Known primarily as a Berlin-based artist, Norwegian-German Yngve Holen is now splitting his time between the German capital and Oslo. His forthcoming exhibition in the latter city, titled “HEINZERLING,” is his biggest to date in Norway. Yet he’s not calling it a “homecoming” – per se. Holen is known for sculptures made from machines or machine parts, constructions from which the human anatomy is withheld. He finds beauty and familiarity in the most mundane scrap pieces of 21st-century industry. Recontextualizing these mechanical and technological artefacts, the artist exposes a fetish for the industrial, the seemingly unstoppable mechanisms and processes behind the manufactured object in a post-human landscape of ideas. Yet Holen’s latest work, now on view at Oslo’s Kunstnernes Hus, differs from these preexisting sculptures. It features organic matter – wood and hair, for example – and distances itself from the at-times fearsome dominance of synthetic materials in his repurposed Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” windows and CT scanner parts. “HEINZERLING,” which will move west to Stavanger in May 2019, narrates this evolution, swinging back and forth through a decade of Holen’s artistic timeline. What is consistent is its emphasis on his curiosity about the future – how it inhabits our experience of the present, charting our relationship with technology and the industrial revolutions that, in theory, still lie ahead.
What does HEINZERLING mean as a title mean to you?
It’s my German surname. It’s the name that I grew up with in Norway, and it’s still in my passport. Holen is my mother’s maiden name and the name I took when I started making art. “Heinz (ketchup) plus Erling (Norwegian first name)” is how you get someone to spell it right in Norway. It’s a simple way to title a show with a selection of work from the past ten years. Leading up to the show at Kunstnernes Hus we got some grants and they published my full name online: Heinzerling, Yngve Holen. I was like, “OK then, that’s it.”
Is this about embracing your German identity?
Let’s just say both names are part of my identity. It just made sense to use the name that I grew up with, and also to address questions of upbringing, how we label things with language, matters of identity, perceptions of home, and so on. To stress this, the exhibition also uses an image of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway, holding up an aluminium car door – Norwegian aluminium, formed into a German Mercedes S-class passenger-seat door. So it’s the name and the image that set the mood for the exhibition.
Do you feel “done” with Berlin?
No, I don’t feel done at all. I have my studio there, I have half my life in Berlin. It’s more like I’m trying to combine Oslo and Berlin, to make one city of the two. It’s more a meet in the middle, maybe that’s why I chose that title: stuck in-between, on a Norwegian Air flight. That’s the only issue: the constant flying, I don’t like flying, and I can’t stand Schönefeld. But I’m trying to make that transmission more frictionless. I doubled everything, so I can just walk through security and fly – no luggage, no toiletries, no discussion. If I can solve flying without my laptop too, that’s the goal.
How did you select the works for the show?
I haven’t really exhibited much in Norway, so I wanted to recap a bit and started by selecting works that I haven’t shown here before. I also wanted to show a selection of materials – soft and hard works that I’ve been making. I think only a few people know that I started off with making pillows. The space in Oslo is tough: it’s a long, tall space with high ceilings and beautiful floors. I decided to ditch the floor, to not show floor pieces, but to hang the works high, between the floor and glass ceiling. The exhibition will eventually travel from Oslo to Kunsthall Stavanger in May. By chance, the space in Stavanger is very similar in proportions to the one in Oslo. Oslo is somewhat sacral and tall, Kunsthall Stavanger is like West Norway, it’s wide and open. It will be fun to see both shows back to back.
You have a history of producing catalogues and artists’ books, will there be one now?
We’re working on a catalogue for both the Oslo and Stavanger shows, which will be published by Hatje Cantz. It’s actually the first time I’m working on a traditional exhibition catalogue – you know, with installation views, name and title on the cover, forewords by the institutions, commissioned texts. I’m very happy that Matias Faldbakken, Caroline Busta, and Armin Zweite all agreed to write something for it.
What is your relationship with Stavanger?
Stavanger is my hometown. It’s where I grew up. There are four people with that same last name “Heinzerling” in Norway and three of them, my dad, my sister and my niece all live in Stavanger.
What are your thoughts around this first major exhibition in Norway?
Honestly, it’s a bit scary. I don’t know if my work will go down here, I have no idea what people will think.
Is that why you haven’t exhibited as much there?
I haven’t been asked, and I’ve just been busy elsewhere I guess. Maybe not so much fear as a feeling that I’ve been making art somewhere else, for other people. Like in a parallel universe.
You’re exhibiting pillows, split water appliances, CT scanners dressed in mesh, and headlight pieces, all from shows in Germany and Switzerland. What can you share about the new works?
They’re similar to the large wooden rims that you might have seen at recent shows, in “Rose Painting” at Galerie Neu, or in “HORSES” at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf: gutted SUV rims, enlarged and tooled out of CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) by a 4×4 meter, 5-axis CNC monster. They’ve been painted with Tyrilin, a cabin stain widely used in Norway. The first one is mounted on Eilia, the Holen family cabin in Kvam, Gudbrandsdalen. It’s site-specific work and I count the cabin as a second venue of the show. You can see it in the promo shot by Knut Næsheim.
You mentioned you don’t like flying. Planes or flight-related themes occupy quite a big space in your work. So do cars and car parts. What’s your relationship to driving?
I just got my driver’s license. I’m testing it out. I’ve never really been afraid of cars or driving, nor have I’ve been particularly interested. It’s just that it was so easy to get parts, all the parts seem like they’re stored in motion on the Autobahn. You can order something and you have it a day later. So I tried out being part of the spare-part chain. And in terms of form, they’re dominant shapes of our city – their forms hold time; they’re like still-standing clocks. Both cars and planes are a good starting point for reflections on body-machine related issues, even if it’s just through buying that ticket and making your body sit in that economy class seat.