Lars Bang Larsen and Sture Johannesson exchanging:
Lars Bang Larsen: Would
you say that the future caught up with psychedelic style and ethos
due to the overlapping with the information technology development?
Sture Johannesson: As an
early introduction to the psychedelic era, the Harvard professor
Murray in experimental psychology, appeared in Copenhagen in 1962
with his lecture on his experiences with psilocybin-trips. (The
lecture is supposedly published by Munksgaards forlag).
Murray was Timothy Leary´s superior in the Psychology Department. And there was Stanislav Grof from Czechoslovakia who continued his psychoanalytic experiment with LSD in the US in 1967.
...Well, the computer technology was considered as a mind-expanding possibility, according to McLuhan´s thesis "electronic circuitry is an extension of the central nervous system". Or "Anything that can be done chemically, can be done by other means", which I used for the poster "Andrée will take a trip!" from 1969.
In California the connection between the psychedelic world and the developing computer science was especially apparent during the 70´s research between the acidheads and the computer freaks. Microchips generated and controlled lightshows at LSD-séances and at rock concerts. Steve Wozniak has later described in Time magazine how he during a LSD trip got the concept of Apple, the first microcomputer. At a time when the professional computer world was dominated by IBM and their three-pieces-suits and black shoes men, XEROX hired longhaired acidheads in different hippie outfits at the "Palo Alto Research Centre". The abbreviation PARC was commonly called ZOO. But it was here that these zoological visionaries developed many concepts that today are standard in the computer world; window technique, mouse handling, digital actors with "Actor´s language´ as Small talk, object oriented computer language etc.
In 1970 I got in touch with
Sten Kallin from IBM, and started to experiment with graphic printouts
from a punch-card fed main frame. I already then had ideas about
clearer and more effective ways of communications, gestures as
"computer generated semaphoring" with semiotic pictures
and symbolic language, inspired among others by Roland Barthes,
Leary, Huxley, and Foucault, after the trip to California. And
the experience of the drug as a working materialÖ
In Sweden, the climate for progressive culture meant a difference between art practice and the use of computers. When Jan Myrdal in the late 80´s started to use the word processor, it was followed by a lively debate. Most artists around me were involved with painting and discussed brushwork techniques, the quality of oil paint etc. I was amused by the thought of using the computer technique as an extension of the thought itself, the brain´s signalling system, instead of the moving skill of the handÖDo your own thinking, others do it.
LBL: What´s striking
with your posters is the graphic and aesthetic quality. If they
had been signed and numbered, they could have been graphic offprints.
Hans-Jrgen Nielsen wrote about your posters that this aesthetic
commitment was exceptional for political posters at that time.
SJ:The ambition was to make
alternative art, better and cheaper (unpretentious and more popular)
but not worse than the fine arts of the establishment, the graphic
art geschft. That was, in itself, provoking for many young painters
and printmakers of my generation´ Confusing the market.
My "Danish collection", the eleven pictures that were
exhibited at the "Pyramids of Mars" and at Nicolai Wallner,
were printed by Pernild & Rosengren in Valby, Copenhagen.
The lithographer Verner Pernild printed graphic editions for many
international artists; pictures that were numbered, signed and
sold for gallery prices. My posters were made as alternative art,
(provocative political art/contribution to a debate, hopefully).
Actually Verner Pernild liked to work with my, sometimes unusual
graphic solutions and therefore he gave me some extra favours
and low costs. (Besides, the Swedish krona was stronger than the
Danish in the 60´s)
LBL: How were the posters
SJ: The collage and sampling technique and the composition of picture elements are connected with the function of the pictures. The pictures were never meant to be posters, mounted in the public, they were meant for the room, the chamber. They should have many associative possibilities not in a pedagogic way but more meditative and open for dreams of one´s own.
The composition might be
called a compromise between attention rousing strikingly optical
design, that posters in the public space often have and the more
intimate picture that you have in your own private space, where
you can look closer, discover things, contents in the picture.
The latter was more important´ The posters were sold at
popular festivals, love /smoke-ins etc for 10-15 kronor, depending
on the distance from place of residence´ Up to about 1970
there was also the possibility to sell through bookstores, antique
shops etc. But at that time the trend of posters had become commercialised.
Companies like Scandecor in Uppsala among others, started to provide
the market with practical flip-overs for posters, free for the
shop in exchange for marketing only Scandecor´s production
of posters depicted pussy cats, puppies, women in wet t-shirts
LBL: Your posters could
be described as political and cultural actions, due to the way
you used them. They were part of a youth culture and helped spreading
its ideas. But you used your posters in a performance way as well.
E.g. you have said that the " The pen is mightier than the
sword?" was mounted along the route of the newly married
royal couple through Stockholm.
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