Frieze London | Interview with Ilja Karilampi

October’s Very Own, 2013
Courtesy of Ilja Karilampi and Sandy Brown, Berlin

Ilja Karilampi is a Swedish visual artist who resides and works in Gothenburg, New York and Berlin. Through his (literal) multimedia art he investigates the contemporary urban individual and its relationship with mass- and pop-cultural memory. The world he documents is understood socio-digitally at a level that is as personal as it is representational. Karilampi is a productive fellow: In 2013 alone he has exhibited in Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam, Milan and New York. In London for Frieze, he presented an imagined hotel room defaced by Jimi Hendrix during a stay in Gothenburg back in the 60’s. Ilja is a charismatic and understated Scandinavian with a delightfully no-bullshit language typical for non-native English speakers. We sat down in his installation and had a chat:

JU: Where does your new piece come from?
IK: I was finding all these criminal records of Jimi Hendrix’s stay in the Swedish city Gothenburg, found his collector’s items, papers and so on. I never realized that he was there for such a long time (2 weeks), so I wondered how a rock star life fits in to this part of Sweden. It intrigued me for a long time and I started seeing it as a sculptural act of destruction. It’s a strange relationship we have with furniture and things surrounding us, and strange that people don’t have outbursts more often like the one Hendrix had. People are quite contained. I’ve tried to link these things in the video.
The installation is quite close to what I find ideal in terms of medium. There’s a sculptural centerpiece and a motor narrative. It’s circulating.

JU: In the video there is a big fascination with Hendrix as an outrageous celebrity. Is it a personal fascination or one representative of a culture?
IK: It’s an interesting question. I think there are several voices and several movies within the movie. I am interested in the aspect of proximity and that we are all, in a way, people. In the end, a “known” person’s experience is not that different from others’ on a given grey Tuesday. It’s a movie about Gothenburg as well as a movie about a rock-star, about an artist, and about being a teenager having access to recording video.

JU: Would you say it is an autobiographical piece?
IK: Maybe. I think there are definitely some meta-parts in the work about me making the work.


Hendrix Incident, 2013
Video on DVD
14 min 23 sec
Courtesy of Sandy Brown, Berlin 

JU: You’re here at Frieze represented by your gallery (Berlin-based Sandy Brown). How is it different from having your own exhibition?
IK: Obviously it’s a work that we have invested a lot in. The biggest differences are the amount of visitors passing through and that people look at things a little bit differently here. I like that, because you should not have to know of any background to appreciate a work. You look at a work exactly for what it is. When you dive into it, there are more connections.

JU: In terms of time span, can people focus on your work with so much other art around it?
IK: I guess it depends on the person and how much visual stimuli you are able to take in before you are full. But also, people come to a fair for very different reasons.

JU: Yeah, do you think about the financial aspect of your work more being at Frieze?
IK: There’s maybe a little buzz in the air because of all the money being made here, but mostly I think about the piece having a bigger chance of finding its audience here.

JU: So you’re actually more concerned with the audience?
IK: I am concerned about the final buyer, but obviously it’s my gallerist who takes care of most of that stuff. I definitely hope that the people who buy my work will share my feelings about the work.

JU: What’s next for you?
IK: I was just skyping with Yung Lean who asked me to do a new line of merchandise and caps for Sad Boys Entertainment from Stockholm. I just did a radio program today as well. I try to keep myself busy and keep finding inspiration everywhere.

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