Ane Lan is a Norwegian artist working in the field of performance, photography, music and experimental film and video.
“Most people are other people,” is how Oscar Wilde put it, but in the case of an artist, it’s often the case that they are all of us combined.
In his performance works, he often stages himself in a different identities based on either gender, race, religion, or class. These impersonations always ask us how identity and power are constructed and structured, often through the idea of someone being different from us’, as it were.
He graduated from the National College of Art and Design in Oslo in 2002 and has created a sizeable body of work, which forms an essential adjunct to contemporary culture. Lan’s inclusion of himself in much of what he does is suggestive of a wider sacrifice.
Lgbt.co.uk asked to speak to Lan about the significance of his work and were delighted that he responded with such enthusiasm.
Although there is more to Lan’s work than the identity-based pieces I liked so much, it was that which I wanted to ask about, as I sensed so much going on.
“The way I see it,” says Lan, “the most important quest concerning the notion identity, is not so much the ‘interrogation’ of the different displays or modes of identities created, but the understanding of why we need this concept in the first place, and what role it plays in our current perception of what is real to us. That is: what we agree to be the common reality that we can relate to.
“The interesting question here to me is not so much how and in what ways, but why so many artists explore different representations of the self. For me this has obviously to do with our current obsession with the images of ourselves to the extent that we are unable to actually see or understand who we are at all.
“It seems to me that the lesson taught by the narcissus-myth is more needed than ever, except that the mirror that reflects us is no longer a clear reflective surface, but more a multi-dimensional mist full of ghost and fantasmatic projections.”
Ane Lan phrases the question perfectly: “what happens to presentation when everything is representation?” It’s maybe just an argumentative question, but to Lan it is still of great interest.
“Is it still possible to present something? Is it possible to be innocent, to remain naïve, posing the simplest most basic questions without being caught in the post-modern collage of recirculated symbols, meaning and representation?”
It’s a difficult question to ask and maybe an impossible one to answer, other than by presenting a body of work such as this. It’s global, it’s media-concerned, and it’s talking about us beneath the clothes and the cultural and made up add-ons.
“Much has been written about how globalization actually has created a stronger need for the feeling of belonging to a specific geographic place or culture. One of the explanations for this could be that in the flow of multicultural impulses there is maybe a need for a solid base or position from which you can understand yourself in the meeting with the infamous ‘other’. For me it is impossible to discuss culture as something isolated from politics and economy. Cultural difference or diversity are results of political and economic processes that constantly are taking place. The histories that are currently being told to us, or those we are telling ourselves about our own background are constantly being modified and edited.
"One of my favourite examples is Sonia Henie, Norwegian Olympic ice-skater who became a Hollywood filmstar in the 1940-50. The image of her presented through Hollywood was that of the sporty outdoor type blue-eyed blondie. She was at that time the symbol or personification of Norway and what was considered to be Norwegian in the USA and internationally. In one of her films she featured in a fantastic flamboyant Hollywood costumes inspired by the Norwegian traditional folk dresses, though ‘inspired’ would be a strong word here, as it looked more like a wild fantasy of something from the Swiss alps or even Nazi-Germany propaganda. The folk costumes the Norwegian people like to wear today was constructed, after inspiration from textiles found in old Viking graves in the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1960 there was a revision/modernization of the very same folk costumes, and in this process, Sonia’s wild costume was considered to be something true Norwegian that had to be taken into consideration.
Hence: the folk costumes seen in Norway today thus has a great deal of Hollywood fantasy imbedded in them. One could argue that USA cultural imperialism has conquered us all, but the fact is also that Norway was one of the countries who benefited most from the USA Marshall-aid after Second World War, and Sonia was one who was working hard behind the political curtains in the states for this. In the decades after Second World War, Norway was, and still is dependent on her Big Brother politically and economically, something which then also becomes poignantly visible in the culture. What we may regard as world diversity, or unity is basically just economic and political structures that regulates the power balance of the world.”
A tea break for me to digest that, but it all makes sense. I have discovered an artist whose metier is the Jungian flow of personality, identity and common impulse; Ane Lan is working at this coal face. Is that what he calls The Pacto Femininum?
“In the Pacto Femininum I want to suggest that suffering and being a victim is a desirable product within the culture machinery, and that its value as an attribute to women is sustained because of it. In a lot of literature, films, theatre plays and so on, women characters have to go through horrors, because they revolt against the boundaries restraining them because of their sex.
“My question is why we so much desire the suffering of women in films, books and so on, and why does this suffering appear so much more real to us than the suffering of men?
“Why do all female film stars receive The Oscar only when they portray true troubled characters suffering in close ups on the big screen? In a psychological context it is said that it is much more difficult for a person to give up his suffering than it is for her/him to give up her/his joy, as suffering as a feeling gives a deeper impact on our body and psyche than that of joy and happiness. Suffering thus appears more real to us, a deep memory we will remember.
“In the rehabilitation of women who experience domestic violence, there is a large percentage of women when breaking out of abusive relationships, who actually go on and form new relationships with violent men who abuse them. This is of course a complex psychological issue, but one of the things the women actually have to ask themselves in order to understand their own situation is also this; What do I actually gain from being a victim, what is the benefits of being in this situation? What do I lose, or have to give up, when choosing to go out of the abusive relationship? In general when being in the position of a victim, it also means that there is something outside or yourself that causes your suffering. Your suffering is legitimate. You are also entitled to compassion and care, and a free membership into the community of your fellow sufferer. A new identity perhaps?”
Ane Lan's site is here.
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