Memes, monsters + hierarchies. Aurora Sander on obstacles as art + confusing the hierarchy ahead of インフラ INFRA

, 14 August 2017

Papier-mâché, music stands holding paintings, happy birthday cards, cacti and other anthropomorphized inanimate objects. Pop up bars, giant eggs and toothbrushes. The work of Aurora Sander is often laid out in a humorous display akin to a horse show jumping course; the obstacles as art. Through appropriation and re-presentation, the duo (who is Ellinor Aurora Aasgaard and Bror Sander Berg Størseth) create objects and characters that sit awkwardly in a space together, telling absurd and unresolved stories.

Aurora Sander, Another Day, Another Drama (2017). Courtesy the artists + Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, Brest.

As noted in a text written by Geir Haraldseth, these objects are “caught in between form and function, art and design, discourse and disgust,” reacting to “the intrinsic structures of the art world, of socialization, distribution, value creation, judgement, and accruement.” Nominees of the 2016 Berlin Art Prize, the pair will be exhibiting a series of three bathroom mirror closets inspired by memes and monsters titled I’ve Created a Monster #1-3 for the Inside the Outside World group exhibition at Tokyo’s Yamamoto Gendai for the インフラ INFRA, running August 19 to 26. 

Organized by Berlin-based music platform 3hd Festival and Japanese-run online gallery EBM(T), the week-long festival brings together a robust programme of performance, music, exhibitions and talks proposing “a break from institutional and market-based boundaries,” along with a strong focus on supporting under-recognized artists and those working at the intersection of music, art and technology.

In a conversation about their upcoming contribution to the event, Aurora Sander chat with us via email about their upcoming project and their interest in blurring categories, hierarchies and storytelling.

Aurora Sander, ‘I’ve Created a Monster #1-3’ (2017). Courtesy the artists + インフラ INFRA, Tokyo, Berlin.

** Could you tell us a little bit about your interest in memes and monsters for the upcoming project ?

Aurora Sander: Our practice definitely takes its cue from everyday situations. We spend our days and nights scrolling as the world slowly crumbles around us — a lot of it thanks to monsters? Memes and monsters are everywhere. In this case or work, it’s a series of bathroom closets we made where the mirror has been exchanged with a painting of a monster. Maybe you’re also a monster? Remember this John Carpenter movie called They Live? The aliens aren’t here yet and we’re not providing you the sunglasses, but maybe the situation today is not entirely different.

For us this has also been a way of playing around with language and storytelling, almost like this exercise in creative writing we used to do in school as kids, where you put in random adjectives and nouns in a story and it ends up becoming something completely absurd. Covfefe.

** Are you trying to make sense of a whole by piecing these elements together, creating a narrative through a web of hierarchy, humour, and miscellaneous objects?

Aurora Sander, ‘I’ve Created a Monster #1-3’ (2017). Courtesy the artists + インフラ INFRA, Tokyo, Berlin.

AS: We always build a narrative for our projects and installations, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be linear and straightforward. It really depends on the specific project, but generally we see our artistic practice as being similar to that of a diary and we often think of the sculptures/characters we make as our imaginary friends or frenemies.

** Do you ever put your work in other contexts other than the ‘art world’?

AS: The last project we did was an attempt to create a TV show for kids. Generally, we’re not too concerned with defining our work and we’re always looking for new ways to create and develop possible practices.

** In terms of appropriation, what spaces/things are most inspiring to you, that you go to often and ‘take from’?

AS: Food, friends and furniture. Also we’re both really into film and TV, although we don’t always necessarily agree on what’s good and bad, happy or sad. When it comes to figuring out physical solutions and stuff, we often turn to architecture and design. That being said, appropriation is obviously a sensitive subject and we try to always be aware of what it is ok to appropriate and what is not.

** Do you take yourselves seriously?

AS: We’re very serious and dedicated about what we do, but we’re not sure if that’s the same thing as taking oneself seriously? We generally try to be as open as possible and not to take ourselves too seriously.

Aurora Sander, Another Day, Another Drama (2017). Courtesy the artists + Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, Brest.

** Is the art world an exciting place for you to play out these ideas, or do you secretly want to leave it all behind sometimes?

AS: Well, our artistic strategies are definitely closely linked to design, theater and fashion, which are fields that the art world is struggling to keep at bay. High art constantly appropriates images, strategies, and mechanisms from low culture, not in order to assimilate the two, but rather to reaffirm art’s position in the hierarchy. We find it fun to confuse this hierarchy, and we also like to play around with the identity of our duo, ranging from a Disney princess to an emerging artist trying to make it in the cruel marketplace of the art world. So we’re all about confusion, fusion, fiction and friction. So for now we think it’s ok to stay and be part of the art world. **

3hd + EBM(T)’s インフラ INFRA festival is on across venues in Tokyo, running August 19 to 26, 2017.