We visit Asger Carlsen in his studio in Chinatown and talk to him about his life, his work, and why he is a lazy artist who is obsessed with making art. To get a closer look at his creative process, we follow him as he photographs a model in his studio, and we chat about his recent collaboration with Roger Ballen for the 2013 VICE Photo Issue.
From the Photo Issue: Place of the Inside Out – Images by Asger Carlsen & Roger Ballen
Asger Carlsen’s New Book Is a Girl
We’ve been anticipating the release of Asger Carlsen’s new book, a collection of freaky body blobs and sculptures molded out of human flesh called Hester, ever since we ran a preview from it in our 2011 Photo Issue. More than a year later, it’s finally out. We already interviewed Asger about Hester back in 2011, so this time around our excuse for publishing more pictures from his eye-boggling series is the following chat with Asger and his publisher, Aron from Mörel Books—the man who’s enriched our bookshelves with both Wrongand Hester—about the making of the latter.
VICE: How did the two of you meet?
Aron Mörel: I’m not sure how I first heard of Asger’s work, but it was while he was still working on the Wrongseries. I emailed him and a while later he dropped by my stand at the New York Art Book fair. We met up later that day over drinks and became friends.
Asger Carlsen: I first heard about Mörel Books when Aron sent me an email with the subject “A Publication with Morel Books.” I remember the first time I met him at the New York Art Book fair in 2009. His hair was out of control and he seemed particularly driven in liberal directions. Maybe I’d expected him to be very British but he wasn’t. I just found him to be different than most people.
Asger, last time we spoke about this series of work you were shocked after seeing your images in print in our 2011 Photo Issue and found them disturbing. Have you gotten used to them now?
AC: I feel better about them now but the feeling is still there. Don’t get me wrong, I like the work, but it’s just unavoidable for me not to question the aesthetics: taking something as essential as the human body and altering it into sculptural shape. It completely departs from what God intended.
Are you happy with the book?
AC: I’ve only seen pictures of the book and they looked really good.
Aron, you better get Asger some copies. What’s the response been on the book so far? Has anyone reacted like Asger did?
AM: The book is still pretty new, but a few people have asked me if Asger has issues with disability or deformity. I can see the connection, but I think they’re reading them in a pretty naive and straightforward way.
We were expecting the book to come out last year, a few months after we published a preview in our photo issue. How come Hester took so long to come out?
AM: I think she (Hester) had a lot of makeup to do before she stepped out—you know how girls can be.
AC: The blame is on me. The work just took longer to finish because my ambitions kept on growing bigger and bigger. Plus there were technical matters to be resolved in Photoshop in order to make the images look analogue and not like quick computer tricks. It just takes time.
Fair enough. Aron, we’ve spoken about how you can sometimes get a feeling for what kind of person the photographer is by looking at their work—does Asger remind you of his work?
AM: Asger is completely his work, but in the most unexpected way. He’s also completely not his work, in the most obvious ways. He’s far more down to earth than I had expected, but on that note, I think he lives in his own time zone.
Danish-born photographer Asger Carlsen continues to perplex and titillate us with his elegant, yet grotesque images. Asger is a VICE Photo Issue vet, having contributed a selection of images from his exceptional Hester series to our annual picture-based issue last year. We did a great interview with him back then that you can check out here. In addition to contributing the “cyclops" cover to this year’s photo issue, he also gave us this photo selection called Nothing. Nothing features confounding images like a bum whose head is part alley cat and a member of Snoop Lion's entourage who literally has his third eye open.
VICE is pleased to announce our 2012 Photo Issue exhibition. If you’re a big ol’ dummy and somehow missed the release of our accompanying Photo Issue, then here’s the perfect way to correct that mistake. Mirroring the issue, the show features the work of such talented photographers as Roger Ballen, Nick Haymes, Jaimie Warren, Asger Carlsen, Philip Cheung, KK + TF, Yumiko Utsu, Synchrodogs, Gregory Halpern, Lele Saveri, Peter Sutherland, Hannah Whitaker, and many more. Pristine copies of the 2012 Photo Issue will also be available to pick up at the gallery.
The show will be held at the Black and White Gallery at 483 Driggs Ave. in Williamsburg, from Thursday, August 9th, through Sunday, August 12th. Doors open to the public from noon to 6 PM daily.
Special thanks to our sponsors for making this exhibition possible: Scion, 42 Below, Averna, Marc Moto, and We Must Remain the Wildhearted Outsiders.