Q&A with HC Gilje

HC Gilje, Glimt, 2015. Courtesy SALT. Photo: Gunnar Holmstad

HC Gilje, Glimt, 2015. Courtesy SALT. Photo: Gunnar Holmstad

SALT has commissioned HC Gilje (b. 1969), a Norwegian artist working with light, sound, architecture and space, to create a light-motion installation for the fish rack structure, Pyramiden. The work Glimt is mainly intended for the winter darkness, and will “give life to the architecture and its surroundings through light, motion and shadows”.

Can you tell us about your current project Glimt at SALT?
– I was invited by curator Helga-Marie Nordby to create an installation for the Pyramid at SALT, one of three structures created by the Finnish architect Sami Rintala inspired by the traditional triangular fish rack structures that are used to dry fish. One structure is a concert venue, another a big sauna and the third is used to present various art projects. The wooden constructions are located on a long white sand beach on Sandhornøy – with mountains on one side and the ocean on the other.

Glimt is a light-motion installation that relates directly to the structure of the fish rack and it’s placement on the beach: pulses of light passes through the structure at different angles, constantly transforming the appearance of the fish rack, as well as casting an elastic web of shadows on the sand.

Since 2006, you have been working on and developing the concept “Conversations With Spaces” which in the press release is described as “poetic dialogues between light, movement, space and architecture”. Can you elaborate on this?
– I am interested in motion itself, how motion passes through spaces, objects, bodies and landscapes, partly inspired by a quote from the essay Motor Geometry by the Dutch architect Lars Spuybroek: “We no longer look at objects, whether static or moving, but at movement as it passes through the object.” Motion (through light, projection, sound or air) breathes life, animates and activates a space, and this stimulates our active perception, it sharpens our senses and intensifies the experience, and emphasizes our presence in an environment.

Each person is an island, in the sense that no-one really can know what is going on somebody else’s mind. However, we all experience the world through our bodies, so the body is the link between our mind and the physical world. I aim to create work that is experienced through the body, emphasizing that perception is an active process – a constant negotiation between a mental image and feedback from our senses. I look at different ways of transforming spaces using light, projection, sound and motion: ephemeral media that creates temporary transformations of physical spaces, which again influences how we experience these spaces.  I try to create work that resonates with a space, both physically and mentally.

I am not particularly interested in light itself but in how light interact with physical structures. Light is only visible as manifestations in materials through reflection, refraction and shadows. A shadow reveals something about the light source, the object that casts the shadow and the surface that catches the shadow. A moving shadow implies passage of time. By controlling the motion of a light source I have a way of influencing our subjective experience of time.

The duality between how light forms our perception of a physical structure and at the same time how that physical structure modulates the light.

HC Gilje, Glimt, 2015. Courtesy SALT. Photo: Gunnar Holmstad

HC Gilje, Glimt, 2015. Courtesy SALT. Photo: Gunnar Holmstad

How does Glimt relate to this?
Glimt interacts with the open repetitive shape of the fish rack, lines of light partly following and partly contrasting with the wood frame construction. As the light moves along it lights up part of the fish rack, but every time the light passes a wooden beam the light is blocked, so there is a constant interplay between light and darkness, creating a certain rhythm to the light pulse as it passes through. In a similar way, the light pulse light up the beach underneath and around the fish rack, the shadow of the fish rack becomes a constantly changing grid of lines.

Glimt is mainly intended for the winter darkness (it will be running the whole fall and winter) even though the opening was in the end of August. I primarily had in mind that it would be more or less dark when people would experience it, but I really like the transition from daylight to darkness. In daylight you obviously see the whole architecture of the fish rack on the beach with the mountains and the ocean, and you might be able to spot some white points of light moving. At dusk as the fish rack almost blends into the surroundings the pulses of light reveal parts of the wooden triangles. Finally, when it is almost pitch dark the light pulses has taken over completely, animating both the fish rack and the surrounding beach, a light space that expands and contract out of the surrounding darkness.

Glimt can be experienced either by walking inside or in the near vicinity of the fish rack, or from a distance driving a car, boat or even from the passenger planes that pass over the island to/from Bodø.

From what I can imagine, your works are quite site-specific. What inspired you the most when creating Glimt in this awe-inspiring landscape?
– Some of my works are site-specific (or site-conditioned which might be a more correct description), but quite a bit of my work are installations presented in gallery spaces (as in in transit x  and flimmer).

In terms of the inspiration for Glimt, I think it was mainly the nomadic flavour of the SALT project, that these quite large wooden constructions are just temporary visitors on this beach that intrigued me the most. My works are temporary and unstable in a quite different way, but I thought it was a nice correspondence, and I am very inspired by the idea that everybody/everything has their own duration.

I am also really looking forward to experience Glimt during a heavy winter storm.

How would you describe your work process from idea to work?
– My work is very practice based, if possible I move my studio to the location where the installation will be, generate material through improvisation in the space and then make choices on composition and structure. So, a new work often starts with a specific location, object or structure, and a notion of what kind of methods and tools I will apply to start a dialogue with that location/object/structure. I might have a sense of where I am going, but seldom start out with a clear idea that just needs to be realized. I really value the hands on/trial and error approach, and in the process this often triggers ideas for later projects as well. I spend as much time as possible inside my own installations to make decisions on the flow/composition.

For a large-scale installation like Glimt there is of course a lot of practical and technical preparations, and in relatively remote locations like SALT it could be a disaster if some small detail has not been thought about. Sometimes I make 3D visualisations but this is mainly for the benefit of others to get and idea of what a project might look like.

HC Gilje, Glimt, 2015. Courtesy SALT. Photo: Gunnar Holmstad

HC Gilje, Glimt, 2015. Courtesy SALT. Photo: Gunnar Holmstad

What are your main influences when creating a work of art?
– I guess I am quite sensitive to the subtle transformations of my surroundings caused by natural and artificial light, so keeping my senses alert inspires a lot of my work. Also I work quite intuitively and produce a lot of work, and think more about/around the projects after I have realized them which I guess is in contrast to how a lot of artists work today.

Can you name an artist, artwork or exhibition that has inspired you?
– I think I would mention three performances that inspired me instead:
– Societas Raffaello Sanzio: Hey Girl! (2006)
– Jefta van Dinther: Grind (2011)
– fieldworks: nothing’s for something (2012)

Can you name a writer or book, fiction or theory that has inspired your works?
– Fiction: The Southern Reach-trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer and J.G. Ballard (especially Drowned World) – Enviroment as the protagonist.

Theory: Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: Production of Presence, “being lost in focused intensity” and Henri Bergson and his Matter and Memory.

What is your next project?
– I am working on a few projects in parallel. In mid-September I go on a research trip to Kirkenes-Nikel to look for locations for installations as well as to do some video recordings. This is for the second instalment of Dark Ecology, which will take place in the end of November. Dark ecology is a project in the Norwegian-Russian border area, organized by Amsterdam-based Sonic Acts and Kirkenes-based curator Hilde Methi.

In beginning of October I present a new installation with mechanical mirrors for the Sculpture Biennale in Oslo, and right after that I will travel to Prague with my installation in transit X for the light art festival Signal, that takes place in the old city centre.

Why is art important?
– Art is so many things to different people, which in itself is a good thing, but I like to think of art as a space for variations, questions (not answers), curiosity and wonderment.

Although SALT closed (the sauna and café) the first weekend of September, it will be possible to experience the installation throughout the autumn and winter – perhaps also in a winter storm.

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