By Tom Hermansen, 2012
Q - How did you get into making art? And why photography?
A - Initially, I studied garment design in Miami, FL. I had an empty slot in my school schedule so I took a sculpture class. Gradually both of these interests began to merge together. I became very interested in making props to be used in relation to the body and would document this with photography. As time progressed I became more interested in ideas of the absurd and the spectacle oppose to the practical function of design. From there I went on to study sculpture at Central St. Martins in London where I was able to further experiment with the body as a sculptural element and as a device to deviate from everyday life.
Q - This may be freudian, but how and where was your childhood?
A - As a young child I moved around a lot but settled in Miami, FL when I was 7 with my mother and brother. I can’t say that my upbringing was anything unusual. It was actually very balanced. As I got older I did certainly rebel against the order of such a calm and predictable life style and craved for something completely different. So, perhaps from a Freudian perspective, my work aims to both recreate and then destroy the mundane balance of my childhood. To get closer to my childhood I turn towards structure, and to then claim independence I upset that very structure.
Q - How is your daily routines today? Do you go to the studio each morning? Where do you get your inspirations - on the street, in movies, by listening to music, looking at other artists?
A - Most of my inspiration comes from every day routines. This is where I have my most creative revelations; Grocery shopping, doing the laundry, or organizing things such as a closet or sock drawer. Such daily activities have a very calming effect for me… getting back to the possible Freudian explanation behind my work…
Q - Where do you live, how is your neighborhood and your home? Cozy, rough, small, large, wild, crazy, calm, hot, cold?
A - My home is very warm and peaceful. I am a bit of a homebody so it has always been important to me to have this as a place of sanctuary. Inevitably, this is why the domestic setting is very prevalent in my work. My life is also very calm and orderly, nothing too crazy. It is perhaps the contrast between a stable home and then the disorder within my work that I am truly content.
Q - You seem to point to the small things in everyday-life. How come? Do we humans generally forget to appreciate the small day-to-day miracles?
A - I find much significance in the small somewhat mundane details of life. A lot of the time the small things can be great metaphors for an understanding of the bigger picture. It is very easy for people to overlook routines within their life, as it is the big eventful moments that stand out more. I have never been one for the monumental but rather the simple and understated.
Q - Art historically, where is your inspiration? If I say Dada, what is your relation to that group?
A - Dada, the Situationists, Fuxus, and many contemporary artists working today inspire me. From Dada, specifically, I would say that my work possesses the same reasoning of finding sense in non-sense. Dada sought to go against the grain of the establishment and create anarchy. My work follows this agenda but in a very ironic sense. The rebellion demonstrated within my work is a futile effort. The comic disasters of the subjects are equally as important as their initial efforts to break out of conformity. It is the self-defeatist humor of the work that truly accomplishes something.
Q - The avant-garde movements - dada, situationism, fluxus - wanted to distort/confuse the established society. Is that a thought you share and if so, how?
A - I believe that in pronouncing one thing you both accomplish that and the opposite. In other words, by rebelling against the established order of society you also enforce that order. Within my work, I do set out to distort the conventions in society but most of the time the point is the failure to actually do so.
Q - These movements moved further and further away from the artwork, Andre Breton said that his ultimate art work would be to take a gun and shoot into a crowd; to tear the capitalist society apart. The Situationists ended up being only a few persons left, because everybody else was excluded. Did the avant-garde commit suicide that way? Were they too radical?
A - I feel that the dissipation of many collectives in art is due to the making of rules; of creating a system of how things should be done and what art should be. As soon as that happens there naturally comes the innate need to rebel against that order. I believe that is how the Situationst movement came to an end. However, I would by no means say that this end was a suicide. I believe that they paved a path for many new ideas, both within life and art.
Q - You're work has been compared to Erwin Wurm. What is your connection to him and how does your work differ?
A - My work has frequently been compared to the work of Erwin Wurm, of whom I am a fan. Where our work is similar is the everydayness, the portrayal of the ordinary in an absurd way. I believe that the work of Wurm is more objective than mine, referencing the history and evolution of sculpture such as in his “One Minute Sculptures” where he made a sculpture using the human body in a minute. A part of the work was the challenge to create a sculptural composition under the pressure of spontaneity. My work on the other hand can be very subjective and premeditated; it specifically speaks of something happening in my life.
Q - For instance the Wiener-activists were very brutal, in some of your photos the persons seem to be in painful situations. Is life painful?
A - Many of the subjects are in vulnerable or painful situations and ironically the situations that they are in is meant as an escape from something else much more docile. Personally I find complacency and stagnation the most painful aspects of life, whilst burying myself in the backyard or hanging from the kitchen table is much more soothing. I suppose pain is trivial in this way.
Q - Finding Myself at Home
A - “Finding Myself at Home” was chosen as the title for this body of work because of a duality of meaning. Being a homebody, I literally spend a lot of time at home. The title also suggests the finding of an identity within one’s home. Inherently when a person spends a lot of time in their home it can make them feel lost and can challenge their sense of self. The images are meant to portray this self-inflicted struggle of loosing and finding one’s self.
Lee Materazzi, 2012