My photography has been concerned with identity and how one navigates through cultures (and subcultures) within each series of images. The growing body of work attempts create a narrative through the use of constructed and “near – documentary” moments and arrive at an understanding of the underpinnings of what motivates one to exist within a particular subset of culture.
Enter Maria Jonsson. She is an artist that exhibits a desire to construct narrative from found objects. I recently visited her studio, interviewed her and documented her collection as it exists today.
The artist’s collection of items varies greatly in its scope, but the logic behind their acquisition remains relatively consistent. On this day, I found maps, a tree stump, My Little Pony toys, cigarettes, a pencil sharpener, pieces of yarn, cups of various shapes and sizes, People magazines amongst the hundreds (if not thousands) of items in the space. Most of these items had been collected off the street (in fact, on our way to visit the collection, a piece of lavender yarn with tassles on either end was collected.) Some have been given by friends or are discarded remnants of artworks, machines, etc. The collection’s current size exhibits about a year’s worth of items. Ms. Jonsson is originally from Sweden and an “edited” version of an earlier collection begun in her homeland exists in her apartment. (Another collection not present in her studio is her collection of Agatha Christie novels which begs for another discussion altogether.)
The items however are not placed randomly about the floor. They exist on white boxes that line the largest wall in the space. This not only elevates them physically, but imbues the items with a certain formal weight. Jonsson’s studio operates as a repository for the items and as a museum of sorts allowing each visitor to contemplate the space as more than just a cluttered mess.
Jonsson’s aim is to devise a way of reconnecting to a void that exists within her past. The creation of a childhood narrative through art pieces (her work includes video pieces, photographs, drawings and installations), the sorting of detritis in order to make sense of one’s past interactions and the psychological impact these compositions have on the viewer opens a dialogue between the process of acquisition of objects and their representation. The process comforts the artist, surrounding them in a sea of found objects. They act not only as reminders of the past but as consumers of empty space located in the present. The artist studio becomes a conflicted space of interaction, comfort and catagorization.
On another front, the shear magnitude of the collection presents a logistical problem. First, will the items exist permanently within the grouping or will they be replace by other ones and what will be the system for determining inclusion versus exclusion? What are the limits of aquistion? At what point does the collection stop being useful and begin operating as a pile of trash?
Jonsson’s work allows this author to discuss artmaking in a different context. My work is fraught with the ideal image, the image that simultaneously speaks to a monumental occurence, object, space, etc. Jonsson’s collection haphazard, sustained and poetic within its chaos, allows the visitor to suspend easy classifications of the stuff within the world. It offers the viewer a way to contemplate objects regardless of their make and model and opens the conversation about systems of acquisition, narration and their relation to art making.