How did you decide to become an artist?

2005, project started during our residency at Iaspis, Stockholm

The project How did you decide to become an artist? consisted in interviewing artists and collecting their answers to this very general and in the same time very personal question. Listening to the people's stories around their decision to become artists is not just a mean to find out about the actual circumstances and about their intimate convictions, hopes and reasons, but also a way to discuss more general issues about art, about art education, about the expectancies that people have of art and artists, etc.

How did you decide to become an artist?
(a few excerpts from the video interviews)

”I had these interests in society, in political issues (...) but it was never connected to art. Then, after I got into Academy (...) painting felt more and more like it wasn't enough. Slowly, I quit painting and started working with other methods and also brought in, of course, my interest in other questions. Then, more and more, I started to see art as a place where you can investigate and discuss different issues and do this from different points of view.”
Johan Tiren

“As an artist, I’ve done, I think, almost everything that I was scared to do as a journalist. (…) When I was younger the thing that made me most mad was the fact that you could live in a society and have a sensation of self, a sensation of dignity as a person, but that the same society could treat that kind of self or integrity as nothing. It didn’t only happen to me (…) but I also saw it around me.”
Pal Hollender

“It took me like four years, when I started in art school, to understand what the job was about and I didn’t know, but, I think that now I know what this job to be an artist is about and I really like it and I feel very, very lucky. It’s like I’ve finally found what I was looking for when I was traveling around, pretending to be a drifter. That wasn’t for real, but this is for real and I’m very happy when I work on my projects. “
Bo Melin

“I’ve just met people that helped me, people that gave me all kind of information and stories and made it easier for me to find a way to define myself as a storyteller. Because this is what I actually am and this is my role as an artist: to tell stories that have a connection to me and that reflect the reality around me.”
Stefan Constantinescu

“I never saw so clear the limit between being an artist or not. Maybe I have been aware that I am an artist at the moment I got to do things that were very big and amazing for me and I was aware that I am doing those things because I am an artist, otherwise I would have never been allowed to do them.”
Lara Almarcegui

“And then I was at the Academy for five years and it was a funny experience to see all these people that want to become artists, and these professors that are artists, and one starts to realize that it's kind of vague the whole thing: what is an artist, what kind of artist, who is an artist, who is a real artist and all of these things.”
Rodrigo Mallea Lira

“I had this very naive image of the artist like this avant-garde type that is outside the society. I didn't like that image; I didn't want to be an artist in that sense. Even though I quit my education with physical planning and started to try out this art school thing, I didn't like the artist role, so I didn't want to become an artist. But with my first piece, I saw the opening for the art as a practice of solving problems in the society of art as part of the society.”
Per Hasselberg

“I had this very romantic idea about what it meant to be an artist and this was linked with a very strong feeling I had that life is absurd and that I have to find out what it is about, otherwise I am not interested in living.”
Loulou Cherinet

“I was very political during that time, very socialistic, and it was this kind of idea that it was too egoistic idea to become an artist. So, that was the reason why I wanted to become a teacher. (...) Of course, what I thought then what an artist was is very different from today. I think there are different steps to take in becoming an artist. It took at least ten years before I could call myself an artist, have the identity of an artist, say, " I am an artist.”
Matts Leiderstam

“I was in a very beautiful landscape, wondering about beauty and harmony and the contrast within contemporary everyday life and the tension of the desire of finding more harmonical ways of living or being (for some people at least). So, I thought that I was going to study about beauty.”
Monica Giron

“Maybe, in a sense, the fact that I wanted to be into art, to be part of that machinery, came from the longing of not being alone anymore.”
Henrik Andersson

“I think it is a very personal question, (…) it had something to do with dealing with my problems, definitely. I see this still as a way of dealing with society, of dealing with reality and that is helping, first of all myself, to go through life. (…) Even if I’m known as a critical, political artist, it is definitely a very selfish decision, because I do have something to say, but, first of all, I’m saying it to myself and than I’m seeing if somebody else is listening.”
Marcel Odenbach

“It is really double this thing about wanting to become an artist. In a way it is something that I had to do, it's almost like I didn't have a choice, I had to try it on, but in the same time the idea of being an artist didn't really exist in the place where I came from. (...) You are raised in a way that you should do some useful things and, of course, we can all agree that art is something very important in the society but still it is not as important as if you do other things. So, for me this was and it still is very strong, this feeling of being a little bit ashamed for being an artist and this is so weird. (...) This is why I think I have to really make an effort for what I am doing, because otherwise I would be so ashamed. I think this is not just something that I personally have but, maybe, Swedish people in general have it.”
Johanna Billing

“I wasn’t in an art school, I was in the University doing something called cultural studies, so I wasn't supposed to become an artist, but there, as well, I used the possibilities. I had the possibilities to go on from that point, to work as an artist. I understood that more as a description for the possibilities of how you work and how you live and how you bring that together in a more or less concentrated form.”
Bernd Krauss

“I didn’t really decide to be an artist and I think there were probably other things that I could do and be happy, but I really think that making art is the most interesting thing because to some extent it incorporates everything else that I’m interested in.”
Andrea Zittel

“It seems that the art context still has this sort of freedom that isn’t so much bounded to economy. Artists are not perceived as somebody who necessarily has to create a profit. And I think that the gap in the whole capitalist production which exists within art platform is very, very important. Artists should be more aware about that gap, that it is a positive gap, that we can produce ideas that doesn’t necessarily lead to immediate profit.”
Apolonija Sustersic “

"(…) when I was sixteen, I stumbled over a picture of an art piece made by Ojvind Fahlstrom, the Swedish artist. He had made two oval signs, one saying ESSO and the other saying LSD. They were made in plastic, like the ESSO sign. I totally did not understand it, but I also totally got it, it seemed like crystal clear to me and it was in a way an eye opener, in the same way, I assumed, drugs could be, perhaps. It was clarifying but unbelievable, I wasn’t able to grasp it and that was interesting and a bit frightening. “
Jens Fange

”You get the feeling that things are in a way that you didn't think they were, and you discover that, and then you start to question what is right and what is wrong, I mean they could both be right and in that case who decides these things and what about your own choice?”
Markus Degerman

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