Interview Tobias Bradford

Curator Caroline Elgh Klingborg (CEK) in conversation with artist Tobias Bradford (TB)

CEK: You work with sculptural moving installations where you examine the relationship between the body and the machine. What is it in the meeting that’s so exciting?

TB: For me, the excitement of making machines as art is to be able to figuratively create something that’s alive. I think that modern machines have an ability to be difficult to interpret.
 The sound of a refrigerator fan buzzing in an unpredictable way has a mystery to it that could just as easily be an attempt at communication. This is exactly what brings to mind life, even if it’s subtle, and it’s something I try to portray in my sculptures. The mechanical nature of eternal repetition is also interesting in relation to the body. I myself have several neurotic features that I don’t really have control over, such as “restless leg syndrome” and that I frantically pick on my own hair until it falls off. The idea of not having control over one’s own body – the organic machine – becomes both existential and absurd.

CEK: What does your work in the studio look like and how does a new work begin?

TB: It’s very various. In my studio, I often have the works switched on while I work, and during the process new relationships arise between the works that in turn give rise
to ideas. I spend a lot of time looking at my own sculptures, analysing their behaviours in relation to the room and in relation to each other. Sometimes I get a spontaneous idea for a work that’s completely beyond my ability, and a large part of the process is spent carving out the core of that idea and taking it on to a point where the whole thing becomes realizable. I often try to assume the role of a fictitious professor or inventor à la Frankenstein when I work – and it usually works!

CEK: Your sculptures are self-propelled mechanical images where emotions such as fear, joy and longing are mixed. How do you go about creating sculptures that unite these extremes?

TB: Since I started making art, I’ve constantly returned to memories of emotional experiences from childhood, and they can be both unpleasant and amazing. I think a lot about so- called “childhood animism”, that is, the stage in development where you don’t separate people from objects yet. In general, we outgrow that image, but in the face of something unexpected – like an amputated leg kicking around on the floor – childhood animism can suddenly remind itself again. I don’t make sculptures with the purpose of them depicting, for example, horror, but I think it’s exciting that they more or less inevitably carry that theme. The idea of being put in an absurd situation often gives the comic impression. The longing and sadness may come from the fact that the sculptures often become caricatures of the limitations of one’s own body, something that we’re constantly trying to bridge with the help of technology.