Entering the studio of Lisa Trogen Devgun, located in industrial Västberga, one is greeted by an anarchic assemblage of things. Those who, like me, are familiar with Trogen Devgun’s immaculate installations comprised of industrially manufactured ready-mades might find it somewhat surprising. During our conversation I discover that Lisa enjoys working with her hands. What’s more, I learn about her fascination with sleek and utopian packaging materials as well as her relationship with the industry that produces them.
Can you describe your working process and talk a little bit about your way of using the studio?
I’ve always made installations. I used to work mainly with building materials to which I added all kinds of things. Later on I realized that I prefer exhibiting pure ready-mades. Still, I somehow have an urge to do things with my hands, so I also have projects such as this one (pointing to a bucket of dried plaster, strips of metallic coating torn from sheets of isolation material, and a large shipping palette lying on the floor). Actually having a studio is a rather new thing for me, and I’ve been wondering if I need it at all. Since I mainly work on my computer I might as well do it at home. But then again it is also really nice to have this space; you come here and have to think about your art.
Is it while working manually that you get your best ideas?
Yeah, I think so. I have to work with my hands and then my brain starts to work as well. But also, the best thing I know is to lie down on a sofa or in my bed and just look at the trees outside the window. It is as if I’ve registered all the materials that I’ve seen online and at trade fairs and they are forming a library in my head. When I don’t have anything particular to do I browse though this library, thinking what could I do, what could I work with.
How did it come about that you started working with high-tech packaging and shipping materials?
I was in my local grocery store and saw how food was delivered there on pallets. I thought to myself: “These pallets are really nice” and asked: “Can I have one?” And they were like: “No!” So I took a photo of the company logo and looked it up online. It was a Dutch company specializing in shipping containers. I emailed them saying: “Hello, I really like your products.” Their representative in Sweden was doing his sales talk to me, and I was like: “No, I’m not going to buy anything.” Still they were really nice. They let me come to their office in a small town in Sweden and said: “You can be here and use our products.” Afterwards I also went to trade fairs and found more companies making interesting products. Even so, up to now, I’ve mainly been working with this one Dutch company that I discovered while grocery shopping.
On what basis do you select the products that you exhibit? Are there any particular features or materials that you are interested in?
Part of it is about the aesthetics of the material. That’s where I start. But, like I said, I don’t have the materials at hand, instead I have them in my head, in my register. I like shipping containers because people rarely see them. They make the whole Western world go round but nobody – except for those who are working in the industry – knows this. What influences me is also the circumstance in which I first encounter the product or the thing. The first pallets I saw stacked up in my grocery store. I then immediately thought: “This is art!” and realized that since I’m an artist I could show it as art.
I understand that you prefer exhibiting new, spotless products rather than the actual world travelling pallets and containers. Why is that?
Yeah, often but not always. I also like the fact that in circulation these products accumulate an exciting history. For example, during my last exhibition I showed new shipping containers. But since I was working with a sponsor and only borrowing the materials I knew that they would go into circulation after the exhibition. So even when I’m showing new products the idea of circulation is always there.
Can you talk about your relationship with the product manufacturers? How do they relate to your art?
I think they are really open. They are letting me borrow their products and ship them to me for free, which is great. Being a huge company they have the money and the network to do that. They are like: “No problem, we’ll get something out of this, somehow, sometime.”
Together with Viktor Fordell, with whom you also share the studio space, you form an artist duo called Dress-mann. How did the two of you meet? And where does the name, Dress-mann, come from?
Viktor and I went to the same class at Konstfack. In the second year we had an exhibition at the same time during which we discovered that we like the same kind of materials, even though he is photo-based and I’m object-based. When we started making art together, and realized that we were a duo, we of course needed a name. Once, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking we should be called Dress-mann. Viktor agreed to this. We’ve also been using the Dressmann logo with a line added to it and the names of their products. (Pointing to a stack of works leaning against the wall.) Over there is a Dress-mann piece called “Nevada premium”, which is a jeans brand at Dressmann.
How do you title your own works?
There is no strict rule about it but mostly I title my work after the name of the product that I’ve used making it. Lately, I’ve been considering starting to use numbers, because every product also has a number, and I really like that.
Why don’t you use the title to mark a difference between the product and the artwork?
I want to work with pure ready-mades, keep them exactly as they are, and show them like the manufactures are showing them at trade fairs and such.
Working with large-scale modular and architectonic installations what’s your method of preparing an exhibition display? Do you build scale models or visualize the exhibition space in some other way?
I was recently exhibiting at a trade fair called Scanpack in Gothenburg. The company that I have been working with invited me to build a wall in their booth. I was curious to see what happens when my work is shown alongside the products of the company at a logistics fair; will I still be able to call it art, or is it something else? It was a new way of working for me, because I had to make the entire installation in 3D with a computer program. There was a company that built up the whole booth, so when I came there everything was already installed. Making the sketch in a computer, sending it forward and having somebody else build the installation was a way to test myself. I came to realise that there was a gap. Had I built the installation myself it would have been different, I think.
The conversation between Lisa Trogen Devgun and Mirja Majevski took place in Stockholm, SE on November 13, 2015.
Text: Mirja Majevski
Proof reading: Nicholas Lawrence
Photo: Mirja Majevski, Viktor Fordell, Gustav Hallmén, Johan Österholm
|Name:||Lisa Trogen Devgun|
|Born:||1984 in Stockholm, SE|
|Education:||2011–2015 Konstfack, 2010–2011 Gerlersborgsskolan, 2009–2010 Handarbetets vänner, and 2005–2006 Tillskärarakademin|