My main work is done at Norwegian Technical Porcelain (NTP) in Fredrikstad., Norway.
NTP produces high voltage insulators. I've been working there with my ceramic work since 2013. I explore and experiment with NTP's misproduction and waste material. The goal and vision of the next production is to develop my expression within NTP's tight framework of already completed porcelain elements. To develop the visual (use of given form/glaze), sound, performance, choreography and cinematographic performance. The ceramic installations usualy develop and changes form and pattern by having several performances in an exhibition period. I am an artist, musician, drummer and composer. I have a background from the comercial music industry wich I was a part of for 20 years. It affects me in my work with ceramics. Energetic pumping rock´n roll is my daily engine and is closest to the heart. I also like jazz, pop, metal, classical and contemporary music. To me, music is a must to produce my art. No music, no work. My MA project at the Oslo National Academy of The Arts was focused on experimentation, primarily with ceramics as audiovisual material, ie for the production of audio objects, visual shapes, as material for use in installations and for performance. I'm looking for particularity and potential in the material, in each object. For sound production, site-specific mobility, performance and visual expression. There is a huge sound potential in ceramics and especially porcelain. I was completely put out and fired up when this occurred to me about 4 years ago. Humans can not hear below 20 Hz. My sound works have a range from 9 Hz to 17,000 Hz, which makes it not just a hearing experience, but also a physical experience. My passion for music is more than drums, percussion and rock'n'roll. To me there is also a "visual" form of speech in sound and music. I'm interested in how audio and music can affect our state of mind. The experience of what is calming, hard, energetic or noisy is of course individual. The fascination of getting sound out of objects around me arose early. I have been hitting/drumming on all imaginable objects from early age and discovered the peculiarities and distinctiveness of various objects. I still do that. With my experience it has led the mind to how you can get ”pictures” in your head of what sound is. When I am working with contemporary music, I experience sound like materiality, color and shape. Using visual and tactile terms makes it easier to understand a description of what you hear and feel. To me shape and color comes quickly in place when I listen. The sound becomes a bit more defined and less abstract to me. A sound can be almost tactile, angular, round, oval, pointed, sharp, soft, velvety, dry, wet, yellow, red, black, blue, rhythmic, rhythmic abstract form, rhythmic figurative form, or internal volume. The silent parts in a sound work adds dynamics and is is colored and shaped by what you just heard. I strive to be totally focused on listening to the entire spectrum of a soundtrack. This affects me throughout my production. I improvise and listen at the same time with audio objects, often interrupted by my inner voice that I am trying to suppress. I am looking at my audio productions as sound collages, floating form and soundscapes. After finishing the Master in 2015, I have continued to work in the field of ceramic sound production, installation and performance.
Rock music is vulgar romanticism, according to Robert Pattison, and while my artistic method shares the spontaneity and excess of rock n’ roll, it necessarily needs to take into account the fragility of ceramics, and it is this somewhat improvised dialog that my works materialize. Through experimenting with the ceramic object I seek out to reach an abstraction that transcends a set meaning and instead enables a more immediate and physical interpretation.
We tend to associate ceramics with the domestic realm: crockery, vases, figurines.
Not Jørgen Frederik Scheel Haarstad. The artist looked to a ceramic form which is just as prevalent and beneficial as home ware in our daily lives yet not as visible: the electrical insulator. Perched on high-voltage power lines far above our heads or hidden away in a dark fuse box, the insulator is a kind of abstract Minimalist sculpture, yet valued for its resistance, water-tightness and strength. In contrast to domestic ceramics, ceramic insulators know few rivals because the material outperforms others. Plus the slightly flawed »rejects« are unlikely to find a home – unless of course they were produced in Fredrikstad at the national porcelain factory Norsk Teknisk Porselen where Haarstad collects both split and faulty insulators in monochrome white and black. He positions these large-scale sculptures in even larger installations which may be dangerous – not for any electrical current, but for the fatal sharpness of the shards. Again, in contrast to home ware, the insulators must be handled with even more care and caution when they are broken than when they are intact. Works such as Lethal Assumption (2014) – white shards, crowded tightly together, like the incisors in a tyrannosaur’s mouth – manage to combine shattered fragility with lethal menace. Such installations might be viewed as industrial readymades, but Haarstad is also a professional musician and composer who decided to fashion his own musical instruments from porcelain: extra-large tiles, pipes or smaller pellet-like shapes. He plays these unique instruments in unconventional ways: hitting them with drumsticks or with other rough pieces of porcelain and even letting them crash to the floor. The sound generated by a large ceramic tile can last up to 45 seconds and ranges from 9 Hz to 17,000 Hz (human hearing rests around 20 Hz). The artist-musician will use a mixer to transform these sounds into a composition which shifts eerily from music to silence for human ears. With his unusual ceramic and sound works, Haarstad multiples the uses of industrial materials while rejecting their traditional destinations. His oeuvre – art works, musical instruments, compositions, performances – blurs the division between these domains. By making music that can escape human perception, he not only challenges the ideal that music should be made for human beings but also questions the anthropocentrism of all arts.
A Berlin-based critic, Allen has published in Mousse, frieze and Artforum.
Jørgen Frederik Scheel Haarstad works as both a musician and an artist. His artistic expressions are interlinked and inseparable, so it makes little sense to view them as isolated. Music is in its essence fluid, and simultaneously both immediate and complex. The same can also be said about Haarstad’s visual works. Through a lyrical approach to materials, composed through rhythm, repetition and pauses, he transforms music into physical manifestations.
His works are sensuous and tactile, and encourages a physical approach from the spectator. Haarstad works mainly in larger format, thus enhancing this phenomenological effect. Like when he uses leftover shards from industrial porcelain production to create an installation that exudes a sober aesthetics while obviously could be lethal if you were unfortunate enough to trip over it.
Haarstad also work with sound, and recorded the noise the ceramic made while being manipulated in various ways. The result is a sound piece that oscillates between eerie noise and soothing tonal rhythms, comprised of elements that resemble old dentist drills, shattering porcelain, hollow pipes and percussion, which together form a hypnotic composition.
Other sculptures usually have a more anthropomorphic character, and looks like a sort of cross between giant organs and chaotic coils of tubes and wires. Rather than dwelling too long on the decorative character of ceramics and its rich cultural heritage, it is through music Haarstad finds his inspiration, and it is here the insisting and authoritarian attitudes that characterize his works originates. Like with Richard Serra’s steel plates, one immediately becomes somewhat cautious when approaching them, and they seem to resist a cool and detached form of intellectualization from the viewer in favor of an immediate, physical experience.
Rock n roll can be considered an offspring from Romanticism, argues Robert Pattison in his book Triumph of Vulgarity and terms it vulgar romanticism. With the vulgar - which Pattison uses with care and admiration - he means the free, spontaneous, primitive and direct; a natural state one eventually learns to suppress. The vulgar is governed by passion rather than rationalism. While Haarstad’s artistic practice shares the spontaneity and excess of rock n roll, it is necessary to also take into account the fragile character of the ceramic, and it is in this partly improvised dialogue that his works come into being. Through experimentation with the ceramic object he attains an abstraction which seems to escape a set of given meanings, and instead opens up to a more direct and bodily experience. An interesting paradox is that where the Romantic Movement arose as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, it is precisely through invoking an industrial aesthetics Haarstad’s sculptures intrigues the spectators.