#165 Vow

124x85 cm | Filler, oak frame

  • About the series

    A word is always also an image. Language connects to categories and clusters of information that projects an internal image when triggered. In that sense they function no different than normal perception. What we see is images constructed inside the mind. We never perceive reality objectively or in itself. Perception is interpretation and thus consist of language, in the same manner as words.
    However, even more, as vision usually stems from physical reality, so does also words, written or spoken. Nothing ever communicates without being inscribed into a matter of some sort. The stuff surrounding us is also what connects us; without it, we would be completely sealed off. How, or in what way, words inserts into reality affects how we perceive them. Thus reality itself seeps into the language. There exists no clear or unmediated communication. Matter adds to the message. Because which matter we choose to communicate through reflects on who we are, it can also help to reveal unconscious or hidden meanings.

    The first written words were inscribed in stone or clay. One of the purposes was to save them for the future, to protect them from the volatility of time. To speak, or to write, is always to some extent, an act of power. The receiver must initially submit his or her attention to the message. No matter how insignificant, its meaning will always change the receiver forever. The receiver usually processes the reception, but he or she will never be the same as before. It is no coincident that many of the first examples of texts are curses, prayers or laws — different ways of trying to influence reality.

  • About the work

    Vow means "solemn promise". Giving your word and stand by it is usually seen as a sign of honour, but in Norway and the western world today such concepts can be said to diminish in importance. In a society that places more and more emphasis on economic thinking and the power of money, abstract ideas such as honour and morality receive less value.

    VOW is about the relationship between words and action. We usually see them as each other's opposites. For example, one often says "too much talking and too little action" when one wants to prioritise performance in front of communication. It's possible to trace this contradiction in the relationship between inner experiences such as thoughts and emotions, and external activities such as performing manual work or making executive decisions. Thoughts, words and writing are not considered as concrete and solid as physical action, which creates direct changes in the material environment. One might say that it is about the difference between language and hard reality, or matter. Thus, we can understand a promise as a kind of connection between them. A vow is a linguistic act that has real consequences. Laws, rules and contracts have the same function, but also prayers and spells. These are words we use, to try to influence the physical environment.

  • Template

    Word series is part of Template, an array of works made by using pieces of wooden plates as templates. They function a bit as a mould or matrix for the finished work. The plates are attached inside the frame and after the first layer of filler had dried they are removed. The remaining empty spaces are filled with filler of a different colour.

    Reminiscent of Richard Serra's Verb List I try to use simple and clearly defined actions to shape the filler in my works. This way there is always non-cognitive aspects of the production process.


If you have any questions about anything regarding my works, please don´t hesitate to contact me!

Johan Söderström | Grenseveien 9b, Oslo, Norway | t. +47 41 355 355 | jodsoderstrom@gmail.com

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©Johan Söderström 2015