Work / Art

Jan Hakon Erichsen is a balloon-destroying artist whose work you really shouldn’t try at home

Over in Oslo, Norway, Jan Hakon Erichsen has been establishing what can only be described as a very unique artistic practice. Describing himself as a “visual artist and balloon destroyer,” Jan’s work also comes with a disclaimer: “You should really, really not try this at home.”

Jan’s practice is pretty dangerous you see, placing himself in video artworks where he’ll use the force of his head to break up some unboiled spaghetti or pop balloons inventively using chainsaws. It’s a job that’s difficult to describe, and Jan admits that when trying to explain it, “I usually just say that I make short destruction videos and publish them online. The slightly longer answer is that I’m interested in how non-professionals use video as a medium and, at the moment, I’m trying to mix the world of viral videos with the work of early video performance artists like Bas Jan Ader and Bruce Nauman.”

The artist developed this practice by always focusing his artistic interest in everyday objects, following his studies at the art academy in Oslo. Although working with mundanity, Jan’s work changes a viewer’s everyday perception of an everyday object, “either by enhancing a potential that we are all aware of, like the danger of a knife, or finding a new untapped potential in something so mundane that you hardly see the object anymore, like dry spaghetti.” At first this interest manifested itself in sculpture and installation works, but as movement became necessary in shifting the perception of an object, “it was natural to go on to make video art.”

Today, Jan’s work largely lives on Instagram (where we discovered work) as well as on YouTube. It fits with the ever-popular wave of satisfying videos that populate Instagram explore pages, with an added element of shock or surprise. It’s become a natural process for him too, often journeying to his studio “without a clear plan of what I’m going to do that day,” he explains. “I usually just choose a certain object I want to experiment with or decide that I want to work with a specific body movement. One video usually leads to another in a sort of chain reaction.”

Jan himself is now the only consistent element in these videos, a “fairly new development”, actually admitting that “I used to do whatever I could to avoid it before, only showing my hands or feet at the most.” And, while he would “definitely prefer not to be the centre of attention,” he’s naturally become comfortable in front of the camera over time, now treating his body “almost as any of my other props,” he says. “I love using my own shortcomings as an effect in my videos, my bald head, for instance, has become one of my most versatile tools.”

In developing such a unique and oddly satisfying vertical of contemporary art, it’s interesting what, or even who, Jan is creating this work for. For him, however, the answer is pretty simple: “[I hope] to give people a little relief from their everyday life, and introduce some absurdity to their Instagram feed.” He also hopes it expresses the potentials of video art as a possible medium for practitioners, considering the fact that he now reaches “so many people who ordinarily never look at art, I would love it if some of these people started checking out other artists because of me.”

Today, Jan’s Instagram page as over 300,000 followers (and counting) and its success is quite surprising for him. “It’s a bit hard to say,” he admits when we ask why he thinks he’s amassed such a keen following, “but I think my performance art is such a contrast to what people normally see in their feeds and people are really thirsty for something new. And, of course, it doesn’t help that it’s funny.”

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