Article index:


The Dialogic Method.
Art historian Janeke Meyer Utne in conversation with Patrick Huse.
Janeke Meyer Utne, Art historian and curator, Lillehammer Art Museum, Norway

From the beginning landscape and reflections surrounding the landscape and landscape portrayal have represented thematic focal points for Patrick Huse (1948). His art is in an exceptional position in the Norwegian context in the sense that he is radicalising and renewing the landscape genre by turning it into an arena for socio-political and economic viewpoints. Huse is revitalising the genre by giving it the potential for new insights. In a number of comprehensive art projects, he has addressed the problems affecting northern regions not as an isolated phenomenon, but as a symptom of a global challenge. Projects in recent years have been associated with the arctic and sub-arctic landscape and the local cultures there, using the landscape as a catalyst for common human dilemmas.

Preserving Memory is not a retrospective exhibition in the traditional sense, even if the title might suggest otherwise. The exhibition presents fragments from a lifetime, like a museum within the museum. The artist’s own memories have been summarised through entirely new works based on material collected over a period of more than 30 years. In the exhibition Preserving Memory, Huse turns his attention away from the northern regions and focuses instead on his own art practice and society. By visualising and politicising events and impressions from his own history, he illuminates his own past and the artistic choices that have led to his current situation and position, whilst at the same time making a general statement about identity formation. To preserve memory is to preserve the knowledge of one’s own life’s contingencies and serves as a basis for identity formation. In addition to responsibility and communication, this is an important concept when approaching Huse’s artistic practice.

Our collaboration and discussions concerning art and landscape comprehension began in 2002 with the preparations for the Encounter exhibition (2004) at Lillehammer Art Museum. It was already clear at the time that Huse was working at an intersection between anthropology and art. I perceived his methodology as being almost a parallel to the approach used by anthropologists to the empirical material, which at that time was the arctic landscape of northern Canada, or more specifically, Nunavut and the Inuit culture. He adopted a participatory and reflective attitude and was open to a comparative perspective. The result was a landscape interpretation that appeared neither as a one-sided source of sublime experience nor as one that was purely documentary; rather, it was an interpretation that illuminated the landscape as a social construction. Huse’s landscape projects are complex. He uses various techniques such as painting, text, photography and video, in addition to allowing a number of specialists and researchers within various fields to express themselves. Multiple voices and techniques interact, making the dialogic method appear as a fundamental principle. Art historian Åsmund Thorkildsen views Huse’s practice in the light of anthropological conceptual art and considers it an interesting framework for illuminating Huse’s composite techniques and artistic expression. In this exhibition, the dialogue has a new signature in the sense that the artist’s own narrative forms the core, and the public’s meeting with the art in fact becomes a meeting with the artist.

JMU  Historically, paintings have been the medium of the landscape genre. More recently, photographs, Land art and site-specific art have come about. Both paintings and landscapes have been with you from the very start. You can be considered more akin to Balke and Hertervig than as a successor to J.C. Dahl. How do you perceive landscape paintings and your position in relation to this genre? And what is your opinion of Land Art; has it ever had any formative influence on your interpretation and representation of landscapes/nature?

Patrick Huse:  The American critic Matthew Kangas uses Anselm Kiefer as a reference in his approach to what I do, others refer to Robert Smithson, and you have mentioned Balke and Hertervig. These are all artists who I have great appreciation for and who represent an important part of our understanding of what “landscape art” can be. In my case, the relationship with a land area has been associated with a specific way of understanding the landscape. Landscape comes under the collective term “nature” and in this way can be associated with an understanding of nature. Culture has made deep inroads into the landscape, and we therefore have a different understanding of landscapes, something that is reflected in the use of this word, for example, the political, social or economic landscape. This has given further meaning to the concept of a landscape for us today.
From a humanistic perspective, the landscape has a crucial significance in the sense that it forms the basis for our lives and the framework for our activities. Therefore, the landscape also has an ecological, social, political and economic meaning. Landscape art reflects man’s view of nature throughout history. This also contributes towards conceptualising landscape art. It is not within our grasp to be able to create a landscape. We can only cultivate the material that already exists. Within such an approach, I perceive landscape paintings, Land ART projects and other approaches as a common conceptual phenomenon.

JMU  So there is no romantic attitude underlying your view of nature?

Patrick Huse:  No, my work is now associated with another approach. If you think back to the Nordic Landscape project from 1992/1994, it represented a sublime understanding and a romantic approach. This was later perceived as a stigmatised and closed approach, and lacking in an essential openness. Rather, it was like a small part of a larger whole, and like a part of human nature in much the same way as with other human characteristics. A romantic view of nature is a cultural construction that fits in with Western perceptions and contributes towards explaining our imperialistic tendencies. Nature has never been romantic in itself. It is therefore quite strange to suddenly find oneself with a landscape painting or a nature-based work and be questioned as to whether it is a romantic approach, as if other approaches did not exist. Romance is essentially unreliable because it cannot be verified, and therefore represents only a possibility.

JMU  Since the early 1990s, you have incorporated video, photography and text in various forms, including aphorisms and book production, in your art projects. You therefore use a wide range of techniques, often in combination. Why do you continue to use such a time-consuming and traditional format such as painting when you now seem to consider paintings and other techniques as equals?

Patrick Huse:  Painting is still my most important medium and all of my assessments and analyses will be based on the process and information in painting. It is a personal matter when I say that painting is the artistic medium that I value most; however, it is also because at its best, painting has a greater level of intensity than other media, without wishing to disparage other methods of approach. On the contrary, I see no clash of interest between the different techniques; their distinctive characteristics make them individually valuable. Different techniques have their own distinctive characteristics, with the result that some things can be expressed appropriately through painting and some things through photographs, etc. I choose the technique that supports the content as much as possible. It is of no significance whether I am a painter, artist or photographer, or whatever people choose to call it. At the same time, to have a basic knowledge of a medium is an aid in assessing the potential of using another form of expression.
It is an asset in itself that painting is time-consuming, because you learn about patience, and the fact that painting is still bound by tradition simply means that the tradition-bound aspect still contains valid information. I don’t experience life as an “either/or” place, nor do I see a stigmatised art world with one-sided preferences.

JMU  Has your view of nature changed as a result of your artistic practice? And how has this in turn affected the direction that your art has taken?

Patrick Huse:  People have searched for different ways in which to approach or unite themselves with nature since prehistoric times. Stemming from understanding, participation and association, we have changed our view within our Western culture in an attempt to dominate and control. Ever since my earliest attempt, this has caused a culturally conditioned unrest, which has not lessened over the years. This has resulted in me finding a sense of belonging in the view of nature held by indigenous people in contrast to that developed by Western cultures. This is a view of nature that highlights the circular and views humanity as a part of nature. Nature is a place that includes and gives equality, unlike Western culture, which is self-referring and excluding. This view has characterised my view of society and thereby my artistic practice over the last 10 years.

JMU  Your view of what a landscape is has also led to strategic choices in relation to the features that you emphasise. Not everybody is in agreement with these choices. In a review of the exhibition Intimate Absence (2007), the Finnish critic Richard Kautto accused you of not documenting the social destitution in Greenland, choosing instead to focus on the empty landscapes.   Could this not be an alternative critical view of Western imperialism?

Patrick Huse:  The social destitution that Richard Kautto describes is associated with the Greenlanders’ consumption of alcohol and weekend debauchery, which is a poor reflection of Greenlandic values. Moreover, the fact that he describes the landscape as empty tells us something about the way in which Western culture perceives the landscape as empty when we cannot see traces of Western civilisation. To be frank, I find it inappropriate to describe the weaknesses of people following a visit that was characterised by hospitality, openness and inclusion. Another thing is that the Western media has been over-inflated in its description of the social destitution of other cultures without considering its own situation. The result has been a confirmation of our own excellence and is simply another form of imperialism. And as we all know – social destitution sells well!

JMU  As an artist, don’t you ever encounter the same problem as anthropologists when you choose a participatory method and a documentary approach: i.e. that the action of documenting in itself poses a risk of asymmetry between the person that is describing and what is being described? Aren’t you running the risk of creating a form of emphasis on the “otherness” or of strengthening stereotypes?

Patrick Huse:  I don’t think that there is an objective truth and that the choice will always be subjective. In this case, there will always be a question of who sets the agenda and the agenda that is being represented. I have attended a number of international conferences, both as a participant and as a member of the audience, and there has been virtually no practical and local participation amongst anthropologists; on the contrary, there has been more of a theoretical approach. The disturbing thing is that high profile theoreticians without any local knowledge of the places and the people they are discussing can end up as political advisors. I have, for example, never met an indigenous group that has had an internally defined requirement for anthropologists. Today, anthropologists justify themselves as assistants in the documentation of important local knowledge that is being lost. A good example is an Inuit Elders project in Igloolik under the direction of the Igloolik Research Institute, which concerns the preservation of knowledge by writing down verbal historical accounts. I did an interview in Resolute Bay with Ludy Pudluk, in which he told me that he had visited both Sri Lanka and London. He gave the distinct impression that they have their own culture there, and that many local cultures exist in Nunavut itself. So that he himself, despite his isolated settlement and limited information, respected the fact that others have a need for their own culture. This can be transferred to any outreaching activity in any society. Jørgen Jonsson, a Sami reindeer owner featured in Northern Imaginary 3rd Part (2008, p.256), said that for him to communicate or teach traditional knowledge requires the people with whom he is communicating to have a respect for the information or knowledge that they are receiving.

JMU  In 1992, what made you start thinking in terms of projects rather than individual pieces of work, resulting not least in increased critical potential? Did this not contribute towards you being defined outside commercial circulation?

Patrick Huse:  In 1992 was the year in which a major project was launched for the first time which led to the trilogy entitled Rethinking Landscape. This was primarily because I did not feel comfortable with the commercial approach to art which we find in the art world. Another form of approach had to be established before I could work with what is called art. The material that I worked with had a pedagogic aspect that was more interesting to develop, rather than becoming a one-sided producer for a market. The material I worked with also required an in-depth approach over a longer timescale. The philosophy for the project was established because I could not envisage any other form of working, and is a practice that I have maintained for nearly 20 years, and one which has resulted in extensive international collaboration.
I could of course be odious and say that the choice of the museum as a collaboration partner was a question of taste, but in reality it was linked to the institutional characteristics. The gallerist has a defined commercial responsibility and is governed by commercial considerations. The museum has a pedagogic responsibility. This means that based upon a need to communicate content, the museum’s area of responsibility is preferable. The museums as institutions came into being as collaboration partners because we both had a common need to mediate content. They have greater resources in that they represent a more differentiated economy than the commercial gallery, and in most cases the exhibition facilities are better. The catchments area is larger, and the information will therefore reach more people and be received from a different perspective than is the case in a commercial situation. This does not mean that one is free from commercial requirements, but it is important to reduce the effect in order to strengthen the freedom of expression. In most cases, the market will not be concerned with problematic social and political art, unless it exists at such a recognisable and accepted level that it has to a large extent played out its role and appears as a historic object.

JMU  Consequently, the potential that the museum framework provides for mediating critical content has been important for you. You are very conscious of your own role as a social and active participant in the public arena. As an artist, you have a responsibility. Not all artists think in this way. What role can an artist have as a critical voice in the social debate, and can art really change anything? What ethical and moral responsibilities do artists have, and where does art cease to be art and become a purely moral interpretation or political manifesto?

Patrick Huse:  The field of art should not be perceived as a homogenous field, nor can artists be perceived as a homogenous group; quite the opposite in fact. Artists neither will nor should think alike because such thinking stems implicitly from different backgrounds and conditions. The fact that artists play a social role through their work is indisputable; however, how the artist addresses his social role and perceives his social engagement and responsibility will vary. The material that is mediated is and will remain an individual management responsibility. Professional artists use the public arena in their communication, something that means that the artist should define his own role within the same arena because it brings with it an ethical and moral responsibility with respect to what is being communicated. The fact that the art has both socio-economic and political significance is reflected through the scope of the artistic activity in general. The extent to which the art may create social changes is not quantifiable. However, all social input will have an influencing effect. Artistic practice plays a social role and should not be isolated from the society in which it exists.
There exists much production which resembles art and which has been adapted to the market, simply to satisfy “the majority” or the art market. What is a learned perception and what is a real experience is difficult to define. It is difficult to provide a general explanation of what is accepted as beautiful and what is beautiful because the perception will always be socially conditioned and individually anchored despite the fact that large groups profess to considering a bench, a tree or a lake, for example, as being beautiful. The artist has an ethical and moral responsibility in the same way as other people. However, I would prefer to avoid stigmatising one group in society by maintaining that it should have more responsibility than other groups. Rather, a more reasonable discussion is to what extent people are responsible, something which would also identify itself in art. The fact that individuals have used artistic forms of expression and communication possibilities in order to promote party political views is not unknown within the field of art. It often represents an introverted local attitude that is extremely excluding. The fact that art represents different moral choices is something that nobody is opposed to or in any doubt over.

JMU  You make a distinction between what you refer to as notions and facts, and your own artistic activities have gradually become based on a comprehensive collection of empirical material. How do you view the relationship between art and science/research?

Patrick Huse:  I do not see a great difference between fields such as anthropology and art. Both are dependent upon obtaining information in order to be able to establish a content that ends up in different products, but the principles are the same. The research that is closest to art is that of humanities, social studies and visual anthropology. In spite of this, art has not been given an intrinsic value to a great extent because the Western world’s view of value is based on a market-economy model. This model increases the necessity to work within a more verifiable system in order to preserve freedom of expression. Documentary methods are to a large extent capable of being tested retrospectively, and can for this reason have a greater impact and be more effective in terms of communication than artistic expressions based on sensations, which are more ambiguous. How this factual knowledge is then communicated is an individual management responsibility.

JMU  Does this mean that art must be documentary in order to function critically?

Patrick Huse:  The extent to which individual expressions are more critical than others is a question of interpretation, which is dependent upon the social and political circumstances that the recipients consider themselves to be in. In a number of cases, I have found that documentary material is interpreted less, and taken seriously to a greater extent by the press. What is most effective is difficult to determine and depends upon the extent to which the audience allows itself to be affected emotionally. In my case, I can see that a number of works containing both circumstances, tell a story that is richer in terms of content. Perhaps the most significant thing is that it is important to have a story to tell that concerns people other than oneself.

JMU  When you now turn your attention to your own story, what opportunities to say something in common is given by the individual story concerning formatting identity?”

Patrick Huse:  One’s own self-understanding and everyday life form the basis for individual identity formation and where else could it be except in your own history? Today, we can see that culture at any level has allowed itself to be neutralised to a large extent by becoming distanced from fundamental life processes. These thoughts tell us that artistic activity can reflect many social conditions and that art can move in all social layers and can at its best represent an insight with a social usefulness.

JMU  The critical view of the Western world has become steadily more accentuated, and you have moved away from being implicit towards being more explicit. You are now turning your attention away from the problems of northern regions, where environmental aspects have been central, to the Western world and the position of the individual through your own story. What does this mean?

Patrick Huse:  For as long as I can remember, I have had a critical view of different cultural expressions. The fact that my attention is focusing on a different direction does not mean that the problems have changed; this is because many of the circumstances that have been highlighted in the northern regions stem from central areas where the political decisions are made.
There is every reason to have a critical attitude towards Western civilisation because it has had a global power of definition for several hundred years. The result is disturbing both in terms of the environment and socially. We have made mistakes in very many areas, yet we continue to establish explanation models, both for ourselves and for the rest of the world, in order to defend the imperialism that we have been representatives of.

JMU  You say in one of the texts in the exhibition that “In 1971, I became aware of the clash of interests that the theory’s limitation is absolute unless one has a practical counterpart. It has subsequently proved to be the case that the choice I made was the right one, and of a far more political character that I realised at the time. Today, I know that the clash of interests between nature and culture is one of the biggest problem areas within art, not to mention all ecological and human research. You are critical, but are you also pessimistic?

Patrick Huse:  I strongly experienced it to be the case that the theories we were presented with had more to do with their authors and that person’s ability to market his/her own theory than it really had with to do with us. I felt the need to obtain my own experiences, something that I found to be more credible personally than taking on the results of others. This does not mean that the experiences of others are worthless, but to simply adopt such experiences without reflection was, and still is, a practice in which I have little confidence. Excessive system control created opposition, an anti-authoritarian attitude and a need for empirical practice, an approach that I have firmly adhered to. There is every reason to retain a critical attitude. I can after all see that the clash of interests between nature and culture is increasing. There are no indicators in our culture to suggest that this is a problem area that we are taking account of both politically and economically in general, nor is it something that we can buy our way out of.

JMU  Up until your most recent exhibition, you have included a considerable number of specialist groups. This is most clearly expressed through the dialogue that has arisen between the various contributors to your artists’ books. How has this influenced your art?

Patrick Huse:  I am not so naive as to believe that my own opinion is at all times the final or prevailing one, nor do I have projects based on power and profit as goals or the only possible solution. On the contrary, I can see that there are many people with solid expertise within the same area as myself, but with different professional perspectives. I do not believe that an objective truth exists but a multidisciplinary collaboration can create a deeper understanding. It would be directly uneducated not to include and value different types of expertise. In this way, the production of books has been an expression of an inclusive vision and has enriched my work, and I hope that to some extent this has also been the case for the work of others. I believe that the cultural debate in the future will be concerned with diversity if it is to have any form of meaning or significance.

JMU  I understand that the dialogic in particular plays a key role in understanding the core of your more recent work. It occurred to me that a good metaphor for your work would be to call it polyphonic. This is also linked to the fact that your attitude is consistent and at all levels anti-authoritarian and deeply humanistic. In this exhibition, is it also the case that you have given the individual a completely different position compared with what you have done before?

Patrick Huse:  In all democratic processes, polyphony is a precondition for a broader understanding and is therefore dialogic. Particularly in connection with my book production, a space has been created for several voices in the sense that different viewpoints are promoted and debated. One often hears the phrase that change is good for the community, whilst at the same time the individual is overloaded. It may be an indication of a lack of dialogue if one forgets that a community also consists of individuals.
I have always been extremely concerned with who holds the power of definition, and on the basis of what agenda. The power of definition is often used as a narrow agenda in order to exercise power within a larger community. In this way, I am anti-authoritarian and seek a humanistic perspective.
I believe we must build up more confidence in our own experiences, so that we avoid being manipulated and are better able to ask critical questions.
The ability to develop an understanding of what participation really is and means, together with a fundamental humanistic attitude have been guiding principles for me. At the same time, I can also see the importance of a conceptual way of thinking, in order to manage the experiences and information that I receive. I feel that the meetings with indigenous people have provided guidance, particularly the meetings with elderly people because they are not so easy to manipulate.

JMU  The dialogic also seems to be expressed through your emphasis on diversity; is this a concept that is linked to the need to safeguard local knowledge?

Patrick Huse:  This is a matter that is both simple and complex. On the one hand, we understand that local knowledge is necessary, yet circumstances that result in the death of local knowledge are due to our own inability or desire to see through our own social anxiety and about where we search for association and what we give meaning to. The globalized society’s economy and market philosophy is contributing towards moving our identity formation and association away from the local and towards an economy-based “community”, i.e. a type of economic mainstream. This is a philosophy that also characterises the field of art.

JMU  This is the first project in which you incorporate yourself and your own identity. You are not primarily concerned with incorporating your own life as an example of a self-biographical restoration or reconstruction. The collective mentality has been replaced by individualism, but is the individual in a stronger position as a result of this? For you, human identity and values seem to be a radical question. Can you expand on this?

Patrick Huse:  Every individual’s story is as important as that of anyone else because it is unique and individual, and is a development process that is affected by many different social and political circumstances. In the same way as this will be an essential story in each development process for each individual and is what makes us the people that we are, it is also this story that specifically forms the basis for my own identity formation.
The world is in a state of dissolution, and far from the values that I grew up with and still believe in. There are fundamental problems in many areas. If I rigidly adhere to the values that I grew up with, I will be dependent on being value-conservative, something which is a radical choice today in a world where a lack of values has become a value in itself. I don’t know if the position of the individual has been given greater significance because the increasing centralisation and globalisation represents a cultural vulgarisation, which primarily serves a market economy approach. It is by its very nature manipulative and suppressive and it undermines all forms of personal identity formation.

JMU  Since 1995, you have had many large scale exhibitions, among other places in Canada, the USA, Finland, Russia and Iceland. Consequently, you are very active internationally and have exhibited at the largest art museums throughout the Nordic region. To some extent in Norway your art has been perceived as being provocative. Why is this, and how have you been received abroad?

Patrick Huse:  An interesting question. Since 1995, I have had 27 major museum projects in Canada, the USA, Iceland, Greenland and Russia. There are undoubtedly many people who have been treated worse than I have in their respective home countries. I don’t know whether this is of any significance, or whether there could be a driving force in the resistance. The advantage of exhibiting abroad is that one is not part of a small and local political environment, and to a greater extent the art can speak for itself. Here in Norway, the general picture indicates that the valuation of expertise and an inclusive attitude are not the most prominent of features. I must admit that it has been liberating to be able to work internationally to such an extent. The risk associated with the attitudes that we find here is that we will make ourselves peripheral and provincial. The reception of what I do abroad has been characterised by professional interest and I feel that I am valued in a completely different way. The fact that my art, as you say, has seemed provocative is difficult to understand, but may be down to the fact that I have found the freedom not to comply with the domestic hierarchy and its associated labyrinths.

JMU  The exhibition is based on 30 years of artistic work, but does it also say anything about the direction that you are taking now? What elements will you take with you in the future?

Patrick Huse:  Despite the long duration of the interest, when I look back on it today it is not the northern regions in themselves that have been the most important aspect, but the knowledge that has been established. It has helped to create a social working model, which has a multidisciplinary approach and which can be used in different areas irrespective of geographical location.
I don’t wish to commit myself to the direction that I will take in the future because life is still extremely changeable, but a conceptual approach at least will be a prerequisite for the management of future material, together with what is to some extent a civilisation-critical approach to the material.
The fact that a conceptual approach is used as a basis may well be difficult to dispute. Åsmund Thorkildsen has explored this in more detail elsewhere in this publication, but an important element in his understanding is a participatory anthropology. This means that a lived understanding is used as a basis for the work. In many ways, this is an interesting clash of interests because conceptual art is both theoretical and academic, while a participatory anthropology de-theorises the base material.

The most important thing is not landscape portrayal but presence.




i Richard Kautkko in: Lapin Kansa. April 2007
Translation: Kjell Tore Hovik, Lillehammer Oversetting

The Uncultivated Landscape: An Interview with Patrick Huse
By  John K. Grande

Writer and art critic, Canada

JG: Nothing is empty not even a landscape. The idea that the way we read a landscape is very much influenced by technology. We perceive the physics of the world much less than we did a century ago in modern evolved societies. It may be different in the 3rd world or more marginal societies.

Patrick Huse: Indigenous people define the landscape as something they are a part of so they are quite aware of the fact that you have to work with nature and not against it. In the Western world we define nature as something outside ourselves and that is part of the environmental problem.

JG: Joseph Beuys I believe undertook a performance stating he was a part of nature...
This idea of the object as a data carrier you had in your Reykjavik show Penetration, is this
close to ideas of art as anthropology.

Patrick Huse: There is a similarity between the artist and the anthropologist in the sense that they both do research to be able to tell a story. The execution of the information is what is different. But the similarity is that they both have to research certain materials. A painting of a nude is actually an investigation of nature, you have to investigate the body or the material you rework into art.

JG:  The artist of our times is very conscious of the way his or her art is displayed.

Patrick Huse: That is not so unnatural in a world where so many things are communicated upon us. So if you want to communicate something very specific it is important that you decide what you show and how to show it, so there are no contradictions between what you are communicating and the way it is displayed. In that sense display is very important.

JG: Would you consider video an artefact of our civilization. Is it an artefact or a medium or both!

PH`: I see everything as a medium, a possible way of communicating any content. The way I work myself I communicate through photography, writing, painting and video. Some content is best communicated through photography, other times through video, or painting. And if I cannot communicate these ideas through those mediums I write it.

JG: A lot of your work has dealt with the landscape, but is it a social landscape, a place that includes people within it or a barren landscape...

Patrick Huse: I am interested in the uncultivated landscape because that brings me closer to nature.

JG: Would you consider J.M.W. Turner a cultivated landscape painter, or an uncultivated landscape painter...

Patrick Huse: A cultivated landscape painter... a very strong degree of cultivation to his landscapes. This is because he is a very strong proponent of Romanticism which is one way of cultivating a landscape.

JG: Yes. Very much about progress in the 19th century and how it altered a view of nature. You have said that ``When art stops becoming social criticism it becomes just entertainment.`` What do you mean by this...

Patrick Huse:  Art is exhibited in public space. Along with that goes as a real possibility the ability to communicate which means that you have to define a social role since you are communicating in a public space...

JG: A lot of the art that I have recently seen in public exhibition spaces offers no clue as to what the social role if it is.

Patrick Huse: About 80-90% of the art is for the market which actually has nothing to do with art. It actually has more to do with economy.

JG: You were involved in a project in Greenland documenting the Native Innu culture of Greenland. Was this out of curiosity. What brought you there.

Patrick Huse: Well me and the Arctic is a very long story. Maybe it began in early childhood because my father was an outfitter and he supported a lot of people who were going to the Arctic, to Alaska and elsewhere. So from a very early age I began to collect various kinds of literature on the Arctic. After a while you get tired of reading about it, and you want to see the real thing. I got a grant and that is how it all started practically. At that time I had been withdrawn from the art scene because I was very tired with all the things connected to the art market. The only thing I could do was to document things. I felt that was worthwhile. So in that way I made an exhibition of woodcuts explaining the Greenland culture and daily life. It was more like a documentary exhibition of woodcuts. As well, I took some 500 to 600 photographic documents of the stay in Greenland.

JG: So you moved towards a more educational or social role for your artistic practise.

Patrick Huse:  No. It was more like trying to tell a story that had something to do with reality, because I think that reality was a really interesting and terrific place, and in contradiction to Romanticism.

JG: Which brings be back to what originally attracted me to your art, which is this series of paintings originally executed in Iceland.

Patrick Huse: The preliminary sketchwork and photography was done in Iceland.

JG: These works are very abstract but hinge on representation as well. Their close-up details look very abstract.

Patrick Huse: The thing is that the closer you get to nature the more abstract it becomes. So it is a kind of natural side of figurative painting. But too deal with a very abstract landscape - our way of defining things.

JG: Are these very arid and barren landscapes Futurist or realist

Patrick Huse: I see them as realist. The title of the exhibition was Rift. Rift refers to the Rifting Zone, a geological term for a zone that is breaking apart. So a Rifting Zone is an expression of nature, where the landscape is inside and not all visible, and it is redefining itself. This Rifting Zone goes from the southwest to the northeast of Iceland. It is a very rough terrain, and it is reactive.

JG: Quite volatile and animated as a landscape.

Patrick Huse: It is quite a dangerous place. It is very humanized in way because you can see lots of shapes that are very similar to animals and humans. So what I have been doing is just cultivating nature, for it is impossible to recreate nature. What you do is the moment you have painted it, you have altered it.

JG: What do you think of this notion that nature is something we have to save, that it is fragile, that it cannot adapt, and that humans are destroying nature. In a way doesn't nature adapt to anything, in fact everything is nature.

Patrick Huse: Given the state of the planet today it is obvious that Western culture has done a very bad job administering nature. Otherwise we would not have an environmental problem.

JG: On the other hand there is this hereditary opposition to nature, in Western thought. The way the explorers who traversed the world viewed it.

Patrick Huse: In a way the way we treat nature is very similar to the way we treat ourselves.  So we have to start with ourselves. If we treat ourselves better we will treat nature better too.

JG: In some of these paintings, there are these beautiful patternings, nature in microcosm.

Patrick Huse: In nature everything is always changing, it is the culture that wants to preserve it.
Which is an interesting issue because it means that nature is constantly changing but it is culture wants to preserve it.

JG: How do you perceive that contradiction.

Patrick Huse: You can easily say that it is impossible to make art into nature.

JG: I think also there is this idea that nature is almost an existential state for humans. Humans who have a Romantic view of nature haven`t been in nature often, because wilderness is quite exhausting and inforgiving.

Patrick Huse: I do not find nature is very Romantic because if you stay long enough in nature you have to be able to come up with something to be able to survive.

JG: After a few days in nature you will be obliged to deal with that...! I am fascinated with the way you work as an artist. You have made individual choices as to how you exhibit your works and where, and what subjects you choose to make your art out of, and how you choose to make a program for your art. The typical artist simply stumbles along, makes the art, and then wonders what to do next. Where do I find the show and so on. You approach is quite unusual because not only have you not been worried about the big markets, but you have oriented your works around the circumpolar countries and regions. And there are similarities between these cultures: the Innu, the Sami and northern peoples - not only climactic and geographic, but as it pertains to bio-regional culture.  It is an interesting way to go about it.

Patrick Huse: I perceive a social role for art, that means as an example I went to Denman Island to do some sketching and photography as a background before painting. As I remember from the Greenland trip it is very difficult to be an artist there without being environmentally and socially involved. So I suddenly discovered that any landscape has a social meaning. This became a part of what I was doing. I could see that different landscapes created different possibilities which then again created different cultures. This is important. Out of diversity something develops, not out of similarity.

JG: A great problem now is that as diversity is reduced in a global culture, we are not challenged by variation, by readability of specific of culture, by memory of place, by questions of identification with place. As a result we are missing something.

Patrick Huse: To a degree artists are making similar works that refer to a similar culture. I can understand that people are afraid of how to support your family. But the thing is if that stops you in your artwork, than you are in deep trouble.

JG: I have seen both extremes of this market thing. I have seen artists involved in incredible production just for the market. And others who do not even consider it.

Patrick Huse: To some degree that is what the market demands...and I do not agree with that because it takes some time to understand what you are working with, so how can you disturb that process by attending to the market. If I have to do two years of research and the market wants 100 paintings for next month...So how can I do that... I think there are other ways.

JG: The idea that the market demands high production is based on an economy in a state of hyper-inflation. ... If you were living in a place like the Arctic and maintained a traditional culture your demands would be less.

Patrick Huse: If you lived in a very large city and your demands can e less too. That is your choice too! There is this question of how many chairs I can sit in at the same time. I think you can live very cheaply wherever you are. It is a matter of choice. A livelihood with many market demands is contradictory to the artistic purpose.

JG: When you look at a landscape, a landscape is calming

PH:...for a short period

JG: ...  but when you look at a cityscape it is very stimulating but there is no focus.

Patrick Huse:  The thing is that there is something always happening somewhere. You do not actually have to distinguish much. You just attend to what is happening. So your whole  life becomes some sort of happening created by others. I heard people say that when they are in nature they can hear their heartbeat and they become afraid. This gives some idea of how far from nature people have become.

JG: I think that the whole world is nature. Concrete, asphalt, plastic, all materials are nature. In a way PostModern definitions of what nature is and what art can be are rather artificial and displaced, just as the culture is displaced from nature. The affirmation is one that has destruction implicit to its own rejection of nature as a process, not a product.

Patrick Huse: Nature consists of a large amount of information. If you are open to it, you can receive it. You have to have an openness, because is a healing for everything in nature, if you go back to traditional medicine. As you read nature, you can see the explanations. In some way nature is some kind of metaphor in the sense that it gives you information about where you are going. You can find pathways in nature that guide you. There is nothing Romantic to that. My whole purpose is different from traditional Western art.

JG: There are similarities between Asian and Northern Native cultures in terms of traditions, life transitions and their basic approach to materials.

Patrick Huse: There is a code to religion that has a relation to nature that is more or less natural.   

JG: The relation between religion and nature could have evolved as a global phenomenon. It exists in so many cultures, yet is geo-specific and geo-sensitive - a universal code.

Patrick Huse: Yes. I think it is.

JG: If you photograph garbage it doesn`t change the situation unless we understand what the cultural conditions are and we start to talk about that. Otherwise we are merely objectifying the whole process of destruction and mediation of the land and nature yet again.

Patrick Huse: The thing is that if you want to preserve an area you need to find an audience there  because if there is nobody why should you preserve it. The garbage doesn`t preserve it. It is attacking this from the wrong end.

JG: and what of the Innu and indigenous people of the North in Scandinavia.
Do you perceive any difference between the Innu of Greenland, Canada, the Sami in Norway...

Patrick Huse:  In Norway the Samu people are half farmers and maintain reindeer herds. The Sami are working to support themselves... This could be a way of solving the Innu problem, elsewhere... working with resources linked to the region of the north they live in.

JG: Everything comes from nature that we are consuming and yet our culture seems to have denied any links to nature... There were propagandists then too.

PH. From the time we established a market economy in the industrial revolution the links were severed. Same shit., New wrapping.