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Sergej Jensen: The Last Twenty Minutes of 2001

The Danish artist's latest show at White Cube brilliantly reduces the drama of Kubrick's classic film to the level of the mundane

Sergej Jensen’s latest show at White Cube is a haunting yet somehow comforting experience consisting of works that speak of the void, and sculptural interventions that invite you to consider infinity. Some of the deconstructivist interventions into the space, such as the huge open loading bay door in the lower gallery and the crochet-covered window in the upper, seem to openly reference the ominous black monolith in the film that the show’s title alludes to. However, such paralells are almost more a matter of chance than the product of some grand, over-arching concept. The purpose of the show is to “downsize” the overblowon hubris of 2001, and engage with the mundane realites of existence, rather the elevate the human experience to high drama.

Dazed Digital: How did 2001 inspire the show?
Sergej Jensen:
I don’t know if it inspired me at all. It is a great film, of course, but I am not sure the title is right for the show: it should be called After The Last 20 Minutes Of 2001. It is more about what comes after all these colours and the old man and the baby, and all the other psychedelic stuff. It’s asking what’s beyond that; what’s left after that. The title sounded good though. That’s why I chose it. With all the titles of all my shows it is like that – sometimes you think it is rubbish for a while, and then sometime afterwards you think it was good. If you were to ask me tomorrow I might see it differently. There is always contradiction: upstairs and downstairs, tomorrow and yesterday, it’s just the way things are. Contradiction is just part of my inability to put things straight... upstairs I might tell you I am not afraid of death, downstairs I might tell you I am scared to death.

Dazed Digital: Are you trying to express something about temporality and notions of the infinite?
Sergej Jensen:
 I don’t think my conception of space and time is that interesting, I don’t find it interesting. I think it’s just that this Kubrick thing is so overly dramatic and so big that it’s needs downsizing. I mean, I am actually overly dramatic myself, and yet I always try to avoid that dramatic part of me because I think it is utterly boring. I used to do really dramatic gestural painting when I was young, and I didn’t like it, and other people didn’t like it. I started to get better results when I left that or tried to leave it out. I started to like it, and then I just continued.

Dazed Digital: What drives you to create art?
Sergej Jensen:
 I don’t get up in the morning thinking about it. I have been doing it so long that I suppose there must be something I like about it, but it’s definitely not about getting an infinite feeling everyday or anything. It’s more just a way to spend time. I mean, you have to do something you know? I like doing it and maybe it is attractive to other people too, which I am thankful for. If that stops I thave to think about something else. I mean, I try not to think: you shouldn’t do think too much. It’s only when things go completely wroing that you really have to do it and sometimes even then it doesn’t help, but then again sometimes it does. I don’t know, I am very bad at generalising... (laughs) Generally, I am against generalising.

Dazed Digital: Do you meditate to try to negate thought?
Sergej Jensen:
 Does that work? I mean, you get one or two minutes a day from doing that. If you did it for over twenty years you might get good at it – you might get three minutes a day – but then you still have everything in between. I don’t know. I think it’s the other way around... I mean, we are crazy anyway, you know? (Laughs) Rather than not letting the world in or pushing it out, I think we are trying to not put what's inside out there.

Dazed Digital: What is the significance of opening the huge loading door in the downstairs gallery?
Sergej Jensen:
 The door is where they normally put big sculptures in and out. I usually don’t have big ideas for installing anyhting, so I just look at what is actually there and see what I can do with it. Here, I thought, ‘They have a door, why not let it be open?’ Of course, it reminds you a bit of a spaceship or something. Then again, if you stare at a piece of plaster for long enough you will see the infinite, or it will remind you of something.

Dazed Digital: What do you hope a viewer will gain from the experience of this exhibtiion?
Sergej Jensen:
 I have no hope at all... I don’t have big hopes. Sometimes my works are in poor condition or look kind of wounded, so perhaps it would be pity, but maybe not. I don’t know. An art exhbition is just a space with something on the wall that people with money buy, if you are lucky. This is just what I do. To be honest, when I go to see other people’s stuff I usually get overly depressed beacuse it makes me realise how bad I am. It can hold me back from doing it myself because I get jealous.

Dazed Digital: How do you feel when you have created something?
Sergej Jensen:
 I don’t know what the feeling is after I have made something, it changes... Sometimes you think a thing is good and then after a week you realise it’s absoloutely not. Sometimes you put something away for two years and then you think, ‘Oh, I could use that!’.  I am not good at thiking before something is made. I make something and then I think about it afterwards.