Nina Strand: This is really your year, with your first book, Dropping Layers, launched at LAABF this February and two shows coming up this month. You work with analogue photography and darkroom printing, and you write in your artist’s statement that you: ‘see photography as an imprint of information’ and are ‘fascinated by how its mechanics can disclose the secrets of how the physical world is constructed’. I’m impressed by your desire to form your own photographic language. Can you talk more about this, and about the projects that you’re showing?
Kamilla Langeland: I find photography hard to define, which is why the term ‘imprint of information’ is a good one, since photography is basically an imprint of light on light-sensitive material, but also an image bank of symbols, language, history, culture with a strange feeling of truth to it. My work is formed around the bank of imagery that lies within the collective awareness. I try to use whatever imagery, symbols, words or objects I feel seduced by and combine them in my collages. In my newest work, which will be shown at KH, I use iron-on Japanese Koi fish, graffiti swastika, a cartoon strip of UFOs bombing the White House and photograms of orchids, banana peel, mushrooms and cut-out words like ‘hank hank’ and other tags including my initials, K.L., all resting on an camouflage-printed t-shirt background. I see this work as free association, like I’m lying on the Freudian couch and just saying whatever comes to mind.
At the Vårutstillingen, I’ll show works including microscope images that I borrowed from the physics department at the science park in Oslo. I went there to ask if I could use a microscope to photograph something and ended up being shown an amazing archive of 6 x 9 negatives shot with a Transmission Electron Microscope. Without going into the details about how this microscope works, the end result is a negative with information about the structures of atoms. I then made the work, Atom Layers (2015), which shows the atom structure of silicon carbide. This work was a lot about looking and understanding, for which photography is an amazing tool. I really wanted to see what this structure looked like enlarged and if I’d be able to grasp that this is how the world looks when enlarged a million times. I believe looking and learning is the key to making this world a better place for everyone and everything – not just seeing an object, person or place as learned, but really looking and feeling what’s beneath it all. This might sound very love & peace, but I do believe in it. And that’s kind of where I want my work to go. I want it to be open to everything.
NS: We have a title for our next issues this year: The Flexible Image. These issues will look at the current state of the (photographic) image, as it seems to expand into two distinct, yet related manifestations: the image as text/sign versus the image as operation. This might speak to your ‘imprint of information’. What are your thoughts on the flexible image?
KL: It sounds quite descriptive of how I see my practice – like a self-creating process where the image is about to be made by the materiality it already holds. I’m just the operator performing rehearsed gestures. I think my images still represent the objects and signs they depict, but in a more floating and ambiguous manner.
NS: As a young participant in the Spring Exhibition opening on the 12th at Fotogalleriet, celebrating Forbundet Frie Fotografer’s 40th anniversary, and then ‘New Scandinavian Photography’ at Kunstnernes Hus the day after, how do you see the medium today?
KL: I believe that when photography ‘died’ due to digital camera phones etc, it was also reborn. And I think that the art scene in itself is changing, not just photography. We’ve already seen a focus on new materialism, speculative realism etc. It’s more about the object, the physical thing. Handcraft is back. I believe in the now, and I don’t sympathise with the idea that everything was better in the past. I think we can learn from the past, challenge the now, and make a work for the future. While being a nerd of analogue photography and darkroom printing, loving the history and nostalgia of ghostly portraits shot on glass negatives, I still of course use the internet, Instagram and Facebook (and I love the urban dictionary and Rihanna videos on YouTube). And that’s how I see my work and the work around me growing – with a free use of objects, symbols and imagery whether it comes from high or low culture, a strict tradition or a whim. But there’s also an urge to really know the craft, whether it’s photography, bronze-casting or drawing. It’s no surprise that the reaction to the digital age is a material one.
NS: Your book Dropping Layers was launched this February at LAABF. What was it like working on a publication vs an exhibition in gallery?
KL: It was a very different process for me, since I work so physically with my prints, and the book was a process of scanning and looking at inDesign documents, but also putting together the psychical thing and dealing with the limitations and possibilities of the format. It was a nice way to re-discover images in my archive, and I enjoyed the process of working with the publisher, Heavy Books.
NS: You told me in a previous interview that you want to make a new book where the pages become the different layers in your process. Is that going to happen?
KL: I recently started a new collaboration with the artist-driven publisher Born for Burning from Oslo. The plan is to publish a book with original prints and launch it some time this summer. When I develop my original prints, I do a lot of testing before the final print is made, and these tests are now the beginning of the new book. When I go back to Bergen at the end of May, I’ll continue developing these ideas.