Tranen — The Beauty & The Uncanny
Interview Charlotte Sprogøe, director of Tranen Contemporary Art Center

Charlotte Sprogøe: In the spring of 2015 Tranens exhibition programme is called ‘3D to Infinity’. When I look at your work I begin to think about dimensions - both in time and in space. You primarily present photography in close connection to your sculptural work and there seems to be a disturbing tension between the two different medias. How do you create this dynamic and what is it that draws you to this focus on dimen- sional play?

Valérie Collart: “The beauty and the uncanny” raises the question of whether the artwork’s existence is image-based or object-based or whether it can be both. It also unveils a certain inability to distinguish between image and object and therefore a certain confusion regarding the status of the objects.

One of my concerns is to transform the original nature of an object while photograph- ing it, and therefore to observe the distance that has been created with the image from the physical reality of the object. By recontextualising the sculptures, a photograph represents a new perspective on the objects and freezes the subject, crystallizing it in a very radical and immutable place.

The idea of a photographic print being both representation and an object in its own right resonates strongly with my own interest in photography. The materiality of the photograph itself and its physical presence is one of my concerns when making a printed image. In the opposite way, with the series of small sculptures placed on the wall, I am reflecting on an object’s capacity to be apprehended as image or image- object.

I have titled that series of works “Photogenic sculptures”. By using a method of display, that created a kind of two-dimensional, flat, background for the objects, they appear incapsulated and controlled in a frontal point of view constituting them almost as im- ages.

The “Video collages” consist of photographs of existing and fictional sculptures as well as different scans of painted textures, recontextualised in a new environment. They 

stand as animated photographs or paintings on the wall, like combined objects. The “Video collages” are collaborative works created with Mekki Sebastian Brink, using photography (re-contextualised and displaced), and 3D generated images.

In the “Video collages”, the objects are detached from their original context, becom- ing parts of an unidentified environment, activating an entire new system of refer- ences. They suggest an interpretation of the objects taken in their transitory nature and constant evolving form. For me, the videos present a sort of achieved state of the sculptures, not still and petrified, but constantly moving and changing, sharing with the viewer the reality of time.

Charlotte Sprogøe: In the past few years there has been a lot of talk about post- inter- net Art and New Aestheticism. Both Art forms evolved after everyday use of the inter- net and computer generated images have taken over most of the world. Your art seems to me both classically beautiful and also somewhat unreal / fake - you could say hyper real. How are these virtual and network based image technologies influencing your artistic practice and what kind of role does the aesthetic aspect play in your practice?

Valérie Collart: We are surrounded by images today and we increasingly see things through images, therefore they become an integral part of the experience we have of things. Simulacrum is part of our contemporary life.

Questioning the immediate appearance, challenging our perception of what is real and what is representation, comes natural I think. New understandings of the reality of things in digital times are constantly evolving and this resonates in art explorations. Considering what I have developed earlier, about the articulation in-between photog- raphy and sculpture, or more recently video and sculpture, I think that we could agree on the fact that there is an aspect of my work that reflects on the de-materialization

of the physical object and the back and forth from the reality to the virtuality of the sculptures.

Your question is also making me think about the aesthetical characteristics and spe- cificities of the floorbased sculptures and installations of the exhibition: In my sculp- tural works, I’m working in a place where flatness, illusion and surfaces are at stake. I’m interested in objects material properties, their weight, texture, and the capability of the material to simulate an undefined property, an undetermined falsity. 

In most of my sculptures, the idea is to sustain the stability and solidity of the object while simultaneously wanting it to reveal its fragility, both physically and in its rela- tion to reality. By challenging the neutrality of surfaces, contradicting our impression of the nature of the objects, and the ordinariness of appearance, the floor sculptures at Tranen, with their disturbing presence, aim to unsettle our experience as viewers, as well as raise questions about the interpretation of reality, its subjectivity and its precariousness.

As for example, with “Black hole”, the central floor installation, a black trapezoid, with an insistent physical presence, is lying on the floor. The affirmation of the plane is em- phasized by the sharp inward angles of the solid, while the materiality of the surface, assimilated to a black hole, optically suspends the solidity and mass of the sculpture, making the apparently paper-thin surface float above the floor. We are confronted by a sculpture which at the same time affirms its flatness and constantly draws us into its infinity.

This ambivalent atmosphere is spreading through the entire exhibition as a common note? and is also contained in the title of the exhibition: “The beauty and the uncanny”. I am fascinated with the beauty of a certain type of minimalistic objects, the neatness of their finish, their peculiar textural treatment and their capacity to withstand time. I guess that influence shows in a lot of my works. But nevertheless, the ambivalent ex- perience that I’ am searching for in my works is also articulated within the concept of the uncanny. “The uncanny” is a Freudian concept of an instance where something can be both familiar yet at the same time alien, resulting in a feeling of its being uncom- fortably strange. It often creates cognitive dissonance and intellectual uncertainty. The concept of the uncanny in the exhibition will be both mean and form for questioning reality and displacements through sculptures and images.

Charlotte Sprogøe: The pieces you are presenting at Tranen have a strong architectural presence - what is the role of architecture in your art and how do you relate to Tranens architecture in your exhibition?

Valérie Collart: Architecture is a direct source of inspiration for me as I have developed it in earlier works with modernist architecture and the concept of monument, or, more recently, with a certain Neo-classical influence, in a photogravure series untitled “Ru- ins”, or “Pillar”, a large photograph that is taking part of the exhibition at Tranen. “Pillar” sustains the concepts of beauty and immutability within the space of the im- age. It is a minimalistic and almost monochromatic image that will integrate itself into

the architecture of “Tranen”, alluding to its marble floors and its rounded white pillars. With “Pillar” and the most recent photographic works “Ruins”, I have been reflecting on the concept of architectural ruins as a metaphor for the photographic act. The im- ages stand as traces of a specific set of things in time, levitated and de-contextualised sculptures in a surreal ordered monochromatic environment. Through the frozen act of photography and our consciousness of finitude, those kinds of sculptural ruins unveil the idea that every object or work of architecture contains its own potential ruin, as a metaphor for human existence.