense residency work for your creative process?
PQvist: Well it’s.. I basically know what I am going to do I pretty much know I found out yesterday I think what it is that i am going to do. It’s good, I mean the short time span is good in a way, having small children I am sure you share this sentiment too, that whenever you have the time, you just get to it, there is less of sitting around staring at the wall thinking but there is always a deadline for stuff so even if it is four months away I tend to do most of the work last minute anyway so I think it is good in a way. I have been here for what, I was here yesterday and then I came the day before, so I haven’t been been here for 48 hours yet and it feels like a week, it has been very intense.
Äkki: And now some one word answers: