Asger Carlsen, Top left: BLISTER CARD ANETTE, 2018, BLISTER CARD, 2018, BLISTER CARD LIFE EXTENSION, 2018. All:Fine art print on silk, framed, 172.1 x 120 cm. Bottom: NEW Bacon, 2018, Fine art print on silk, framed, 172.1 x 120 cm. UNITLED SAMPLE 1, 2017, Archival pigment print on Hotpress paper, 87.5 x 60.9 cm, BLISTER CARD VARIOUS MATTERS, 2018, Fine art print on silk, framed, 172.1 x 120 cm.
How the machine (the camera), programmed to decide light, exposure and focus has changed our way of thinking of what is the correct way of representing what we see i.e the perception is fixed by the program. This is one of the theories that Villém Flusser discusses in his book Towards a philosophy of photography. This theory, even though it was first published in 1983, could not be more actual than in the digital times of today.
Henceforth it is by the most importance of re-representing reality and the magic of the image, that I choose to write about one of my favourite contemporary artists, that one can not call a photographer, but one who deals with images.
His name is Asger Carlsen. I first got to know him through our collaboration where MELK invited him to be part of our publication New Scandinavian Photography which was a collaboration we did with 16 artists across Scandinavia.
When I first saw his book Wrong (published by Morel books 2010) the images struck me as something that was refreshing, confusing and different, but at the same time very familiar. His use of humour and surrealism was something I could relate to since I also started out as a documentary snapshot photographer, that wanted to show the surrealism in the most common everyday life situations. But when I saw Asger’s images I could see someone who had stepped this up by far more use of imagination and control.
In his interviews Asger always underlines how the action of capturing the images is of no importance, but how the process of constructing them in Photoshop, is the room where he constructs his own reality. He uses photoshop to re-programme the machine after his own perception, feelings and experience of reality. This is where the magic happens and the artist takes control of the machine.
“The true challenge is finding the balance between fiction and reality, to create something so subtle it almost feels real.”
After ten years working as a crime photographer he moved on to shooting ads for magazines. Then one day while messing around on his computer he created an image of a face with a bunch of eyes that led him to the distorted photographs he has become known for. His eerie and often humorous work that mixes sculpture, photomontage and documentary photography, makes you question what is human and what is reality.
His most famous series and publications are Wrong ( 2010), Hester (2012) and his recent collaboration with Roger Ballen titled No Joke.
His images are, surrealistic, funny, surprising, odd and confusing. They present human figures without a face, with too many eyes, without legs, consisting only of lower parts of the body or any other combination of body parts. These impossible figures of twisted and weird shapes resemble sculptures, made of barely recognizable human bodies. His goal is to deconstruct the common principles of photography and to make new ways of understanding a photograph and what we assume is real.
For me Asger represents something that is of most importance in our times, where we let the camera (i.e the cellphone) represent us and henceforth letting the machine control more and more of how we represent ourselves to the world, where perfection is the goal. I believe it’s more important than ever that artists like Asger shows us that representation is not real, but always constructed.