241 Things

1000 Things is a subjective encyclopedia of inspirational ideas, things, people, and events.

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Studium Generale 1000things lectures, The Hague

241 Things

We hadn’t even finished our desserts when he asked it. It was a question that seemed to have come out of thin air. I couldn’t believe that this sentence rolled from his lips like any other sentence. I didn’t know what to reply. Instead, I posed my date the same question. ‘What is your top three of favourite animals?’ Without hesitation, he summed up his favourite animals. For me, it was clear. There would not be a second date.

Even though the proverbial spark between the man in question and I didn’t occur, he continued to resurface in my mind now and then because of this peculiar question. I was bothered that he so readily answered this question to which I had no reply. I started to bother others with the same question. Many reacted like I did, in exactly the same order: first surprise, then disbelief, and at last frustration because of their inability to answer. Do none of us have favourite animals in life?

Even if I look at it more generally, I hardly have favourites. No favourite band, colour, food or film. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I go through a phase of immense appreciation for a dish or musician, but for a while now I have been very careful in using the word ‘favourite’ in this context. The realisation that my preferences are temporary prevails.

The whole idea of a favourite seems to have disappeared out of sight. The word ‘disappeared’ is not randomly chosen, because as a child I seemed to know exactly what I found cool and what I found dumb. Exactly.

How could it be that I was formerly so apt at listing my top faves and am now so hesitant to call something ‘my favourite’? This probably has to do with the limited information that you have at your disposal as a kid, in comparison to what you learn and know about later in life. As a child, the world seems to be encompassed within everything you know – your reality is the only reality. At a young age, you’re unaware of the limitations of your knowledge. Precisely the limited knowledge and information enable everything that you know to be simply divided into good or bad. The world is still black and white. As you get older, newer colours are added. Knowledge is accumulated and slowly you learn that there are countless elements in the world that are preferred or despised. There is so much information available that it is hard to distil favourites. Moreover, you find out that preferences also change quickly.

Maybe I should not have written my date off as a weirdo, but seen him as someone who is closer to his inner child than I am.

Chris Johansen

What do artists read? The following artists share their favourite books.

Chris Johanson
I don't have a favourite book but I do read.

Annette Messager
The dictionary.

Alexandra Leykauf
This is impossible to answer… but let's say Chris Ware: Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth.

Ken Lum

Ken Lum
My favorite book is a children’s book that I actually reread a few years ago when I bought it again to read parts to my youngest niece: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

Marcel van Eeden
Gerrit Achterberg, Ode aan Den Haag, De ballade van de gasfitter, Spel van de wilde jacht.

Annette Messager

Marlene Dumas
The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

Gabriel Lester
Boris Vian, J 'irai cracher sur vos tombes (Ik zal op jullie graf spugen/I Shall Spit on Your Graves).

Chris Ware: Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth

Kimberley Clark
How to Make Love Like a Pornostar by Jenna Jameson.

Alicia Framis
La Dislocation, Benoit Goetz.

Marcel van Eeden

Jamy Shovlinn
Everything from Georges Perec.

Amalia Pica
The Order of Things, Michel Foucault and The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano.

Amalia Pica

Christian Holstad
The telephone book.

David Shrigley
The dictionary, it is the one I keep going back to.

Ryan Gander
The Adventures of the Black Hand Gang by Hans Jurgen Press.

David Shrigley

What does it mean to collect? And why do people collect? Is collecting a hobby, or is it a neurotic compulsion?

Instead of speaking of a neurosis, an art collector will speak of having a passion. When is a collection complete, when do you stop collecting, and when do you begin a new collection? There are a lot of things I collect, like super8 cameras, retro consoles, chairs, musical instruments and much more. Probably because I’m not good at throwing things away and I easily buy things at flea markets. I don’t collect art. I get art either through trading or being given it by friends and colleagues.

My largest collection is of wrapped scaffolding in front of the fronta of buildings. I started this collection after I installed a castle of 25 square metres for the exhibition “Het weiland dat beroemd wilde worden” (The meadow that wanted to be famous) at Dertien Hectare. This “castle” was wrapped in white “scaffolding” canvas.

It’s been years, but I still take a photo nearly every day while cycling, driving, taking the bus or the tram of canvas, often coloured, wrapped around a scaffolding in front of a building. My collection spans thousands of photos, and I find myself reaching for my phone whenever I spot a scaffold.

I’ve reached a point where my friends immediately recognise what I’m about to do, and sometimes even jokingly send me a photo they’ve made with their own phone. For me, it’s not about the photo, but about the action and the collection that ensues from it.

In my case, it truly is a neurotic compulsion and I simply can’t stop expanding my collection.

Making a snapshot of a new colour or colour combination against a facade gives me a sensation of pleasure.

Around two years ago, I started a new photo collection that I, once again, collect using my phone’s camera.

Often, when I’m standing or sitting somewhere, I’ll take out my phone, turn on the camera, and take a photo. The picture will always show my feet and possibly those of the person next to me.

Many of my shoes, trousers, and slippers have made their appearance, and the locations are greatly varied.

This collection, too, now consists of thousands of photos...

The key to being a good painter is by placing the last brushstroke on the canvas at precisely the right moment.

Will I only be able to stop collecting scaffolds if I make an artwork out of them? My wife has been telling me for years that I should make them into a publication.

I never started this collection with the intention of making an artwork, but because I simply felt the necessity to collect.

Often, neurosis, hobby, or passion will form an important part of an artist’s oeuvre. Sometimes on purpose, other times through intuition.

Shopping the stars

Shopping the stars, along the M8, Glasgow 1996

Shopping the stars

Shopping the stars, along the M8, Glasgow 1996

The exaggerated kind of art

The way it’s supposed to be art

The I’m a child of the sun art

The God is with us art

The I work with animals art

The I work with textile art

The I work with energy art

The I do something with people art

The I love you art

The that’s the way it is and leave it be

The and again type of art

The don’t cross the line art

The that the way it was art

The absurd-making art

The I see so many beautiful things art

The that’s the way it actually is art

The this is what you get when you do that art

The I found this and did something with it art

The I see what you don’t see art

The what is it really like art

The that’s the way it is and it will stay art

The watch me torture myself art

The what on earth is that about art

The back to school art

The my subject is giraffe and I will explore that art

The bigger the better art

The as long as it’s far away art
The look at me go! Art

The watch your navel art

The look how horny I am art

The I don’t care about anything art

The whole milk art

The I do that too art

The I could do that too art

The I really want to be real art

The look at all I’ve read art

The it looks almost real art

The laughs and entertainment art

The don’t mess with this art

The look what I made art

The feel with me art

The it’s not what you think art

The thick wood sawed with planks art

The that’s just me art

The romance of the sketchpad art

The greasy glitzy art

The statement art

The showing that that’s the way it is art

The if you do this you get that art

The back to basics are

The look how honest I am art

The I’m still working on it art

The I read this and made that art

The long live confusion art

The I do it for you art

The little means, big result art

The that’s the way I work art

The pleasantly worked together art

The just do whatever art

The show where it comes from art

The bring it on art

The let yourself go art

The conversation in between art

The I thought it should be like that, I did it, and now it’s good art

The oh-how-awful art

The there’s already so much art

The out of context art

The if you put this next to that art

The now something new happens art

The how did you come up with that art

The you’re allowed to see the strings art

The done by computer art

The it’s still functional art

The I’m making a point art

The I make you think art

The let’s make a meal art

The I do something with space art

The I find space very important art

The I think, actually, everything is important art

The, well, I could do that too art

The scary thing with art school is:

  • YES you do need to invest soul money in it!
  • YES you do need to strip mentally naked and bare your innermost soul for ALL to see!
  • YES you will get critique.
  • YES you might find out that there are things that you thought were clear and definite for everyone

but… it is only clear and definite for YOU, and if you have the will to communicate with others (which is basically what art is all about) you will have to change your ways. Or accept that no one gets it. Or even worse, maybe they get it, but they don't give a shit.

SOOOO… just keep being open.

I have been going to art schools for 8 years (3 years in Sweden, Rietveld for 3 years, 2 years of Sandberg.) I remember in Sweden having this attitude that I was afraid that the teachers would influence me too much and that that which was unique in me would be ruined. I was making comic drawings and making music and I had this idea that I KNEW what I wanted to do; I didn't need no asshole teacher to tell me what to do.

At that time I was clearly not ready to go to art school.

I COULDN'T receive, couldn't take IN, and wouldn’t let other people take part in my process. SO I stayed in a defensive mode. I basically didn't change much during art school in Sweden, just did my thing and was proud of it. After 3 years of art school I came out pretty much the same person/artist I was before.

After that I had a studio on my own for a year and did my thing. But when I was sitting there on my own I realized that SHIT, I just wasted 3 years of my life! I can ALWAYS do my own thing. You don't need to go to art school to do your own thing. You go to art school to get messed up in the head and to get new ideas that you would not come up with on your own.

After that, when I got a second chance at Rietveld, I decided to take that chance with open arms. Yes, I had assessments where I almost cried; I got so much shit from the teachers!

AFTER art school (I promise you this) you’re going to have the rest of you life to do ‘your own thing’. Like ALL of us (no matter if you are successful or not) you will be sitting in your dark studio somewhere in an industrial area or at home. AND you’re going to MISS those days when you had 20 people talking about your work and giving you shit and praise.

Good luck in trying to call 15 people to come over to your studio to see your art in five years from now. You'd be lucky to get ONE person to come over to see it.

So realize what a unique time this is, GRAB the art school experience with both hands and feet, tongue, brain and whatever else, otherwise you are just wasting your time, energy and money. USE us as teachers, use your fellow students. No one is here to hurt you, but we ARE here to give your ART shit (if needed) to make it bigger, better and stronger.

And the MOST important thing is your process:

  • HOW you make art.
  • HOW you talk about your art AND just as important, how you talk about OTHER people’s art.
  • HOW you share your process with the rest of us.
  • HOW you come to your results.
  • HOW you present your ideas and work.
  • HOW you make decisions.
  • IF your process is open, transparent and inviting, then you are on the RIGHT track.

So, just let art school mess with you for a couple of years, it is not going to destroy you, it will make you stronger. And DON'T worry, that which is unique in you can NOT be hurt by information, assignments, other people’s ideas, or modes of working or talking. It ONLY gets stronger by more information!

And if after 5 years of Rietveld you think that all the stuff those teachers told you was just PURE bullshit, well, after that you will be stronger and more knowledgeable. Then at least you will know what you DON'T believe. And that is a MUCH stronger position than to NOT know that.

So in that sense you are in a win-win position.
Life of a student
I think E. had a GREAT breakthrough yesterday, just like C. and many had before that. And what I mean with a breakthrough is to have the guts to show something that you are unsure about, something that you have invested emotion or soul money in. Something that you CARE about, something that might not be finished or perfect, but better because of it, because it lets the rest of us take part in the process, it INVITES us into the scary, lonely process that IS art-making. To NOT hide behind a cool facade (or any other facade), because there is nothing that gets old faster than that.

AND if you then think, shit, this gets VERY personal and intimate very fast, well, the art world out there is EVEN more hard, lonely and ruthless. So this is like a safe haven where we can ALL experiment and be insecure together.

Including me…

I also don't have the answers; I am also nervous and scared. I have a big show coming up in Frankfurt in December and I am scared SHITLESS!!! I want it to be NOT good but GREAT, because I’m exhibiting with artists that are world class! So the nervousness starts to creep in: who the HELL do you think you are Jonas, exhibiting together with Jim Shaw and Jeremy Deller? Who the FUCK is Jonas Ohlsson??!!!! The only thing you can do is the get USED to being nervous and scared, and to try and suck energy out of that feeling, and to let that fear help you to make the best work you have ever come up with in your life.

If you are NOT nervous and scared, then you are not investing enough soul capitol into your art.

You can, of course, also be nervous because you feel that you haven't DONE enough, but that is the

WRONG kind of nervousness. You should work your ass off and STILL feel nervous, that's the right kind of nervousness.

Maybe you sometimes feel that SHIT, I am tired of being in this vulnerable situation as a "student"; I want to be all knowing, self-assured and arrogant! Well, the fastest way to get there is to listen a lot, go see TONS of art shows, buy TONS of expensive art books (yes, buying expensive art books REALLY works as a way to increase your involvement), make a lot of art! Talk a lot about your art.

To EXPOSE your fears, doubts and insecurities is the fastest way OUT of unnecessary fear, doubt and insecurities. But you can't get to that level WITHOUT passing that stage. So just get it over with!!!

The longer you try to hold it out, the longer it will take you to get to the DESERVED position of an all knowing, self-assured, and arrogant brat.

Greetings, Jonas