2001 | REALITY – ABOVE AND BEYOND – Rune Peitersen’s journey behind the objects | Lodewijk Gerretsen

Almighty God! – no, no? They heard! – they suspected! – they KNEW! – they were making a mockery of my horror! – this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! – and now – again – hark! louder! louder! louder! LOUDER!
– “Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! – tear up the planks! – here, here! -it is the beating of his hideous heart!”
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The story by Edgar Allan Poe, from which the above quotation is taken, gives the impression that something is concealed behind visible reality, something that leads its own life, that changes continuously. The suspicion that something is beating behind the wall, something that is relentlessly growing, plays a key role in the work of Rune Peitersen. He suspects that a chair changes form behind his back and, as quick as lightning, again assumes the shape of a chair when he turns round and looks at it. He became so intrigued by this possibility that he wanted to capture the reality of the chair, which does not wish to be known. What would this ‘invisible’ substance look like? This is the question that constantly engrosses him and which permeates all his work.

This invisible reality fascinated him even as a child. What was playing and talking in the radio? He imagined a dreamworld, but when he started investigating and opened up the radio, he felt deceived. There was nothing to be seen that could produce the sound. Later, when he had grown up, but was still locked in the issue of how to capture the hidden reality, the physicist Heisenberg came to his aid. Heisenberg announced that the smallest natural entities behave according to our perception. If we imagine such an entity as a particle, it will behave as a particle. If we regard it as a wave, it will also appear and behave as a wave. Couldn’t this be the case with our everyday reality? This is the question that engages Rune. Don’t the chair and the radio simply assume the shape we expect them to have? Or, even worse, perhaps our look petrifies the secret process of reality, just like Medusa did with her victims? Perhaps, in looking, we disturb the creative process that is taking place within objects.

In Rune Peitersen’s work, the unusual materials and the peculiar forms could be a metaphor for the process of reality that is interrupted and petrified by our perception. The bizarre forms of his objects seem to refer to searching and groping for the invisible. It is as if they could continue their activities at any moment if we turned around and literally lose sight of them; perhaps the creativity of matter would break loose again.

Rune’s objects are made of polyurethane foam, synthetic resin, and plastic. He considers it important that they are shapeless and seem to be not completely under control. This suggests that matter is seeking its own form and is still involved in a process of growth. The things that issue from this seem to have come from another world.

These things also appear in the artist’s photographic work, but in a world that is undisturbed by human perception. They are at home here, because it is the neutral medium of photography that has perceived them, rather than the human eye. Thus, it is only the direct view that petrifies; reality can be captured in its own true nature in an indirect way.

In his photographs Rune moves around in the midst of matter’s own reality without disturbing it, clad in a tight green suit. This must be taken metaphorically in order to grasp his intentions. Metaphor is characterised by indirectness and ambiguity: something is such and is simultaneously not such. This also applies to the work of the artist. He finds himself in a fictive reality as if it were the most normal situation in the world.

The photographs are montages that have been created with the help of the PhotoShop computer program. And this reinforces the effect of alienation. The three-dimensional reality of Rune’s objects, which have something familiar to us (we can pick them up and hold them), make way for two-dimensionality in the photographs so that they distance themselves from us to a greater extent. What the artist wanted in his childhood years, the exploration of the secret world of matter, now appears to be successful. The photographs, although he moves around in a landscape that has originated in his imagination, represent  that other world that we cannot directly perceive. Landscapes in these composite photographs are actually close-ups of his objects and, to Rune, they appear to be ‘strangely familiar’.

The snapshot-type of photographs do not form a story, but refer to the journey the artist is making. Rune Peitersen resembles Odysseus meandering in foreign parts. The journey has no aim other than the exploration of a world that finally turns out to be his own creation. On this odyssey, Rune displays the open-mindedness of a child. He allows himself to be surprised, even startled, by what he sees, and wants us to share this with him. In this way, the artist wishes to take with him to our three-dimensional world that which he has discovered in the two-dimensional world of his photographic collages. In barrels he provides a good environment for the ‘animals’ in his photographs. Will he succeed in keeping them alive in this way, as inhabitants of our world? It seems to be worth the effort to investigate this.

A childlike openness also expresses itself in the composition of his work. This refers to the visual language of science fiction films and computer games. Rune’s archetypes are productions such as the television series Startrek and Hollywood films such as Event Horizon, in which the theme of travelling to uncharted areas is central. The protagonists find themselves in striking landscapes and come face to face with strange creatures. Rune’s uniform resembles to a certain extent that of the Startrek heroes, and the green colour refers to the comic strip hero The Incredible Hulk, who transforms into a green monster in times of crisis.

Just as in the old films, in which it is painfully obvious that the pictures have been assembled, Rune does not aim at technical perfection. In contrast, he works rather nonchalantly. It is the suggestion, the clues that function as agreements in children’s games, which are important. And he succeeds in drawing the viewer into this game; the viewer is never irritated by the imperfection of his work.

His choice of photomontage is fascinating and serves the goal that Rune Peitersen wishes to achieve. Photographs furnish a sensation of reality, since visible reality is always their basis. However, the montage displays the imaginative powers of the artist, who does not invest too much importance in this reality. Objectivity and subjectivity blend into an inextricable entity in the photomontage. The fictive world, which Rune wishes to disclose, thus obtains an irresistible reality value while the metaphorical character remains intact. Accordingly, the artist balances on the edge of the strange and the familiar. In his earlier, deformed porno-photographs, in which body forms seem to go their own way, the question arises as to what is exotic and what is familiar. In contrast to painting, the origins of the deformed image remain recognisable in the photomontage.

Occasionally, it seems as if Rune reanimates surrealism; this movement also wished to discover and visualise unknown reality. But whereas Rune wishes to make something manifest, the surrealists wished to generate manifestos. They had a distinct message, primarily based on the ideas of Freud. In addition, they were oriented against conventional culture. The work of Rune Peitersen has no connection with Freud’s theories and has no message, let alone a criticism of society. He wishes to play with his dreams and wishes in an ironic way. He invites the viewer to participate and allows him of her to depart if there is no special interest. Rune himself dances and dreams further.

If we wish to compare his work with that of other contemporary artists, it is best to think of Jeff Wall, Micha Klein, and Mariko Mori.These artists also make use of photomontage, just like Rune. Their objectives may be different, but what unites them is the creation of new worlds. Wall’s photographs look like they have been captured in a fraction of a second. They display fragments from everyday reality, which he combines into a coherent photographic reality. Rather than taking snapshots of an underlying world, Wall takes ‘film stills’ that present the drama of a feature film in the medium of photography. He works similar to a film director, building décors, deploying lighting technicians, and hiring walk-on actors, in order to realise his goal as thoroughly as possible. He subsequently devotes his efforts to the montage of this all. In this way, the suggestion of an everyday reality is created, which does not actually exist.

In comparison, Klein and Mori display the same kind of features in their work as Rune does. They too create science-fiction-like scenes. Klein’s images come from the world of House music. Aided by the computer, he generates psychedelic pictures with supernatural female beauties and cartoon figures. Rune Peitersen is also inspired by the world of the computer, but his work is not immersed in it. In contrast, Mori has such a perfect command of computer technology that the boundaries between a fabrication and reality are completely blurred. Composition in the work of Klein and Mori is a goal in itself whereas, to Rune, it remains a means to an end. Where there is a belief in technology in the work of the former artists, Rune leaves space for an ironic smile.

It would be helpful if the viewer saw the world as the artist sees it, but this is no precondition. Rune’s attitude of putting things into perspective also applies to the way the viewer regards his work. The artist does not wish to impose, let alone make demands. He has no message. Anyone interested is invited; Rune displays his world to him or her. In so doing, perhaps he inspires others to listen to the unheard beating in matter, so that they can turn around like lighting and thus capture the functioning of ‘true’ reality.

 

 

1. Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The tell-tale heart’, in: J. Symons (ed.), The life and works of Edgar Allan Poe, London 1978, pp. 243-248.

 

Lodewijk Gerretsen, “Draw and Quarter”, ed. Katalin Herzog, AMP, Groningen 2001