Text by Jivan Astfalck

Extract from the text Difference and recemblance. The reconstruction of signs by Jivan Astfalck. Published in the book ”Six views on a practice in Change”, Craft in dialogue, 2005

In my view, we need to be aware of the significance of the crafts object as a commodity and at the same time explore the crafts object as a dialogical device of differentiation and of meaning. In accordance with other theoretical thought systems, significantly semiology, I regard the object as a sign, a sign by which human beings, individually or in groups, communicate or attempt to communicate. This applies to a lot of cultural manifestations like clothes, advertisement, food, music etc., and of course crafts are no exception. The object functions as a sign regardless of the maker’s intention, and it does so whether it has been mass-produced or is a one-off piece or a conceptual work. The reading of the object as a sign becomes especially interesting in cases where the maker is aware of the linguistic sign function of the object and integrates this awareness into his/her own artistic practice. These makers often develop work methodologies, which on a conscious level attempt to take control over the sign function of the object and intentionally play with the possible readings of the work.

The work of Linus Ersson negotiates this complex dynamic with great sensitivity and knowledge. Take for example his multi-media piece Images of France (2004), consisting of six watercolour paintings – painted back in 1998, a castle made of stoneware, a wooden table, a wine barrel made of stoneware and painted with porcelain colour and a set of equally painted plastic mugs. Ersson shows an awareness of his own romantic investment in crafts cultures by referencing the aesthetic appearance of such objects. But the deciding difference, in my view, comes from the fact that the artist acknowledges his own emotional investment by deliberately considering the seductive appearance of such ‘trivial’ objects as meaningful. He creates complex installations, which function on many levels of interpretation. Ersson is aware of the romantic idea of the craftsman, which has been used as a tired metaphor in too many publications; he opts to undermine such conventional expectations and happily allows for chance and impulse to determine the aesthetics of his objects. He engages in an open experimental process of making, where faults, accidents and imperfections are of important value. Even though the narratives of his installations convey a romantic ideal, the surface quality of the work suggests a much deeper and not quite so perfect inner life. Work such as this shows the idyllic as flawed, whilst evoking a sense of melancholy, a nostalgic yearning for a good time long past, an ease in human relations and secure value hierarchies. Like many other studio crafts makers, Ersson seems to criticise a culture in which the generation of unlimited series of variables, like the made-to-measure or the hand-made with its idiosyncratic markings, has been replaced by the machine production of a limited number of constants creating unprecedented boredom. The focus on the every-day, the domestic, the hand-made and idiosyncratic, the marginalized and excluded, which can be observed in so much contemporary craft seems to be a direct reflection of a continuously more homogenous world culture, where difference and individuality come at an increasingly high price.

Jivan Astfalck