Exhibition images from the Former Commodity No3 exhibition with Chris Shields and Alexander Holm

Visual Arts

Former Commodity #2: with Claus Haxholm.

Artist Claus Haxholm crafts a collection of work that explores the sculptural, auditory, and experiential as a part of an ongoing exhibition with Former Commodity and Sensorisk Verden.

by Claus Haxholm & J.Scott Stratton

Musicians crossing over into the visual or performance art fields are definitely not a new thing. The KLF crossed over into performance/installation art in 1994 when they burnt the bulk of their earnings (1,000,000 pounds) as a video piece to spark debate on the value of money.

Similarly, Jean-Michel Basquiat had a visual art-noise rock band called Gray. Yoko Ono has had a long career of using sound and music in her work. Sonic Youth, David Byrne, the list goes on and on. People have been shifting between the artist and musical stages for decades.

What is a reasonably new development, is how easy it is for a musician to work cross-disciplinary. Likewise, the term artist and musician are becoming monikers with less and less concrete meanings.

Considering this, one could even argue that for a “musician” to gain mainstream credibility now, they need to be somewhat cross-disciplinary.

On the flip side, sound artists are finding a larger global mainstream stage for their more commercial “musical” ventures.

In addition, sound and music are becoming just as ubiquitous in galleries as it is on stages. Individuals that work creatively with sound are freer to choose the event format for whatever their concept requires.

During the summer of last year, I covered one such event—organised and curated by musician/artist Alexander Holm. It was the first in a series of exhibitions ongoing and upcoming entitled, Former Commodity. You can read the article here. The exhibitions centre on the work of artists that cross the traditional barriers between visual and sound art.

Former Commodity #2 introduces artist and Royal Academy of Fine Arts graduate Claus Haxholm. More specifically, the exhibition combines sound design with performative and sculptural techniques to explore the meaning of “transformation”.

Haxholm’s work is the culmination of 3 or 4 years of research. Furthermore, it works with textile as a sculptural medium, sound as an immersion technique, and references to natural elements and Taoist teachings. Through this, Claus Haxholm has investigated the idea that “you can both transform the music and yourself.” In other words, bending yourself in terms of collective thought, but also letting the music transform into whatever it needs to be.”

Do you often bring your musical work and your sculptural work together?

Yes, that happens quite often these days. Sometimes it can get a bit dizzying. But most of the time it works out quite nicely. The modes of working can build off each other in a good way; creating unforeseen situations and giving time or space to think about things in another way.

One can find you musical endeavours online quite easily, but can you elaborate a little on your sculptural and installation work?

Well, the sculptural works that I’ve done, started like most things I do—learning by doing. They often have an open or unfinished touch to them. It’s about exploring form, about what it means to show something that deals with more spatial means.

I often base my installations on some kind of narration. It’s like a piece of research-material, which hasn’t left my brain and works as a mould. That mould can work wonders when thinking about what and how to formulate a performance, sculpture, or installation.

During the last couple of years, I’ve combined installation work with performance. The installation works as stage. It gets activated and then exited, being left as a remnant of a performance. It’s like having some sense of a “living being” injected to it.

Exhibition images from the Former Commodity No2 exhibition with Claus Haxholm and Alexander Holm

Can you tell me a little bit about the premise behind your work for Former Commodity #2?

I have worked a lot with improvisation with my art (and music). One of the main elements (or concepts) is the idea of “transformation”.

Of course, the idea of transformation is a very open term. However, I’ve somehow arrived at different metaphors and pictures and models of transformation. I created some works based around that. But then it developed slowly into focusing more around wind-imagery and being more freeform and poetic in my approach.

At that time, I had been working with fabrics, pieces of cloth, old towels and sheets etc. They work very well in the wind, blowing all around and dancing and moving, and making a little sound once and while. It then made perfect sense to try to make an instrument or more deliberately squeeze out the sound of pieces of cloth.

Would you say that the fabric sculptures are an extension or visualization of the sound pieces? Or are the sounds piece more of a soundtrack to the visual experience of the sculpture?

I hope that they can be somewhat equal. Even though I understand if some see it as more of an exhibition (with less focus on the record) or some weird record-release party (with less emphasis on the artworks). Whichever attitude people come with, I hope that the lesser understood format will get some attention and widen the perspective of the person experiencing it.

So yes, you could say the sculptures are extensions of the record, and the record is an extension of the sculptures.