Mantric Mutation, 2006. Screen-printed stickers on walls and floor, laser-cut texts in mirror, surveillance mirrors, light tubes. Installation view at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm.
Detail of Mantric Mutation.
Swedish artist Gunilla Klingberg has worked with many types of consumer goods, including their branding and logos, combining them physically or graphically to a point where they lose their individual forms and become altogether new. Klingberg has used paper and plastic bags from supermarkets, cheap rice-paper lamps, surveillance mirrors like the ones used in convenience stores, neon lights, plastic flowers, fans, and in general any product that is readily available in a consumer economy. She often combines logos in geometric patterns so that they become pure form; distinct brands are only recognizable upon close inspection, their communicative role neutralized. Klingberg’s art is a poignant take on the pervasiveness of corporate persuasion in our daily lives, while at the same time it turns consumer products into beautiful, seductive environments that immerse the viewer.
This interview was done via email.
Seven Eleven Twist, 1997. Paint on wall, surveillance mirrors.
Jose Roca: In your works you have taken different ready-made forms, patterns, and simple commercial objects, and through repetition you have done all-inclusive sensory environments. Print in its various forms appears to have been instrumental in your work as an iconographic source and also as a medium. Is this a correct appreciation? If so, can you elaborate why and how?
GK: Before studying art I was a graphic designer. The logos I use for my patterns are all taken from cut-price supermarkets or gas-stations around the corner and are not glamorous- they represent brands we do not identify with, brands that are instead a part of our everyday doings and rituals. The logos, as well as the shops, are big chains that look more or less the same all over in the Western world, and often even have the same owners. Printing as reproduction is then a natural choice since both content and technique/medium have the same socioeconomic reference.
Brand New View, 2003. Laser-cut adhesive vinyl.
JR: In your installations, one is drawn in and seduced by the visual beauty of the ensemble, but on close inspection one discovers a more troubling matter in the form of logos of corporations and companies. Is this intended to provide a reflection on consumerism or globalization, or are you interested more in the loss of the communicative power of these images once they are subsumed within a larger composition?
GK: Both, I would say. I experience a lack of essential symbols in my own culture. In some cultures ancient symbols and images still play a vital role and I am interested in images used for spiritual guidance, like the Buddhist/Hindu mandala, a cosmological diagram used in meditation. My forms and patterns consist of the Western street iconography, and become images of how our daily rhythm of commonplace doings blends with the advertising and enters deep down into our lives, homes and minds. They are a link between our public and private spheres, maybe even to the collective unconscious. I work with the distant and the close details: the patterns fluctuate between the abstract and the recognizable, and the images almost dissolve. One could get lost in the patterns.
JR: Your work is an ironic commentary on the role of advertising (faith-enhancing, form-based strategies), underlining the pervasiveness of branding while breaking down the communicative clarity of the individual logo?
GK: In a way yes, but I think that pictorial language and color works in an archetypal way as well, where the actual message could be secondary. Many brands have a seductive and even psychedelic potential that I use to generate a clash.
JR: Coming back to the mandala forms, I know that you visited India and were struck by how many Westerners are traveling there seeking a form of spirituality, while at the same time Western companies are furiously peddling their brands to enhance consumption in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. How did your trip to India affect your artistic output or your view of the world?
GK: It seemed evident that India is a place where spirituality and commercialism, rich and poor, old and new come together and merge in an almost brutal way. These travels were a starting point for the works I am doing now where the function of contradictions is often essential.
Cosmic Matter, 2007. Printed packing-tape, polished metal. Installation view at the 10th Istanbul Biennial.
What ideas do you have for Philagrafika 2010?
GK: I am planning to collect material on-site. In some way, the work will reflect part of the city environment.