Jan Christensen

Jan Christensen (b. 1977, Copenhagen) studied at Oslo’s National College of Art and Design from 1997 to 2000. For several years he has used Berlin as his base and belongs to a younger generation of Norwegian artists who have built international careers.

Jan Christensen exemplifies how the artist’s role is changing and moving away from the Romantic myth of an ‘artist-genius’ who, in his works, expresses feelings and innermost thoughts. Like a traditional artist, Christiansen does produce his own works, yet he also collaborates with other artists and curates exhibition projects. The latter function reflects the increasing importance of independent curators, in contrast to traditional museum curators whose dealings with art happen within an institutional framework.

As an artist, Christensen is constantly changing, not least through the striking breadth of concepts and materials with which he works. In contrast to the traditional sort of artist who works with only a few artistic media, Christensen alternates between a wide range, all chosen in relation to the ideas he wants to express. Monumental murals constitute an important part of his production. Sometimes these are temporary works that disappear after an exhibition; other times they are permanent in the sense that they are publicly commissioned and have a symbiotic yet tense relation with their architectural surroundings.

A critical approach is also present in Christensen’s art, as can be seen in Relative Value (2007). Several versions of this work exist, each consisting of bank notes (dollars, euros or kroners) arranged like collages on canvas. The work comments on the international tendency to commercialize contemporary art and give it enormous monetary value. The formal aspects are less important, but conceptually, the work implies that its worth corresponds to the bank notes’ value: ‘what you see is what you get’, quite literally.

Christensen also produces installations, one example being Interrupted Space Continuum (2010). From a beam suspended from the ceiling, there hang other beams to which beer crates are fastened. This mobile is perfectly balanced as long as no bottles are removed. It causes us to recall that mobiles are part of Modernism’s repertoire, especially the famous examples produced by Alexander Calder. Christiansen’s mobile diverges from those of Calder in how it re-uses banal objects and engages in playful interactivity.

A work largely based on public participation is the audiovisual installation (Onomatopoeia 2011), developed jointly with Anders Fjøsne (b. 1981, Oslo). The title refers to word definitions that imitate the sound of their referent. Through sensors and lamps, the public’s activities generate sound. Passive viewers become co-creators who can experiment and be amazed.

Supported by Norsk Kulturråd

Frank Falch, curator