During the Covid 19 confinement ifa laboratory co-hosted with ifa gallery an online Instagram talk with artist Joakim Eneroth. The artist currently exhibits his brand new work Consumed Notions in Brussels.
Beyond Joakim’s talent as artist, his work exploring the origins of creativity is of central interest to ifa laboratory. Johanna Suo (J.S), director ifa laboratory asks some questions to Joakim Eneroth (J.E):
J.S. Could you tell us something about the exhibition Consumed Notions currently on display at ifa gallery?
J.E. For more than 20 years my greatest fascination has been around the question of how we perceive reality. And in that observing the difficulty we have as human beings to distinguish between our mental projections and reality itself. We create a mental fabricated reality that are made of our thoughts, interpretations, ideas and assumptions that we often believe in more than our direct experience. It’s like believing our dreams during the night, they seem so real but have no actual substance as such. The mental creations are strong in their conviction but in the essence they are totally empty and lack any real substantiality. So we attribute solidity to our thoughts and mental labeling and interpretations, that is not real. To illustrate this in a simple way I created the art project Consumed Notions.
In this art project I have taken everyday products, like Colgate toothpaste, Palmolive shampoo, Axe shower gel, Coca-Cola and Fanta drinks, Tropicana orange juice, and others, I have done an exploration of how the sublime and etheric aspect of reality is an underlying potential in all form. Even in those ordinary objects over exposed in advertising and associated with consumerism. Even in those objects we can see the dance of the relative and absolute. When you take away the logo-types and advertising concepts you see the raw material that I have poured in to different plastic boxes, illuminated with light from beneath and photographed from above. Then they look like transparent abstract paintings. Then the perception of these everyday products become something completely different. And the boundaries between the material world of subject and object are dissolved. Consumed Notion exposes and expands our definitions and associations with products or everyday life.
J.S. Perception, reality and the mind transcend your work as artist. What is actually driving you as an artist? What is driving you as a human being?
J.E. Longing for freedom on every level, that is a the main driving force during my whole life. To explore freedom on a philosophical level, and on the psychological level, and on a spiritual level and also on the physical body level has been an ongoing exploration for me. We use the word freedom often but what does really mean in direct experience, and how deep can the experience go? Can it be permanent or are we just having to accept temporary moments of the freedom we experience? That search has made me study many different traditions both in the east and the west.
So I think that is the main theme running through quite many of my choices in my life, a main force. And even though many answers have been given to me and understandings during the years, this question about what freedom really is for a human mind – body system, is still is a leading star for me. The question about how free we human beings actually are in both mind, body and spirit, and what stands in the way for that?
I don’t see much difference between me as artist and me as human being. Nearly everything I investigate as a person takes expression in my art, so my everyday life interests are highly related and expressed in to my artistic creativity and artistic expression.
J.S. Mental freedom is one of the most precious gifts for a human being. It is most definitely connected to the mind, to perspectives. Mental freedom must also be very connected to creativity. You created a workshop for companies and organisations around access to creativity. We also ran that workshop in Brussels linked to your previous exhibition “Whispering Void”. Did you come up with any conclusion on what the origin for creative ideas is, and on what creativity actually is? And is the artist (in comparison to other people) particularly creative?
J.E. The contemporary neuro scientists describe our minds and consciousness in two parts where they distinguish between the dimensionless background of our consciousness and the specific content of the mind. The specific content of the mind can be a thought, emotion, body sensation, taste or sound for example. And behind those objects of our attention lays the silent background in our experience, and it is there that the origin of creativity is found. That background is behind the thought, emotions or mental objects, it is an all-accepting empty background that everyone has. And in direct experience it is from that silence that all our creativity comes, but nearly no one looks there, because it’s not an object, you can not define it. Its dimensionless without definable characteristics.
This aware background that knows everything in your experience, without it you would not have any experience. But it is hard to recognize as it is so close. In direct experience, all the thoughts and emotions and anything that mentally manifest comes out of this silent background.
What many have missed is that you can put your attention on this silent background instead of putting our attention on our thoughts or emotions or body sensations. And then we can increase the intensity of creativity, inspiration and energy, and this what we explored in the workshop around creativity.
Everyone has the access to this creativity, but for some reason, artists or artistic persons seem to have opened up this channel of creativity to a more constant flow, but others could do that as well.
We need to learn to look with introspection and see and taste the open background behind all our thoughts and feelings and body sensation, to notice that is a much more effective and direct way to get creativity flowing and inspiration going.
Could it be that creativity is not an act or will but just the opening and allowing of this open space and instantaneous expression to take place by itself. Friedrich Händel said, I don’t create the music it just flows down to me and I write it down.
J.S.What you are saying is very interesting. ifa laboratory carries out some research right now in this area and we believe that art and cultural sectors have a culture that allow the true characteristics of creativity to prosper. The artistic process is all about exploration – without exploration there is no discovery, and no artwork. This is profoundly different from business culture. This is why ifa laboratory insists on saying that the artist is the expert of creativity.
J.S. From your creativity came an idea about a new viewer experience approach for art venues, that you have explored and developed in recent years. Your colleague also did this workshop at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. Their head of learning gave great feedback, meaning it had “given audience an opportunity to experience the collection in a new, deeper way.” Why did you create this approach, and in what contexts can it be used?
J.E. Since I seen during the years that much of people’s art experiences can become deeper than they usually are; I decided to create an event, an art method that only focus on the deepening of the art viewers perception, when they see any art object. The name of this event is Art and the deepening of perception.
Museums and galleries are interested in giving audience a fascinating experience by showing exciting and interesting art and installations. Very few, however, have understood how one can work in a similar direct way with also with the subject of the art experience, the viewer of the art, the audience, instead of just focus on the art object and installation. And now i do not talk about interactive art where the audience participates and interacts in various ways.
This is a method that in a clear way deepens the viewer’s own ability of perception and the ability of perceiving the art experience. All good art temporarily creates a state of consciousness where the duality ceases; the experience of the subject and object melts together. This is when we usually say that we become one with the experience of a work of art, or one with the music we hear.
What we usually do then is that we attribute the object the ability to make the duality cease and give us this experience of total presence and wholeness and oneness. And then we draw the conclusion and think a work of art or a piece of music is amazing and fascinating. The truth is, however, that the access to such art experiences lies much more than we imagine in the ability of the subject, the viewer, much more actually than the capacity of the art object.
In Art and the deepening of perception I have re -developed a method called direct pointing where we clearly can see how the melting down of duality can be created with our own intention.
We have ourselves the ability to create that oneness feeling, you can use any art object or music. And then we can see that by noticing and becoming aware of this, the experience of any of the art we looking at during the work shop shows how our experience deepens and expands in a way that most people get very fascinated by. So in the creativity workshop I focus on pointing out the open vast and free background of experience. But here we instead are drawing their attention to dissolve the subject object experience that then is replaced with a liberating and fascinating experience of being one with the art object, and one with the art experience.
J.S. Important points we learn from you and your art is introspection, meditation exploration and nothing as little as mental freedom, whether that is for deepening understanding of your art or if it is to enlighten the pursuit of creativity and innovation. Thank you Joakim!