Are we drone yet? Yes!

So, what started as a one week project (three weeks, max!) is just now coming to fruition. The drone pins have been delivered for some time, and I’ve just worked on getting the packaging right. The drone design took far less time than the packaging, and by now I’ve probably spent as much money as on the pins themselves, not counting the ten or so days doing package design and iteration.

It’s great fun and I’ve gotten to learn how to use the laser cutter here at KKV GBG but boy oh boy do all the little things add up. The last bit that needs doing is setting up the webshop, and that is all but done. Some typos need correcting and some images fiddled with before I’m happy with it, but any moment now you can buy the pins here:


Dröna inte min kompis pin

One interesting aspect of the project is that I get to decide what I want to charge for these pins, and I’m reminded of my experiments with pricing when doing serigraphy a couple of years ago and exhibiting at Marstrand. It all comes down to how not to price yourself out of the market, but also not below the threshold when it looks as if you’re not taking yourself seriously enough. It’s fascinating stuff, art pricing, and these pins are another opportunity to toy around with it.

I have 300 copies of the pins, and since 50 or so will be retained as trades / QC & loss / artist copies, I’m putting 250 copies in numbered boxes and offering them for sale at 200 SEK a pop. Since my rent isn’t dependent on if I manage to sell these or not (although it certainly wouldn’t harm my equity) I’m not particularly inclined to dump the price all that much, so we’ll see what will come out of it. Also, after a brief discussion with the Skatteverket (IRS) it was decided that a print run of 250 copies are too many to qualify as “art” and that value added tax is to be applied to these things, so that’s 25% out of whatever price I charge.

In order for the project to result in something more than just my pet project, I’ve contacted the Swedish peace-organisation Svenska Freds & Skiljedomsföreningen who are the only ones in Sweden trying to bringing attention to drones and their use. Before doing this project I wasn’t aware of that Sweden is taking part in developing two military drones, and it’s just that kind of information which needs to get out there before their use becomes so ubiquitous as to be unquestionable. Therefore, I’ve set it up that if you donate 200 SEK or more to Svenska Freds, you get to buy a pin from me for 50 SEK, which is more or less at cost.

I like the project; The pins turned out well and the packaging looks the way I want it. Going into the new year, with new resolutions and ambitions, I’m hoping to be a bit wiser and not underestimate how much work surrounds even small, innocuous ideas such as this.

Creating brand report

Following up on last weeks foray into my customisation of a nice invoice template, where I bought a new domain just so that the email address would take up less space in the design, I set up a new Koken install on said domain. Behold, is now an empty sheet onto which I will pour my professionalism and coherence. Which frees this blog up for even more random stuff, allowing me to really let loose.

My temporary employment at Akademin Valand is drawing to an end, and seeing as I’m joining the precariat once again I found it prudent to get a proper portfolio site up and running. Thus the site. I’m rather temperamental when it comes to putting together samples of my work. Consequently, I’ve so far put up nothing.

My reluctance is partly based on my uncertainty of what it is I really do. For the past fifteen or so years during which I’ve slid from unpaid creative work alongside paying menial work, to paying creative work, I’ve had a devil of a time coming to terms with what constitutes “work” and “title” and “profession.” I’ve joked about creating a “professional dilettante” calling card many times, but haven’t done so although the title would fit. (Most people I tried it on don’t know what a “dilettante” is so I end up having to explain it and come of as a “professional dilettante jerk” instead.)

But this is reflected in how I understand myself. I do do commissioned photography, but it’s not all I do so I feel a bit disingenuous when I present myself with a profile which is exclusively focused on my photo and editing experience. This blog is probably a better reflection of what I do, especially when someone reads more than the first couple of posts, but what kind of image is that? When the practicality of “getting work” meets ones requirement to “be truthful” I lean towards the latter to the detriment of legibility and focus.

Possibly it’s best to be “true enough” or at least “not lie” when it comes to these things – if I select the works I believe speak to my strengths and showcase them as best I can, it’s not untruthful; it’s just very omissive. Could it be this is what is known as being “professional” and that I’m just late to the game? It would be in line with other blank spots I’m constantly discovering in my personality and behaviour.

Perhaps I ought just to ask some friends in the business to help me style a portfolio? Talk to some photo buyers who could actually help determine if I should pursue this or not. If I’m uninterested in something I do a half-assed job of it, but perhaps I’m just not good enough to do the projects I’d actually be interested in, which would give an indication of what I’d need to do to get there. Too often I assume that it’s a question of will to accomplish something, underestimating the value of skill and experience, and so it can be liberating to learn that what I’m doing is trite garbage; it gives you a direction and a goal, and hints at a roadmap you could follow to become better, more interesting, more serious and fun.

Ok it’s settled; I’ll get in touch with some image editors and ask their advice and judgement. It goes up on the list next to “learn soil analysis” and “design an origami box for the drone pin”, but before “learn the trombone like Antoine in Treme” and circle back to it once I’m officially unemployed…

Smokers de-light

Silly puns aside, in this weeks “finally I got around to getting that done!” category, we find some images I took last year but haven’t put up anywhere. It’s a bunch of pictures of people smoking e-cigarettes, which make for some demonic-looking faces. The first one I did was a self-portrait, and the rest came about when visiting mom for Christmas. I would have had more pictures if it hadn’t been for the break-in when I lost my laptop, but there you go.

I also took some time to learn the Koken CMS which I installed last summer, and it’s a brilliant piece of software. It takes a while to learn the quirks and come up with a logical yet resilient navigation system, but seeing as my site never had that much traffic to begin with I don’t think I’ll traumatise too many people by doing live experimenting.

Curating a site is even harden than writing an artist statement. Breaking with convention, I’ve not written about myself in third person as is the custom, and I’m curious to see how I come across when I mix personal art projects with commissioned works and folio stuff. It might end up just being a mediocre mush instead of a streamlined persona, but I’m hoping that by adding most of my production to the site I’ll come to some realisation about what in the world it is that I’m doing with my time. After all, if I’m supposed to be a professional dilettante, this ought to be apparent in my production, and the thread weaving my carpet of doing might go all over the place but at least ought not break.

You can find the site at, and it’s supposed to play well with iOS as well as Android tablets. Let me know of any kinks. There are only two albums up at the moment, and the one with this weeks pictures are in the Alight album.

2014: the year or fulfilment-or-bust.

A week or so ago I had a coffee with Jonas who once again graces Göteborg with his presence, and proposed something quite akin to a new years resolution: Start and finish one thing each week. What the thing would be is unspecific, but I imagine that an essay, a finished portrait or a DIY pre-amp, all would qualify. The point is that ever since I started working almost full time at Akademin Valand last spring, my free time has been spent tending to my FPS-hand, liver or occasionally the 3D printer. Most projects I come up with are either poorly defined or so broad in scope that they never move beyond the doodle-and-rambling stage.

Starting the previous week, I resolved to get one thing done by Sunday night, and deliver it regardless if it’s as polished as I’d like. I’m going to use the blog to keep me honest, and so, with less than one hour to spare, I present to you the latest VECKA7 track.

Born a car [Delinquest remix]
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VECKA7 is the sort-of-band a couple of us started last year, and the above track is my mix of the materials we recorded two months ago. Our other songs are up on and unless there’s opposition from the other members this mix will end up there as well — I’m hoping that each of us will do their own mix of the source material, which could be interesting.

I don’t know yet what I’ll try to accomplish next week, but I’ve put in in my calendar so will come up with something…

Writing on writing Benjamin

A while back Daniel Josefsson of The Immaterial asked me to do a writeup of a project or an idea, and he suggested that I’d expound on the video project How to write like Walter Benjamin i did back in 2009-2010. I finally got around to writing the short essay, and it’s now up his blog.

Link to The Immaterial: Let me explain how to write like Walter Benjamin

Edit 2021.07: As The Immaterial seems defunct, I’m posting my essay here instead. I’m clearing up the text a bit, adding quotes and such where needed.

Let me explain how to write like Walter Benjamin

A while back I transcribed Walter Benjamin’s seminal 1936 essay The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction by hand. I recorded it in real-time and published it on my blog and elsewhere to be used as an introduction to writing art theory. It was titled How to write like Walter Benjamin. The whole series spans 18 episodes, and makes for about 13 hours of video. I don’t know that anyone has seen the whole thing.

Hindsight is a mixed bag when it comes to explaining ones earlier motivations, so I won’t try to explain how I came up with the idea or why I thought it was worth to carry through. But the two years that have passed since, make a dispassionate analysis easier and I think I can see three ways to read the work — not mutually exclusive — which present it as a stop along a path rather than the final destination.

Perhaps it’s telling that the version of the essay that I used for the project was chosen based on accessibility — It’s certainly something which Benjamin might have found interesting — and you don’t get much more convenient than Wikipedia, where I found the original link to the essay transcribed by Andy Blunden.

As a preamble to the explanations below, let’s agree that doing no research at all on a text before embarking on a two month long art project — one of the core tenets of which is the bearing of authenticity on an artwork — is lazy in a stupid way. Benjamin is throughout the text concerned with how the “aura” of an actor is lost in the translation from stage to film, while my approach is to not even bother to check if the actors are switched out in the middle of the movie and their voices dubbed over.

With that in mind, let me offer three readings of How to write like Walter Benjamin:

First as humour

When it comes to artists doing theory or framing themselves within an academic discourse, it’s easy to point to the Post-modern essay generator and have a laugh at the convoluted language, never-ending name-dropping, and the discourse by way of apophenia that is too often accepted for publication. But there are texts which actually say something about the state of the world or how we perceive it, and Benjamin’s is one of them. Therefore, everyone aspiring to write coherent, well-understood and reasoned art theory would do well to mimic his style and reasoning. And what better way than to transcribe it whole cloth?

Above all other considerations, the first thing, which strikes me about the project, is the deadpan seriousness of both the pretence and the execution. On the face of it, it’s an instructional video much like any other you might find on Youtube or Vimeo, made by someone who takes their work seriously and has already accepted the framework of what they are offering as legitimate. There is no question in our presenters mind that what he is offering is a reasonable approach to learning how to write art theory.

The instructor conflates the two meanings of “writer” (as in “author” and someone who sets letters to paper) and sees himself as setting an example by showing you that he’s actually “writing” the text, and to emphasise that it’s “writing” and not “copying,” he’s doing it by hand no less!

It’s not meant to be a parody of actual theory instructions or criticisms; it’s much more fun to view it as a documentation of an absurdist performance than a pisstake on the teaching of art theory to artists. Repeat a sentence enough times and the repetition takes on a meaning of itself, be it for humorous effect, as a means to extinguish meaning as in Alvin Luciers “I’m sitting in a room” or to make technology visible, as in Patrick Lidells take on Luciers original.

Perhaps the monotonous instructions can persuade you for at least a moment and actually say — yeah, this might totally be a thing I could do. That would be fun.

Secondly, we can perhaps use this work to try the premise of Benjamin’s work — to see what happens with the aura of the text, or of him as writer, when someone else writes it verbatim.

One would have to assume that a text itself has aura, which is not something Benjamin mentions in the essay. The absence of references to classical literature in his analysis allows us to speculate freely — surely there is an aura of authenticity in a book, or does it merely exist in the act of writing? If it only exists in the act, how then understand the following quote, on the role of the author:

“Thus, the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character. The difference becomes merely functional; it may vary from case to case. At any moment the reader is ready to turn into a writer.”

Walter Benjamin (1936) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

This observation, combined with the assumption of the act of writing as being the moment where “aura” can be understood, would leave us with an understanding that any writing could be understood as containing more aura, more authenticity, than any printed — mass reproduced — book might convey.

Perhaps it’s here that our instructor can be found — someone writing for the sake of the aura which writing bestows on him.

Should we assume the obverse, that the text itself is a “medium-free” object, having a self-contained aura or authenticity quite apart from it’s means of dissemination, we would need to give reason to the special status of text which sets it’s “aural worth” apart from other works of art.

By his own words, text might almost take the place of a natural phenomena — perhaps one might assume “thinking on paper” — when he categorically says of aura that:

“In the case of the art object, a most sensitive nucleus —namely, its authenticity —is interfered with whereas no natural object is vulnerable on that score.”

Walter Benjamin (1936) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

In Borges short story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, he describes how the eponymous writer word by word rewrites parts of Don Quixote, but “[…]doesn’t contemplate a mechanical transcription of the original: he did not propose to copy it. His admirable intention was to produce a few pages which would coincide — word for word and line for line — with those of Miquel de Cervantes.” Menard goes on to write parts of the original text, but even though the resulting text is exactly the same, Borges comments that it has different qualities, which sets it apart from the “original.”

In Borges, a writer on the edge, Beatriz Sarlo focuses on what Borges is actually suggesting in the somewhat absurdist description of Menards works, and writes that:

The process of enunciation modifies any statement. As a study of linguistics in the twentieth century has emphasised, this principle destroys and at the same time guarantees originality as a paradoxical value which is related to the ‘enunciation’: it comes from the activity of writing and reading, not tied to words but to words in a context.”

And this understanding of context is much the same as what Benjamin writes about an object of art having a certain position within society based on the societal norms.

“It is significant that the existence of the work of art with reference to its aura is never entirely separated from its ritual function. […] This ritualistic basis, however remote, is still recognizable as secularized ritual even in the most profane forms of the cult of beauty.”

Walter Benjamin (1936) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

If aura is created in the ritual of thinking on paper — writing — we confer aura when writing; but if reading is a creative endeavour, one where our approach and understanding of the text and the conditions under which it was created shape its meaning, the ritual we celebrate is the creative one, and each moment we reflect is a moment of creation. In this latter interpretation, an art object is imbued with aura at the time of “consumption” (viewing, listening, reading, etc.) rather than at the time of creation. I.e. we can’t help but to be creators of aura most all of the time.

Or as Benjamin somewhat dramatically puts it:

“This image makes it easy to comprehend the social bases of the contemporary decay of the aura. It rests on two circumstances, both of which are related to the increasing significance of the masses in contemporary life. Namely, the desire of contemporary masses to bring things “closer” spatially and humanly, which is just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction. […] To pry an object from its shell, to destroy its aura, is the mark of a perception whose “sense of the universal equality of things” has increased to such a degree that it extracts it even from a unique object by means of reproduction.”

Walter Benjamin (1936) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Thirdly, it’s a presentation of art production as drudgery.

One way of reading the work is as a metaphor for what artistic work is, or could be, or ought to be understood as. The western celebration of the individual as a “free agent” in combination with the lingering societal understanding of an artist as a “free spirit,” has built a cherished altar for the gods of creativity. Coupled with a competitive scene comprising millions and millions of creators of all strand, each vying for attention, novelty takes the lead.

If Benjamin complained about print transforming us all to writers, I would lament that global communications and the eyeball business-models are promoting the “barely-unconventional,” and this has found willing adherents among artists who in this approach actually find a metric by which they can justify themselves as “useful.”

The more mundane and boring we can make art, the more we will provoke a discussion on why we do it, and under what conditions it’s most valuable to us. Ten years ago I had a notion that it would be interesting to cover a full grown pine tree with potato peelings — branch by branch, carefully minding the needles and peeling it all by hand — for no other reason than as a gesture of futility and human defiance in the face of death meaning. As art works go it wasn’t much of an idea, but the sense of doing art work has stuck, and there’s a sense that if I only put in my dues, I’ll actually be an artist, and will in the process be judged on the merits of what role I have in society rather than the novelty of my work.

That is, if I do more boring art, perhaps people might leave me alone.

Math and ambitions

With only three weeks left of the math course, I gave up on it. And five minutes later I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. Shortly after which I threw up my hands in disgust at my indecision and decided to put away the calculator. A minute later I picked it up again with a “fuck it all to fuck, let’s do this thing and take it to the next level” etc. And what do you know, in ten days time I managed to scrape through. This was done with the smallest of margins, and with the pitter-patter of a TI-82 haunting my dreams, but I passed Math C. So with a “yay me” I applied to the introductory course to natural sciences, and ended up way back in the reserve line — apparently because I’d forgotten to send in the grades from high-school. So two steps forward and a stumble backwards. Regardless, I’m glad I got it done, as I now can apply for computer courses and other such things which my mom is hopeful will “perhaps one day land you a job — a real one, I mean”.

Seeing as I need to make more money than I am, and that what little ambition I have is spread very thinly over too many half-assed ideas and projects, I’ve made a resolution not to have more than four things running at the same time. It’s time to reassess if what I’m doing is out of habit or if it’s actually moving a “career” in a “direction.” As so many other “previously ambitious” people, I’m way under-stimulated and seem to lack the drive to do anything specific. It’s people in my position who I imagine are snatched up by cults and set to typeset Glorious Masters Bowel Cleansing Guide to sell at the airport.

I used to say that I was interested in communication, in how meaning is created and in turn creates more communication. Driving that interest is the hope that it’s not all arbitrary – that there’s actually something developing, evolving, in this collective exchange – but my lack of communication, and actually lack of interest in doing art work lately, might stem from me not having anything important to say at the moment and not trusting that the process will generate something. For all the talk of the wonderful things happening online, I haven’t found new homes there to replace those that I’ve lost; old KDX servers and homepages which didn’t tie into a Facebook infrastructure of likes and accessibility. Also, I don’t hang out with as many artists as I used to, so there’s that as well – I’m a wide object with little mass, so the friction of everyday life slows me down tremendously and I come to rest at the shallowest of indentations.

This is a roundabout way of saying that I’m bored and need to get a project of the ground, into the air, and either crash it spectacularly into a mountainside or land it successfully, applauded by relieved passengers.

Image search, revisited

Over at I stumbled over the project Google. The work, created by Ben West and Felix Heyes, is based on taking 21000 common English words and parse them through Google image search, and then printing it all and binding it.

Quote from the website:

“Conceptually it’s whatever you make of it,” writes Ben. The sad reality of shrinking attention spans, collective media fatigue or how an expert reference book is no match for the convenience of Google, for example. “It’s really an unfiltered, uncritical record of the state of human culture in 2012,” concludes Ben. So, how are we faring? “I would estimate about half of the book is revolting medical photos, porn, racism or bad cartoons.”

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The second video above is from a work I did at Valand back in 2006: The uncontested order of things: A slideshow curated by google. It’s in the same vein, although it used the letters of the alphabet to search for images. I downloaded the top 40 or so pictures of every letter, picked one at random and arranged them alphabetically in the video. The idea being pretty similar to Ben and Felix — how is our language and concept of images shaped by that which we take for granted or don’t reflect over.

In the introduction to the work I wrote:

The motivation for this process, of which the resulting slideshow is but one possible combination (let alone one possible way to present the combinations) is:
1) To see how many apparently random images we can fit into a narrative, and
2) Given the omnipresence of google, how easily received/understood/accepted the images are when
3) A qualitative analysis of the images (and search results in general) shows an (apparently) unproportional US/EU presence, which in turn should
4) Kick us in the nuts for too easily accepting the perceived “freedom of the internet”, and not reflecting enough on what our online behavior tells of ourselves, but also what actual and very manifest power we are supporting by our actions.

Which actually still holds I think. Google is as omnipresent as it’s ever been, and apart from occasionally switching to Duck Duck Go as my main search engine, I don’t actively thing about how I navigate the Internet as much as I used to, or how that shapes our collective understanding of what the world looks like.

Computer games and almost an opening.

Olle Essvik has been working on a computer game based on Beckets Waiting for Godot. A month ago he gave a presentation of the finished first part of it at Gallery 54, and I took the opportunity to record a short video. If you like to play the game you can do so at and should you want to learn more about the making of and thoughts behind it, you can read an interview in Swedish at and another in English over at Game Scenes.

Following that, Andreas Vesterlund is presenting the Skup Palet event week Your Mentality is Alert. It was a week-long process oriented collaboration which ended with not so much an “opening” as a “closing of the process so far.” In practice, it’s difficult to organize something which looks like an opening without interpreting it as one, but in the video Andreas tries his best to explain what has been going on and some of the ambitions going into it.

Both videos are in Swedish.

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Every once in a while I think I ought to be more serious in documenting these kinds of events in Gothenburg, but can’t seem to make good on my ruminations. If you enjoy these videos, or if you have suggestions on improvements, let me know and I’ll add your voice to the todo-choir.

Honestly, one of the things driving my ambition to make a more focused video blog is that I get to play with my old MIDI keyboard, and I’d have to finally learn After Effects properly to do titles and whatnot. In addition to, you know, providing a cultural service with above average editing and good taste.

Turku: Presentation & summery

For the first time since I got back from Finland, I strapped on my tights, beanie and running shoes, and ventured into an absurdly warm november evening to frighten people by doing wheezing and shuffling noises. It went well. And to rekindle another positive habit I entertained in Turku, I’m posting another video from my residency; I finally have an edited version of the presentation I gave at the end of the project.

It’s just short of forty minutes, and it includes a short backstory of me and projects which seemed relevant to fabbing, a brief timeline and explanation of 3D printing in general and the RepRap specifically, and then an overview of how the project changed during in the process of realisation.

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Turku: Spatial presentation

As my residency is coming to a close, I’m getting to the things I’d initially thought I’d get done the first week. Like for example putting up a presentation of Gallery Titanik where the residency is housed. With the co-operation of Kimmo Modig, the director of the gallery, I finally got around to it.

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