Erik Farseth is a featured artist in Altered Esthetic’s exhibition, Disquiet, on view at the Southern Theater through November 5, 2017. This group exhibition addresses feelings of unease, anxiety, paranoia, phobias, or what lurks beneath the surface as we move through daily life. Twelve artists explore these themes through sculpture, painting, photography, collage, and video.
Erik Farseth is a printmaker, zine publisher, and collage artist. A native of the Twin Cities, Erik studied Art, Culture, and Politics at St. Olaf College, and received his MA in Journalism from the University of Iowa.
Hi Erik. Thank you for exhibiting with Altered Esthetics! Could you tell us about your background as an artist? Do you primarily work in collage?
I studied sculpture in college, but for the past 20 years, I have devoted most of my energy to collage art and printmaking (relief prints), or some combination of the two (screen printed posters).
Making a woodcut is not so different from making a collage. All it takes is a steady hand and some cutting tools.
“Dogs of the Soviet Space Program” is inspired by Cold-War era ad campaigns and an “artistic response to events of the past 12 months, a tumultuous era in American life marked by police shootings, political extremism, and the sudden resurgence of atavistic nationalisms as a force throughout the world.” How did you come to connect these two political climates in your work?
Politics is cyclical. As a society, we seem to be moving backwards instead of forwards.
Being a collage artist, I end up pouring over hundreds of old photographs. Since I am working with a lot of images that date back to the 1950s, it isn’t hard to draw comparisons between political extremism then, and political extremism now.
This piece is part of a larger series--"Opposition-Defiant-Disorder." Could you tell us more about this larger body of work?
“Opposition-Defiant-Disorder” is an artistic response to the nightmare scenario that has been unfolding over the past 12 months.
American nativism and white nationalism have been festering for decades, but the election of Donald Trump seems to have brought these ideas to the surface. In Europe, far-right movements and anti-immigrant parties have made unprecedented gains, and the EU is coming apart at the seams. That is the backdrop for works such as “Year Zero,” in which a petulant child gazes out from a blackened landscape while the world is (literally) melting in the background.
Printmaking, collage, and zines are all mediums that have strong ties to political and cultural critique. Has your work always been informed by politics? Or has the last year shifted the direction of your work?
My first zine was an anti-war zine, and the prefigurative politics of the DIY punk scene have always informed my work (what you might call a “nonviolent propaganda of the deed”).
Zines and collage art go hand-in-hand, and many artists have used collage as a means to address social and political concerns. You don’t need a lot of supplies (or expensive equipment) to make a collage, and no formal training is required. It is a very grassroots, affordable form of art.
Likewise, printmaking has always been a democratic medium.
As a printmaker and zine publisher, the ability to generate multiple copies of an image is at the root of my artistic practice. These are not precious art objects, to be displayed under glass. Zines are interactive: they are meant to be handled (and traded); to be read on the bus; or folded-up and carried around in your back pocket. The same holds true for printmaking, regardless of whether the images are printed on paper or fabric.
The British anarcho-punk band CRASS used to print the words "Pay no more than £2.00" on their album covers -so as to prevent record stores from charging more than what the band considered to be a "fair price" for the record.
I have tried to do the same thing with my zines and my screen prints.
I am less interested in the concept of “limited editions” than I am in the idea of printmaking (and zine-making) as an art form that appeals to people who might never set a foot in a gallery (and who could never afford to own a painting).
Even when my artwork isn’t overtly political in its content, it is political in its process.
So, yes, creating a block print of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is "political" in the sense that I lampooning a member of the Trump administration. But so is my refusal to number --or "edition"-- my prints.
Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should know about?
I have an upcoming exhibition at ditch gallery in the Wyman Building, which is tentatively slated to open in July of 2018.
Where can we find and follow you online?
My website is located at: http://erikfarseth.com.
Image courtesy of the artist.
Interview written and edited by Ella Kampelman