Jan Erichsen - A Symphony of Destruction and Humor
The Norwegian artist Jan Hakon Erichsen is known for his short destruction videos, where he destroys a variety of objects, from balloons to household items, in creative and humorous ways. In this interview he unveils the essence of his artistic journey, marked by a symphony of destruction and humor. Erichsen also shares his recommendations for other artists to follow on Atelie.
Living in Oslo, Jan Erichsen has carved a niche in the art world, best known for his captivating and wildly inventive destruction videos on Instagram, where his daily artistic revelations have captivated over 750,000 followers. His artistic odyssey, originating from Asker Kunstfagskole, has flourished through the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, culminating in a cascade of international exhibitions and viral recognitions, including a nomination for a Shorty Award in the "Best in Weird" category.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming an artist?
As many other aspiring artists I was drawing a lot in my youth. My oldest brother, Nils Erichsen Martin, was already in art school when I was in my early teens, so I kind of knew early on what It meant to be an artist thanks to him. I started Asker Kunstskole when I was twenty and after two years there I was accepted into the art academy at KHIO working mostly with sculpture and installation works.
What inspired you to start making videos and performance?
I’ve always been very inspired by performance art and the early performance artist where also some of the first artists to experiment with videos, so the two have always been very linked inside my head. While I was a student I bought the comprehensive Phaidon book «The Artist’s Body» which is a thorough survey on performance art and it made a lasting impression on me. I remember having a clear goal of becoming a video artist early on, but then I got derailed and focused on sculpture for many years before I picked up a camera again and made my first proper art videos from 2007 and forward.
Your work masterfully intertwines destruction with humor. How do you view the relationship between the two in your creations, and why do you believe they resonate so effectively together in the context of your art?
I think both just come very naturally to me, self deprecating humor and sarcasm is so deeply rooted within me that I just can’t help myself and it becomes part of my art if I like it or not.
How has your work evolved over time?
The sculptures I made at art school were quite similar to the props I make for my performance videos these days, so not that much has changed. In a broad sense you could say I’ve gone from making sculptures with a performance aspect to them, to making performances with a sculptural aspect to them. In a way my whole career is me moving very slowly towards pure performance art.
Can you tell us about the process behind your creations?
Most days I go to my studio without a clear idea of what Im going to do that day. I usually start of with deciding on an object to work with and just try out tings until something works. I never sketch or plan much ahead, the important thing is just to keep working. I also spend a lot of time in my studio just looking at objects until ideas manifest. After building something that is semi functional I start trying it out in front of a camera. I usually aim fore one take, but the reality is usually 3-5 before it works as intended.
Who are some of the artists or other people who have inspired you most?
I’ve always been very inspired by early performance artists like Chris Burden, Bruce Nauman and Bas Jan Ader, especially how they relate to their studio and how they use video. I’m also very interested in artists who use a lot of humor in their work like Erwin Wurm and Roman Signer, I think both of those are quite visible in my work. My biggest non-art influence is probably Buster Keaton and slapstick in general.
Here are Jan's recommendations for artists to follow on Atelie:
I’m lucky enough to own a few of Kirsten Opstad’s works and they make my day a little brighter.
Robert Johansson’s mix of sculpture and drawing is very inspiring and I always look forward to seeing new works by him.
I’ve been following Unn Fahlstrøm’s work for years and I’m very impressed by her transition from digital to these unique textile works.
Jim Darbu has a very playful approach to his works which I resonate a lot with.
Bjørn Erik Haugen approaches his art from a very different angle than me and I find it refreshing to look at his works.