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08.06.2015 INTERVIEW

Henry Krokatsis in Ordrupgaard Art Park Foto: Nanna Claudius Bergø.

I Confess ; Confiteor

Each summer Art Park Ordrupgaard invites contemporary artist to make an artwork in the park, taking their point of departure in the nature of the park or the museum. This year they invited Simon Starling, Klara Kristalova and Henry Krokatsis, whose works will be presented on June 11th . I met up with Henry Krokatsis when he was setting up his contribution to the park Confiteor, which means ‘I confess’ in Latin.

AF Nanna Claudius Bergø

Ordrupgaard, Vilvordevej 110, 2920 Charlottenlund, ordrupgaard.dk
Simon Starling, Klara Kristalova, Henry Krokatsis
Kunstpark Ordrupgaard 2015
11.06.2015 - 

Would you like to start by introducing the project? Do you know why Ordrupgaard asked you to do a work for their Art Park?
I don’t know why they asked me, they asked me because I make works outdoors(?). There was a lot of literature about Ordrupgaard that talked about the original idea behind the house. It was centred on this idea of the inside and the outside, so you have the works inside which are parts of the developed culture and how they blend with nature. So that was one of the things I took as a starting point.

I work with traversed boundaries, things that are pairs of opposites. What I wanted to do here was to make an object that addressed that gap between a functional object and an object of aesthetic fascination. What I’m making is a small building that is based on a small confession box. It is a cross between a confession box and an interrogation room. It looks like a small gothic chapel and is made entirely from wood that has been treated with a Japanese technique called Shou Sugi Ban, where you burn the wood and you scrape the wood. Once it is scraped out, you burn the pattern of the grain. The stuff inside the pattern is softer so it burns more and so the grain stays raised. Then each piece of grain is carped by hand.

So this work is like a cross between architecture and a more sculptural work?
Yes, absolutely, it is sort of functional but the main thing is its aesthetic fascination really, so the functional element is secondary to the aesthetic. The way architectural space works is that it normally has a very specific function, but the thing with a confession room is that it is much about what is inside you and releasing it. You are in a space that is designed to make you comfortable to do that, so what you give you give freely. But in an interrogation room it’s extracted from you, so in many ways it’s the same except the psychological gap between the ways the two things come about.

Are you able to enter the work?
Yes, you can, it has in its interior a space for confession. It is based on a small cross, the whole building is raised from the ground so it looks like its levitating, and the whole thing turns very easily, a child can push it with one hand. I think one part of the reason why it is turning is that in the Victorian times in England we had these summer houses that you could turn so they would face the sun at all times. So it was partly based on that.

I read somewhere that all your works attempt to create an uncanny atmosphere, is that at stake here too?
It is a strange idea ‘uncanny’, it is a big term and something that has been used a lot in contemporary art in the last 10 years. I am interested in things that look like they fit in but then they make you look again, and not the gothic idea of the uncanny.

Perhaps it is the idea of a well-known object made differently that makes it uncanny; you have an idea of how a building should be like, but here it becomes an artwork?
Maybe, the notion of the uncanny goes back to the home and the way you should feel at home, and then to break that notion. But I am not interested in the discomfort, I am interested in splitting apart your expectation, to divorce them so they float, but not split them to make you feel uncomfortable. So that is the thing isn’t it? You can do things for different reasons, you can do things to make you shrink, to make you feel uncomfortable or you can do things to make you expand. I think I am more interested in the expansion than the shrinking.

Did you choose the site in the park?
Yes, I did and I made it just for here. The context is the most important thing. Ideally what I want is to make something that on the one hand looks really extraordinary in the environment but also as it somehow belongs. It is a tall thin building and that is why I put it next to the tree, it is the verticality of the area, that is the plan.

You talk about the work as if you don’t know how it looks like yet?
I haven’t put it together ever. I made it in sections and shipped it over here, and it will be the first time I put it together. I never made plans, I never made diagrams, I never made models, I have never done that. My practice is very inefficient. I think the kind of spirit you make things in, the slightly unplanned nature of it, is in the work. It would be a very different work if I had perfect drawings and measurements to work from.

Would you like to say more about your practice, you use a lot of recycled materials, is that a nostalgic thing for you?
No, I am not interested in nostalgia. I am interested in the perception of something. I use a lot of old glass and old mirrors, things that had some kind of investment and then was thrown away. When the first mass-produced mirrors came about around the 1930s, everyone had them, and now they have no value, you find them in junk stores for pennies. The object hasn’t changed but the perception has. I use a lot of found materials, things that had a life and then have been bankrupt. I use a lot of candles you light in the church. This is a physical thing the candle, but all of your hopes and prayers gets translated and pushed into this object, this candle, and then it gets thrown away.

In the beginning you talked about your inspiration from the museum and Hammersøi, would you like to elaborate?
The two things that jumped out for me were the Hammershøi paintings, the notion of the inside/outside idea, and the idea that the collection was built with an idea of the garden as a part of the site. Hammershøi has that inside/outside thing in his interiors; a lot of them features boundaries like windows and doors, like transition points.

Is this work a transition point too?
It has 4 doors. I mean it has the mirrors, they are all points of transformation aren’t they(?) the threshold, the boundaries. I think windows do that, doors do that, mirrors do that.

The whole idea of confession is like a form of transformation or transition isn’t it?
Absolutely, you physically take yourself to a space to make that transformation. You have that boundary that is the speaking hole, and that is the boundary that you don’t physically pass but psychologically you do in the end.

Do you think people will go into the work?
I hope they do. I want them to be fascinated by what they see. I don’t think it matters if they put it into a category of a sculpture, or building or a shed, it is not important, the important bit is that there is something that tweaks your interest.

Thank you!

Henry Krokatsis: Confiteor, 2015.

Henry Krokatsis: Confiteor (detail), 2015.

Henry Krokatsis: Confiteor, 2015.

Henry Krokatsis: Confiteor, 2015.

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