Asger Carlsen • Artist, Denmark

Between the natural and the unreal

Landscape Stories: Referring to your imaginary in art, music… Are there any photographers or bodies of work that have influenced or inspired you? Looking at your manipulated human forms I remember maybe the video art of Chris Cunningham, the music made by Aphex Twin, the Warp electronic music or something disturbing, grotesque, enchanting or weird. Were these examples of ‘distorted reality’ a source of inspiration for you?
Asger Carlsen: That’s why I really started making my work. I was very inspired by paintings and I wanna to be a painter. I was influenced by Francis Bacon, Hans Bellmer and surrealism. In photography “Evidence” by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel has been a major inspiration. My background was photography. I worked commercialy, I was first a photojournalist (Crime, car accidents and stuff for newspapers) for ten years and then i did commercial and editorial photography for about ten years too. Yes, sure, I like Cunningham’s work and also ambient electronic music.

Asger Carlsen from ‘Wrong’
Asger Carlsen from ‘Wrong’

Landscape Stories: You didn’t go to the art school. How did you discover photography as your medium for expression?
Asger Carlsen: I have no diplomas, I almost didn’t finish high school. It was not something like… I read a book and I will become an artist. I didn’t want to be an artist, it just happened. I’m comfortable with what I’m doing now. I discovered that the images I made could be associated with myself. I discovered that I can use my camera in an unexpected and unconventional way.

Asger Carlsen from ‘Wrong’

Landscape Stories: Looking at your work, I’m interested in the relation between reality and fiction, real and imaginary, and how from emerging of these two aspects of your process you can create something different and from this point people looking at your photography feel several feelings. There is no definetly position between reality and fiction on this. How would you describe your process?
Asger Carlsen: I’m always interested in something balance between familiar and unfamiliar. It doesn’t be nothing definetly or a conclusion or a story or a narration. My subjects are always left open to interpretation. I’m interested in what photographic material can do. I like to think that photography can be used for something else then it was invented for. My work comes from photo sessions done in my studio and I see this process more as collecting material for my process. Foam, meat, wood, stone, metal, found objects are hanging in my studio. I built them in my kitchen in my Chinatown apartment, where I spent a lot of time without going out. I want my works to look like sculptures, like studio-projects or photographs of such like this.

Asger Carlsen from ‘Wrong’
Asger Carlsen from ‘Wrong’

Landscape Stories: About your editorial and commercial work… how do you put your imagination, your background in your art project inside the editorial and how this connection influences one each other?
Asger Carlsen:I’m lucky because I can have a sort of freedom on this process. I have always all in my mind and then I try to escape from reality and recombine it in an other way. In many different form. Photography is just a material that I select to communicate and share the state between the natural and the unreal.

Asger Carlsen – Magazine work
Asger Carlsen – Magazine work

Landscape Stories: In which way does your collaboration start with Tim Barber?
Asger Carlsen: Barber runs the website (formerly known as He was interested in my work and we started a collaboration. He wrote the introduction of my first book. Tim works as curator in New York City and purpose me to publish on Vice magazine.

Asger Carlsen – Tim Barber

Landscape Stories: Could you tell us something more abot your collaboration with the danish electronic music producer Trentemøller?
Asger Carlsen: I know Anders from the creative scene in Denmark and he actually owns an edition of the piece that was used on his LP cover. So he asked me if I would be interested in doing his cover and first we talked about me creating an image for his cover but we ended up both thinking that the piece he already owned and had hanging on his wall was clearly an obvious choice for his cover. He is the perfect collaborator because he’s a nice guy and a really good artist.

Trentemøller “Never Stop Running”. The cover image appears courtesy of Asger Carlsen.

Landscape Stories: Could you tell something more about your book Hester?
Asger Carlsen: Aron Mörel of Mörel Books emailed me and asked me if I wanted to do a book with him. Kind of unexpected. Hester is really the street where I live on in New York City and that is where I made the first images. In “Hester” I reinterpret the human body into something much more sculptural and I’m trying to create a sculptural figure out of something as normal as the human body. A new hybrid form with odd appendages on it. I made “Hester” by photographing nude models in my studio, then setting to work at the computer. The resulting works become digital sculptures of mutant bodies where any semblance of traditional human forms is methodically erased.

Asger Carlsen from ‘Hester’
Asger Carlsen from ‘Hester’

Landscape Stories: Lastly, what’s coming up for you over the next year, photographically or otherwise?
Asger Carlsen: I just have a launch of a book of Drawings. This book was producted by Copenhagen-basedpublisher, Lodret Vandret at PS1, during the New York Art Book Fair. The drawing project started from sitting on my toilet and staring at my marble floor. Earlier bodies of work, such as ‘Hester’ and ‘Baxter’, although surreal and bizarre, are unmistakably of a camera. The drawings are a mix between photographs, pencil and watercolour paint. A loto f my pieces consisto f images that I shot year ago. The surfaces of the images, seem to be made up of marble, clay, cellophane and meat.

Roger Ballen & Asger Carlsen
Roger Ballen & Asger Carlsen

I’m preparing for next year some shows with Roger Ballen coming up for our collaboration. We’re putting out a book later this year with Morel Books. He’s sending images to me and I’m working on them, and I’m sending images to him that he’s working on them. The final images looks like perverse abstractions. I also want to make a 3D sculpture soon…

Interview curated by Gianpaolo Arena