INTERVIEW // Jan Erichsen
February 15th, 2021 // Interviewer: Shane Allen // Art
Equal parts exciting and suspenseful, the machines and contraptions that Jan Erichsen constructs make you more fascinated about balloons than you ever thought you'd be. Jan's makes videos of clever ways to pop balloons, unravel tape, and break sticks of pasta. All things you didn't know that are extremely captivating. Its a short window of both creation and destruction.
All of this videos take place in his blank studio where it seems is the perfect place to bring anything in head to life. Building things just to break them down.. You could call it, extremely random, overly done nonsense or just plain odd, but Jan proves that there are still original ideas in this world. We can still enjoy things that are out the ordinary, don't take it all to seriously.
What do you enjoy doing more, building things or destroying them?
I enjoy coming up with ideas and seeing if they work in real life. The purpose of the things I create is often to destroy something, but not always.
It’s really about that moment of relief when I realize it works.
Do you ever build things that you don’t break?
It´s more that I build contraptions that are designed to break objects like balloons and
pasta. But lately I have also been making a lot of designs to unravel tape and I also have a few that launches confetti. I guess it can be argued that they’re also destructive, but not quite as aggressive as usual at least.
What were you doing before that led you to this style of work?
I’ve been working with quite similar art to what I’m doing now ever since my art school days, but before it was more installation work and longer video pieces. It often had a darker feel to it with more immediate sense of danger.
Like for my first solo show I made a sort of occult dungeon with a variety of homemade weapons and torture devices. From conception to destruction what is the process of building one of your contraptions.
I usually start working without a clear plan, I never sketch out any ideas or anything like that. Instead I usually start with an object or a certain movement I’d like to investigate. Or sometimes one work directly leads to another. Like for instance I made a structure for unrolling tape with my head a couple of weeks ago and when I finished filming that I removed the tape and decided to add a revolving plank. After spinning it just with my hands it became a natural next step to add an elastic band to make it move by itself. That was satisfying to watch by itself, but I added a knife so I could pop balloons with it. I think that original structure ended up being part of different contraptions in 6-7 videos.
Would you call your pieces a performance? If so are you performing or is the machine?
I usually call what I do sculpturally based performance art. I set everything in motion, but you can’t have the one without the other.
What is the point, does there have to be a point?
For me it’s all based in a form of curiosity, what happens if I add this to this? Does this mundane object have an untapped potential? And I think that is more than enough. It’s possible to read more into my videos, but I don’t think it’s necessary do so.
Where do fear, anger and frustration come into play?
I use them as sort of catalysts for creativity, boredom is another one.
I’m interested in what I like to call "The Dark Side of Creativity" People who usually aren’t that creative can cook up the most intricate ways of getting back at someone if they’re angry enough.
My work can also work as a vent for negative feelings, destroying something can be quite cathartic.
What is your ideal reaction for someone coming across your videos?
My favorite reaction is when people tell me they first were confused and even angry when they came across my art, but then gradually started enjoying it and now can’t get enough. I try to make my videos as intuitively accessible as possible though, so very happy when people just instinctively like it as well.
Are you into any other mediums of art?
I’m a big art nerd and enjoy most aspects of visual art. My ideal vacation is just going to a big city and visiting museums and galleries.
Were you into Rube Goldberg machines when you were younger?
That wasn’t something I was aware of at all when I was young. My first introduction to that concept was through the artist duo Fischli & Weiss and their video Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go), which still to this day is one of my all time favorite works of art.
Why are balloons and fruit common recurrences in your pieces? Does the color of the
The balloons came into it quite randomly, but I soon discovered that they work as a sort of much needed comedic relief. My work can be quite aggressive at times, but the moment I include something fun and harmless like a balloon it makes it more humorous and accessible for most people. When I started using balloons it felt like finding a missing ingredient, suddenly heaps of people started liking what I do instead of a chosen few. The same goes for the fruit really, it’s quite harmless, most people can relate to it and especially bananas are quite funny.
Do you ever miss any of your pieces?
I usually take apart everything I make and use the parts again in new designs, but every now and again I make something I’m especially happy with and keep it around for a long time. But eventually I’ll need the parts or space and it will have to go.
Do you feel like you are limited in making anything you want to make?
There are three main things that put a stop some of my projects. The main thing is space, I have a very small studio and that is a problem for several obvious reasons. The two other things are time and money. They could all be fixed with more money though, then I could rent a bigger studio and I would have more time to make art instead of hustling to make ends meet.
Is it necessary for all your walls to be plain white and undecorated?
I think so. The plain white background serves as a sort of framework for the pieces. A lot of my builds and actions are so chaotic that it would be difficult to see clearly what was happening if I didn’t have a neutral room to perform in.
What are your goals?
Mainly just to keep making videos and see how far it will take me. I’m quite happy with where I’m at at the moment and don’t see any need for big changes.