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Meet an artist who uncompromisingly uses himself in his art. Inspired by his own fears and anxieties Peter Land makes disturbingly humorous work, but it was moral qualms that were behind his groundbreaking video of himself dancing naked. 

This video tells the story of Danish artist Peter Land, who has the mind-set of an illustrator: “For me, drawing is the same thing as observing. Even when I’m doing something that isn’t closely related to drawing, I think like an illustrator. Even when I’m sculpting or making videos.” When he was accepted at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Land soon became aware, that his ideas were “a far cry from what was talked about at the academy.” As a consequence, he decided to skip painting for a period and instead work with something that he knew close to nothing about – video. His first video was of two young women stripping in front of the camera: “The whole exercise was to try to put myself in a situation where many of my preconceived ideas about who I was were tested.” Land considers this video one of his “personal, strategic works” with which he tried to push his own limits and find his foothold. Instead, however, it resulted in “serious qualms,” which gave way to an attempt to “restore the balance” by making a video of himself doing exactly what he had asked the young women to do – strip in front of the camera: “Much of the work I’ve done since then… is about identity and losing your footing, questioning conventions, questioning one’s existence. Those two videos had that effect and launched me into a theme that I have looked at from every angle ever since.”   

Playing with conventions and people’s expectations is at the core of Land’s work. He draws on slapstick and Theatre of the Absurd in his videos when he e.g. repeatedly – Sisyphus-like – falls down from a chair or a staircase: “If you repeat it over and over then the possibility of it being an accident disappears. And it becomes something else. But what does it become?” This question is also what an artist has to deal with when attempting to establish meaning: “It’s like building a scaffolding that you can hang meaning onto and it falls apart every time because something has moved – or reality has changed – and the foundation under the scaffolding has disappeared, so it comes crashing down and does so over and over again.” At the same time, Land’s videos contain an element of anger or disappointment at the realization that God is no longer a part of his world: “You could describe me as a disappointed Christian. I really want to believe, but I’m not able to.”

When Land made the transition from videos to his life-like sculptures, he still drew on the same themes such as repetition, challenging people’s expectations and the theatrical element: the museum could be used as a stage, and the audience as the actors. His first sculptures were of children, as Land is interested in childhood as a sort of laboratory, and how children have been moulded through time to fit the ideas and ideals of our society: “If it’s not expressed anywhere else, it is in the way we bring up our children and the ideals we have about what they should be like as adults.”

Peter Land (b. 1966) is a Danish artist, who works with videos, sculptures, photography and installations. Often using his own body as subject, Land explores the surreal and the grotesque, such as in ‘Joie de Vivre’ (1998), where Land’s head bounces around two screens, laughing and contorting on loop. This kind of self-disclosure, sense of absurdity and dark humour is at the centre of Land’s work, where he exposes not only himself but also the viewer through the act of recognition. For more see: http://www.peterland.dk/

Peter Land was interviewed by Christian Lund at Arken Museum of Modern Art in Ishøj, Denmark in March 2017 in connection with the exhibition ‘Gosh! Is It Alive?’

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard

Edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen 

Produced by: Christian Lund

Cover photo: From ‘The 5th of May 1994’ by Peter Land, courtesy of Galleri Nicolai Wallner

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2017

 

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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