15 October 2019
This past weekend marked the final days of Mikael Brkic’s solo exhibition Fire and Forget at UKS. As usual, UKS’ Live Drønen spoke with the artist, touching on penguins and turtles, advertising, and the impacts of living in the world of the Norwegian weapons industry.
UKS is now closed while we install our upcoming exhibition featuring Victoria Pihl Lind, opening on 1 November 2019.
Live Drønen – There are a lot of penguins in your UKS exhibition. What’s your relationship to them?
Mikael Brkic – I’ve never had a special relationship to penguins, but they do make me think of the “cute animals” category in general. As a child I remember identifying with turtles.
Cute! Marcel Boodthaers is also present in your exhibition, what’s your favorite work by him?
– Décor: A Conquest (1974) is not necessarily my favorite, but it is absolutely a key to a lot of his work and practice. I’m also immensely impressed by all of the industrial poems he produced. According to a text by Benjamin Buchloh his first “industrial” poem (Academie II, 1968) was not produced industrially at all, rather manually. Later he arranged for professionals to produce them—a real franchise-dream.
How does all the information you’ve acquired about the weapons industry, and AGM-119 (aka Penguin) in particular, affect you?
– Good question. First and foremost I’ve learned that you don’t necessarily have to do serious research to make art, because who really cares? My original intention was to make a fable or story about the Norwegian weapons industry, but the stories I found in real life exceeded what I could ever make up. I guess that’s common these days.
Penguin AGM-119 represents hundreds of jobs, innovation, and progress in the way we usually think of these terms, and at the same time something smoldering, uncomfortable, and unimaginable. The span between what makes this object good on the one side, and what makes it bad on the other is huge; it gives the object a conceptual complexity that is time- and site-specific. I obviously chose the wrong time and place to fire this salvo. I’ve always had inherent respect for scientists, but after looking into how AGM-119 came into being, I have to say that I’m not impressed by the ability of its developers to see it in a larger context and reflect on the ethics of what they did. It might be unfair to think like this, but that’s the judgment of history. In short, this information has brought me even closer to the goal of becoming a bitter, misunderstood, and little-known artist.
What would be the ideal time and place for the firing then?
– I thought this was it, as AGM-119 is a relatively new ruin and that it can be seen in a historical context, but the time doesn’t seem right yet. Regarding the place, I now see that this should be done in a nationally symbolic place that represents Norway both for our selves and others.
Can you share the best trick you’ve learned from working in advertising?
– The favorite expression of my superior at work relates more to strategy rather than one simple trick, but she used to say: “If we take one step back, are we going in the direction we want to?”. I always thought that gave new clarity or could change situations—very easy, but effective. Afterthought and reflection lacks in 2019. If you want a concrete tip, it is always smart to be short and clear, with a precise call to action (CTA). That’s something I should think about myself.
Good tips. Lastly, what is coming up next, how does your fall look?
– There will be another exhibition before the year has ended!