Spotlight: PUTPUT

PUTPUT is the visual and conceptual meeting of two minds, Stephan Friedli (CH) and Ulrik Martin Larsen (DK), a collaboration in thought and practice. Established in 2011 PUTPUT is currently based in Copenhagen. Neatly placed between input and output, Friedli and Larsen navigate the increasingly busy intersection where photography, sculpture and design meet. A shared and deeply rooted fascination with metaphysical relationships connected to everyday objects guides and perpetuates our work.

A humoristic undercurrent runs through the reduced, ambiguous and profoundly superficial visual universe that defines PUTPUT. Playful constructions, transient in their nature, transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Ideas, concepts and the notion of creating fictional but recognizable object typologies are at the very core of our artistic practice. The highly stylized visual universe has references to Pop Art, surrealism and reinterprets classical genres such as still life through a contemporary lens.

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Stephan and Ulrik

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. We are Stephan Friedli from Switzerland and Ulrik Martin Larsen from Denmark, we have been working together as PUTPUT since 2011. We mostly do conceptual still life photography, installations, objects and publications. We are deeply fascinated with the things we surround ourselves with in everyday life and through our work we try to change the perception of those objects.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Right now we are finalising a new series of images for an exhibition at the Finnish Museum of Photography that opens on the 23rd of October and runs until the 10th of January 2016. It’s our biggest series to date and we are working with all sorts of objects where it’s possible to apply a photograph; everything from mugs, bathroom tiles, doormats, pet urns to cakes. We also have three other series in the works, a couple of sculpture projects and a small publication that we plan on releasing late November, but as always, once the ideas and concepts are in place it’s mostly about logistics, finding the right things, scheduling and organising.

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What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other artists are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? It might be a challenge and an advantage in some ways, but it’s difficult, time consuming but also fun to deal with social media. The internet and social media represents a relatively new playing field for artists and we genuinely like the interactive and democratic aspect of it, but it also means that anyone with a device and a camera can market themsleves as an artist, which might not always be a good thing and to some extend it undermines the hard work of those working seriously in the field.

How did your interest in art begin? For both of us it began at an early age and we have always been making, building and drawing stuff as kids; later on Stephan ventured into graphic design and Ulrik into fashion design. When we first started working together PUTPUT was very much a free space separate from our daily jobs, where we could create without including clients into the equation.

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If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say? We create self-explanatory images and objects that challenge perception through juxtapositions, both manmade and natural in the hope that the viewer might look twice…or more and to maybe upon that second glance discover something unexpected or unseen.

Do you have any guilty pleasures? Tell us about one. We have a soft spot for cheesy TV shows, at the moment there is this baking show on Danish TV where people compete in a sort of amateur baking championship, it’s so bad it’s good!

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What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? Oscar Munoz at Jeu de Paume in Paris was a fantastic exhibition, even though we might not be the biggest fans of emotional or poetic photography, his work was a masterclass in execution and technical ability and also in introducing an interactive element to a photography exhibition. There was photographs printed with grease on mirrors that only became visible when exhaling onto them and images printed with charcoal dust floating on water.

What artists are you interested in right now? We’re not interested in specific artists as such and find ourselves looking much more at stock photography and advertising.

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What do you collect? We collect a lot of things, mostly everyday objects, tools, toys and trinkets. We are not that attached to our collection and we donate and discard most the things once we have used them, which then restarts the cycle and a new collection for a new project begins.

What’s your favorite thing about your city? We live in Copenhagen and even though it’s the capital city of Denmark it’s still a small and compact city where everything is just a short bike ride away; it’s a convenient and cosy place to live.

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What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? Coffee and grapes.

What do you do when you’re not working on PUTPUT? Well, we both have jobs besides PUTPUT so we don’t really understand the concept of “not working”.

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? From the very beginning we made clear to ourselves not to put too much emphasis on the reactions of others, be it negative or positive, we try to focus on our work and to not rest on our laurels or to take harsh criticism to personal. We believe in what we do and that’s essentially all that matters.