Per Johansen – Mæt
Are you full?
Per Johansen’s pictorial universe is an emblem of the abundance of prosperity. “MÆT” (eng. “FULL”) explicitly circles around the subject of transience; imbalances are present and the photographs are marked by a socially critical observation. The works comment on the zeitgeist’ artificial overconsumption of products and points to contemporary consumer mentality. The works generate a relevant discussion, reminiscent of 1970s social criticism and ideological points – to deconstruct the system. This social criticism is not present today.
“MÆT” consists of reproductions of meat, vegetables, pasta and other foods which are claustrophobically placed in various synthetic plastic containers. Foreground and background colours are in beige, pink and light blue hues, which refer to a cheerful aspect. The light is reminiscent of the Dutch still life painters, where soft light and shadows were crucial to the mood of the subject. At first glance, the viewer is drawn by something seemingly aesthetic in perfect harmony, like sausage, chicken and fish, but if you take a closer look, the motifs are marked by something decadent, disgusting and incarcerated. Something is in decay, and it disturbs the harmonious balance. A kind of optical illusion “trompe l’oeil” is seemingly at play, and it flirts with the conventions of what you think you see at first glance.
Besides the photo series “MÆT” Johansen’s work includes “New View York”, depicting evocative architectural lines with melancholic undertones – and stories of urban life has left its traces in the buildings subdued silhouettes. “Another Side” and “Solo” points to people and objects that are taken out of their original context in a surprisingly innovative way. Typical of Johansen’s work is the concept of “vanitas”, where delicate transience enters the motives and is dissolved and deconstructed through the photographer’s transcendental third eye.
The photographs may be regarded as objectified hybrids that fuse together to form new hybrid folders? On one hand, the works are characterized by a layer of glitter varnish, where the commercial pastel expressivity is distinctive. On the other hand, something deviant is going on, since the viewer is confronted with the indelicate synthetic plastic world, where organic vegetables and meat organic life is trapped in eternal time and space. Johansen’s merry and minimalist expression is in tune with “conventional” advertising language, apparently seductive, but disharmonious because the code of advertisement is broken. Something intangible and diffuse hybrid-like is mutually folded into and out of the material elements, and thus the hybrids are autonomous and can stand alone.
Nowadays, prosperous countries and consumer society gorge on vast amounts of nutrients, where genetically engineered food, e-numbers and pesticides are utilized to promote the global and lucrative food industry sales statistics, while an increasing number of consumers have to undergo obesity surgery or get psychiatric help. What is your food consumption like? Are you full now?
By Charlotte Kim Boed, curator
More images and other interesting projects on Per Johansen’s website.
Per Johansen was born and raised in Copenhagen in a working-class environment. His mother was a secretary and his father was a jack of all trades.
“When I was 18 I got my first job in a photography store in Copenhagen. It was a semi-professional business where many commercial photographers came to buy their cameras and supplies. I became very interested in photography even though my job was to package and post parcels in the basement. I was allowed to borrow equipment and buy material cheap, so I started experimenting with photography, taking pictures of my girlfriend, family and my surroundings. Anyway, I needed an education, and through my job I had contact with the professional photographers. I was lucky and quickly found a studio where I became an apprentice. Besides learning all about technique and having access to the best equipment, I began to experiment with both film and photography. I collaborated with my brother who also was interested in photography and filmmaking. In time, we became more serious and made a black and white 16mm film. The title was “Three kisses”, a story about two average people in love leading their average lives. Furthermore, we began to make art photographs together. When I had finished my education, and we had enough photos, we took our car and drove down through Europe to show and sell our pictures. We sold them on the street, side-by-side other street vendors, artists and musicians, and our profits proved to be pretty decent.”