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30st of August 2006
Interview: Lars Vilhelmsen about How Scandinavian of Me.

Vendsyssel Artmuseum has invited Lars Vilhelmsen to show his project, "How Scandinavian of Me", which inspired his "Travellers Secret Box" project, a collaborative venture begun by Lars and which now involves a group of artists at home and abroad. "How Scandinavian of Me" is a solo project.

By Jan Falk Borup
Photo: Jan Falk Borup
Translation by Karen D`Amico

The exhibition How Scandinavian of Me shows in Vendsyssel Artmuseum from 16th.of June to 1st of October 2006.

Lars Vilhelmsen

Chipped bark and Paris cake

Jan: We are here at your exhibition "How Scandinavian of Me". Can you explain your ideas behind the workt?

Lars: The project began in 2001, and I have been working on it as an ongoing development ever since. The work exhibited here is the documentation which represents the sequence of the project over the past 5 years. The exhibition consists of a row of photographs along with different objects that were used in the process, among them a cake, a T-shirt and some chipped bark, all of which are central elements to the overall theme and idea..

Jan: In the photos you stand on chipped bark. What is the significance of that?

Lars: Bark is a material which has great symbolic value, both for the project and for me personally. Generally speaking, in each photograph I stand before various well known attractions, where all the tourists let themselves be photographed. By having myself photographed while standing on the chipped bark, then I am, in a symbolic way, still 'home'. The work is therefore asking the question, to what degree are we really present and connected within the culture concerned, whether that be our own culture or another one in which we happen to be?

Jan: The title "How Scandinavian of Me" is not your own?

Lars: No, it's actually a line from a song by the Icelandic singer Bjørk. She has some very interesting lyrics, and as I was investigating her word compositions I came across the sentence "How Scandinavian of Me", which immediately and very precisely clicked with the idea I was wanting to articulate.

Jan: So where does the 'Scandinavian' lie in the project?

Lars: I allowed myself to define my background more broadly than simply Danish, so that I portray myself as a sort of representation of how to be a tourist, in particular for Scandinavia, but of course in other countries too. So in the process of the project I would investigate this way of travelling, of being a tourist, but I had to have something personal invested, in order to create a relationship with it in a way, so that the project still had an interest to me specifically.

Jan: But don't you remove the personal, when, in the photographs, you stand with a T-shirt printed with the title of the project?

Lars: I have not tried to remove the personal with the T-shirt. It's function is more a form for uniform, so you can interpret that there is perhaps another possibility, for instance, the notion of uniformity, or of how we view cultural stereotypes.

Part of the exhibition at Vendsyssel Kunstmuseum   Objects at the exhibition
Photos from Skagen   Paris, DK or France?

Jan: On the exhibition there is a drawing of a Christ-like figure. Shall I read something religious in that?

Lars: No, you shall not. When we installed the exhibition, we took as the starting point a photo from Skagen, where an outline of me has been drawn. We chose to repeat the image in the exhibition, to ply with the fact that I am in the exhibition, without actually being present. So it is also characteristic of the exhibition. If you study some of the works, you can see, that there is a fiction to some of the places.

Jan: Like in the photos, where you are standing before the village signs in Rome and Paris?

Lars: Yes; for example, 'has he gone abroad or not?'. 'Is it a physical or a mental travel?'

Jan: Which ranking has the IT-project against the exhibition on this museum?

Lars: I wanted to create an exhibition in real space; one which was not only a homepage in cyberspace but also something physical, with printed and hanging pictures. Therefore I combined the extra elements, for example the drawing and the cake from Paris. But the homepage is the main project, continually being updated with new things. For example, I've just been in Roskilde and created something for the Festival.

Jan: What will happen in the future with the project?

Lars: My original plan was to exhibit the project abroad and home, which developed into a presentation in Berlin and now Vendsyssel Artmuseum. The exhibition in this museum is a form of ending, but the project maybe already has taken a new turn, as I am now planning an exhibition with Sergei from Senko Studio in Viborg, where the T-shirt from "How Scandinavian of Me" goes together with my second travelling project, "Travellers Secret Box".


Related links:
Vensyssel Kunstmuseum: www.vkm.dk

Webdesign: Jan Falk Borup