The self-indulgence of an Artist

“Oh, what a happy fate, to sit in the quiet room of an inherited house among nothing but calm, settled things and to hear in the casual light-green garden outside the first tentative notes of the titmouse, and the village clock in the distance. To sit there and look at a warm strip of afternoon sun and to know much about the girls of the past and to be a poet. And to think that I too would have become such a poet if I had been able to live somewhere, anywhere in the world, in one of the many closed-up country houses that no one bothers about.
I would only  have needed one room (the light room in the gable). I would have lived in it with my old things, the family portraits, the books. And I would have had an easy chair and flowers and dogs, and a sturdy stick for the stony paths.
And nothing else.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910)

 “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

– Henry David Thoreau, from Walden (1854)

In later years I’ve spent about 2 months in seclusion in an old peasant’s house in the Swedish countryside.
It is no easy task getting there. I have to take a train, then a bus, then a countryside service taxi. Lastly a 5 km walk awaits me.

Oh, but how wondrous it is to plunge with open arms into the deafening silence of this deserted place!

Once I’m there I have a somewhat strict routine that I try to abide by.

I’m usually awakened by the sound of grazing sheep outside my window, no later than 8 o’clock.
I get up and immediately I’m on my way to the other end of the house, making sure not to bump my head into the low ceiling joists.
Once safely arrived in the kitchen I make myself a very strong cup of black coffee.
I pour it into my little Japanese pottery cup. It fits perfectly in my hand.
There’s a little dachshund following me around, I take it out for a walk.
Bergman, during his long stays in the countryside, would bring a dog of the exact same breed.

When I return from the morning walk, I grab the cup. I need more coffee to spark the brain.
I’ve put a desk in front of a window looking out over the fields.
There on that table certain demanding books await me. I usually pick a text of no more than 30 pages of philosophy.
I find it is sensible to commence the day with the most demanding intellectual enterprise while the mind is still fierce and febrile after the long night’s rest.
I begin to read, the whole text. There can be no exceptions from this rule.
Only when this is well accomplished it is time for breakfast.
Breakfast is either yoghurt with müsli, or a more massive meal comprised of eggs, pancetta, beans and bread.

Now I locate my slippers, and I put on a sweater for it is cold in the place where I’m about to go next.
I’ve taken the liberty of furnishing a little nearby guest house into a make shift cinema. I have a long list of films that I have a deep desire to acquaint myself with.
I consult myself with some of the masters of cinema. Many of them made lists of their favorite films. With a satisfied grin I examine these hard to obtain lists of geniuses.

For the morning screening I always choose a potential masterpiece, something renown. I will use the remainder of the day to digest this first film of the day. I would gladly watch another one, but by now the sun has circled midway around the guest house, making it too clear to see anything on the silver screen.
Besides it is nearly time for lunch.
Lunch usually consists of a corn husk. Rye bread, roast beef, horseradish.

 

To help digestion I embark out on a long afternoon stroll.
Walking stick in hand. Dior hunter’s jacket, handmade french rubber boots, a black hat in the style of Antonio Das Mortes. A man should have in his possession the correct attire for such an endeavor.

….

In the immense forests I wander.

….

They abound with creatures: wild boars, foxes, badgers, porcupines, rabbits.

I have to keep the dog on a tight leash. He is a hunting dog, and there is nothing more he desires than to give way to his instincts. But if I let him go he will run away, and that will be the last I see of him.
I nearly lost him a couple of years ago. I tore my clothes as I went around looking for him. I found him in a pile of snow shivering.
I won’t allow that to happen again.

Upon my return to the house I have the habit of enjoying a little glass of spirits.
Either a  good glass of sherry or a glass of aged cognac (at least 6 years old),  or a glass of port wine (always Portuguese.)
My choice will depend on the mood of the day.
Never more than a single glass, just enough to spark the mood a little notch.
It’s also time for doggie to have a little biscuit.

Now everyone has had his little treat. Let us retire to the living room, shall we?

I recline on the divan, I close my eyes momentarily, usually more reading ensues. Now the mind is more weary, therefore it will be exposed to lighter stuff, prose; a book about Caesar perhaps, or a bit of the immortal Stendhal.

I have acquired a habit out there in the wilderness. Sometimes it is as if my hand is possessed by its own will. It crawls up over my stomach, slowly continues up towards my chest, and then pauses before it settles in the gap between two buttons in my shirt. I’m reminded of the great life of a certain General of course. It is a quite comfortable posture let me tell you. I like to keep my hand like that strolling around the estate. Just to check that everything is as it should be. As if I were inspecting my troops.

 

The whole day immersed in silence. A bumble bee flies by and that’s a great event! How miraculous it is! Sometimes I find myself in tears.

As the afternoon comes to an end, the stomach starts rumbling again, I’m driven towards the kitchen. I spend hours preparing the biggest meal of the day.
The dogs watches me with great anticipation. He knows he will enjoy the leftovers of a potentially majestic meal. Sometimes enchiladas with cilantro, other days Thai food with chilies. A rich peasant diet.

Lady night has clad herself in a black gown. It is time for another film.
Again it is time to expose oneself to dreams materialized in the form of moving images.
I have discovered that it doesn’t work if I watch two masterpieces a day.
It will clog the mind. Of course one piece of cake won’t suffice, but you have to know how many pieces will do it for you, just before you reach that dreadful state of nausea.
So instead I watch something that I expect not to be a completely overwhelming chef d’oeuvre.
I still want to leave some space in my mind for the first grand experience that I had earlier. On the other hand if the first film of the day turned out to be a disappointment, I throw myself gladly and without delay into the arms of other more worthy masters.
They are all extremely delighted to show me their tricks.

Before I return to the bed chambers of the main house, I usually pause by the balustrades of the little stair.
There for a brief moment I gaze into the infinite forest whilst I listen to the echoes of the deer in heat. The forest acquires mythological quality; it becomes the Beyond.
The cries! It sounds like monsters lurking around in there.

Why do I do this? Why the solitude? Why the monotony?
Because it allows me to think. To really really think.
It does not befit, it does not behoove a gentleman of shall we say a more refined constitution to waste his time on meaningless chores.
When you’re unconcerned with all the necessary trivialities of a day, you become more affected by and open to more abstract thought. Suddenly but un-strangely the portals open, and you plunge into the Kingdom of Fantasy.

I went there in the search for ideas, but I’ve soon realized that that sort of thinking won’t get me anywhere. They will come of their own accord.
I just have to sit and wait. So I sit still and listen until they present themselves.
They will make themselves knows in the form of a knocking, sometimes on the door, on other occasions on a window.
There it is. The idea! I stagger to my feet to greet it with a deep bow. I invite it into the salon. We sit together.
They’re black with a sort of foggy contour. No face, no clearly defined limbs. They always sit in the same wicker chair. We sit there gazing at each other. Sometimes hours pass. It’s almost unnoticeable, but suddenly I realize that the idea has moved away from the chair. Levitating in the air, with the subtlest movement it moves towards me, slowly floating over the coffee table. In order to enter. Usually through my nose, although sometimes through my ears.

 

As the Western world moves towards a lifestyle of increased acceleration, some of us devote ourselves to presence and slowness.
In August when I return to house I feel restless. I unpack everything. I sit down, only to get up a moment later. But within a couple of days, the restlessness dissipates. I slowly give in, and blessed silence and peace overtakes me.

So I encourage you all, Danish artists, as well as artists of other nationalities!
Look towards the East. Denmark is small and densely populated, whereas Sweden is vast and humans are few. If you, like I, long for solitude and all its blessings, go there!
Houses are plentiful. The prices are affordable.

 

*This text was written in relation to the work Der Geist Des Lebens

Original article

Chickens’ Journey

Digital Video, 4:3, 2007, 4 Minutes

 

At the Sao Joaquim market in Bahia 4 chickens are laying on the ground. They are wrapped tightly in newspaper with only their heads sticking out. The gaze of the camera patiently waits to see what will happen to them. When an old woman buys them we follow the chickens on a journey towards their destiny.

Filmed in Brazil.

Der Geist Des Lebens

8 mm, 16 mm, 4:3, 2010, 16 minutes

 

At the bottom of a sea chest in an old house lies a pile of dusty old super-8 reels waiting to tell the story of when the eccentric plutocrate Asger Bøgedahl invited seven artists and scientists from different parts of the world to participate in a symposium, whose aim was to unite science and art in one comprehensive work: a dance describing how the spirit of life was born from the cosmos. A triumph of the spirit, realised in its material form by the best minds within each field of practice.

Sons of Illumination

16 mm, 4:3, 2010, 6 minutes

 

One man’s attempt to find solitude in the mountains joins him with unknown brethren.
In this imaginary parable elements from islamic mysticism are appropriated as a narrative unfolds; the formation of a religious movement starting out with one individual and growing into a fraternity with distinct ideas.

The mysteries of the universe reveal themselves to the sons of illumination.

Filmed in Turkey

Amor Populi

 

16 mm, cinemascope, 2011, 6 minutes

 

A man is running in a landscape of misty wetlands before dawn. Bloodhounds are howling in the distance. He is being chased. In exhausted resignation he falls to the ground and buries something. It is not long before his pursuers encircle him. Reasoning and forgiveness are out of the question. In a desperate plea for his life he sings a song of love.

Set in a distant time and place, this film is an investigation of the nature of violence prior to the “human rights” of Modernity and the ensuing ideas of “individual dignity”. The situation at hand is open: the specta- tor doesn’t know what happened prior to the confrontation.

Is the running man guilty of something? Or is he an innocent who has merely fallen victim to persecution?

Mountain Elegy

16 mm, 16:9, 2012, 14 minutes

 

– In a landscape of barren snowy mountains a cave man (played by the artist’s brother) roams around in what appears to be pre-historic time. His primordial world is one of danger and one in which man lives solitary.

– A homeless man (played by the artist’s brother) falls victim to persecution as he is chased out of his village.

– A small film crew (the artist, his father, his brother and a cinematographer) sets camp in a small house on the side of a mountain. We follow the group as they set out to make a film, moving up the mountain through unhospitable winter landscapes.

This work is structured as an anachronic narration consisting of three “story lines”. It is a melancholic meditation on estrangement, non-place, communion and family ties.

The Bedridden Triptych

Contentment, Making Something of Oneself, Losing /

Three-channel installation / 16 mm and VHS, 4:3, 16:9, cinemascope, 2012, 60 minutes

 

The state of being bedridden.
What has allowed for this phenomenon to occur? Indolence, poor health, old age? Hard to say with certainty. In a sense one could say that life has allowed it to occur.

Suppose there is something eerily comical about the life of a bedridden person who accepts this fate. Is there something amusing about the ever churning mind of a man who is left to his own devices? Could it make us smile? Possibly.

But if we were to put ourselves in this position, imagine the horror!

Through its references to historical film language constructs, the three films – as a combined whole – create an amalgamation of an existential cul-de-sac.
A dead end that has become the norm for the old, the unlucky and the ill in the highly industrialized countries of the Western hemisphere is what lies in waiting if you live long enough.

From the CPH:DOX 2012 catalogue:

A practictioner, a prophet and a poor, tortured soul. Three men, who for more or less articulate reasons have decided to spend their lives in bed, on the margin of the Danish wellfare state – isolated from the world, which as the ‘Prophet’ puts it while he is being cared for by the municipality’s home carers, is nothing but a grand illusion.

Deniz Eroglu’s self produced film is structured as a triptych with three parts, which in spite of their large formal differences share a black-humoured , Beckett’esque view of the soaring soul’s troubles with the often extremely tangible prison of the body. Two of the segments are shot on 16 mm, while the more talkative center segment is shot directly on old VHS tapes and presented as one of those documentary ‘alternative world’ programmes that you could catch on TV after midnight in the 1980’s.

A film, whose director obviously spent his formative years in the company of everyone from Kafka, Orson Welles and Ingmar Bergman to ‘vidéo brut’ and conceptual film of the kind he has started to produce himself.

McMansion Man

Digital camera, 4:3, 2014, 30 minutes

 

Thomas H aka Dos Equis aka The Dog Wizard is a man of many identities. He leads a free spirited, nomadic lifestyle with his canine entourage Bogey, Moschz and Ginger.

In Florida there is an astounding amount of houses for sale.
This has provided Thomas H with a unique method to secure a roof over his head: he moves into a house as a tenant under the pressumed intention of wanting to buy it.
When the owner discovers he isn’t paying rent, he is eventually evicted. This doesn’t discourage him in any way however.
With the vast amount of empty houses, this ingenious leader of the pack is always able to find a new domicile.

He is a contemplative man with many ideas of the world. He doces on subjects such as ‘dog cancer’, ‘cleanliness’, and ‘life after death’.

This work consists of a film as well as sculptural works, texts and photographs.

green

Towards the Garden of Palms

RED Epic, cinemascope, 2014, 70 minutes

A wealthy man invites 6 guests to come and spend a week in his countryside estate located in strange foggy wetlands. Keeping a sharp eye on them is a rather ferocious dog and a pedantic butler. In the beginning it is not entirely clear why these people have been invited, or what the purpose of their stay is. Furthermore, to their surprise the house they are lodged in is old and dilapidated. They soon discover that it is expected of them to be the attentive audience as the host appears and presents his thoughts. His ideas are self-enamouring, verbose and melancholic and the whole experience is perceived to be a bit suffocating and pitiable. Why does he want to share all these thoughts? What is it he wants?

Taking literary cue from ensemble plays by Molière and Corneille as well as through cinematic iteirations of similar dynamics, this work is constructed much like “The Rules of the Game” by Jean Renoir and “Satántango” by Bela Tarr, where a group of people embody a movement towards a dramatic climax.

The film work interrelates with text based and photographic works as well as sculptures and found objects.

 Mann-double

Rimbaud-centered