tirsdag 31. januar 2023

A Small Old Plot, a Riverbend or Vacant Lot, for Weedy Overgrowth

Check out my essay "A Small Old Plot, A Riverbend or Vacant Lot, for Weedy Overgrowth". It's an interactive essay, a manifesto against the lawn and a mood board of overgrown aesthetics. The essay weaves together thoughts on among other things True Detective, The Legend of Zelda, the meme "Go outside and touch grass", Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the rhizome, autoethnographic account of living in east Oslo, and my own eco-oriented artistic practice SANKE.


The essay has been developed since last autumn, in a series of workshops together with a wonderful group of writers and artists. It is published as part of the first issue of Rom for kunst og arkitektur's new journal Metode

torsdag 16. september 2021

Office Nostalgia - Back 2 Work

Coworkers I, 2021. ZZ Plant, shirt, clay.

Oh, how we've missed going to the office. But what is it that we miss when we miss the office? We've kept working, we've brought office parts home with us, box by box, frame by frame. From Microsoft's office package to big computer screens to back support chairs to frames of mind.

What didn't we bring? The meetings or coffee machine conversations? The bosses still found ways of getting us to listen to them talk for hours, and small talk was just as awkward on zoom. How about the sense of purpose, or how the office grants us time to waste? Even in crisis we had to find ways of distracting ourselves from the tasks we had to do. Did we forget to bring everyday routines, or the way it made weekends something special? Anything can turn into a habit, and in the tedium of lockdown any little difference could seem extraordinary.

Work/Life Balance, 2021. Tutti-frutti sprinkled donut, sushi rice, avocado, salmon, tuna, roe, raddish, chives, starflower.   
When we were young my brother made himself an office under the stairs in our home. He would sit there and do office work. He was playing work. Before learning how to read and write he would type random strings of letters into Microsoft word.
Some might say such play is preparation for work. Children are training themselves into becoming useful citizens. To anyone who has spent time in an office this should seem nonsensical. Kids pretend to work, but so do adults most of the time. Adults not only pretend to work when we're trying to appear busy to avoid getting new assignments even though we have nothing to do. In an office, everyone pretends to work even when they are working.
By putting on fancy clothes and going somewhere that requires key cards to get in and has plants that someone else waters, and floors that someone else cleans, we can show each other that we are busy and important. But the lockdown removed such make-believe.  
Coworkers III, 2021. Clay, grass.

Lockdown, 2021. Planks.

 We were stuck home in our pyjamas, sitting under the stairs in our homes, typing words on a computer without value for anyone besides those involved in the activity. We couldn't help but notice how we're just playing work and always have been. What you're missing when you miss the office is the feeling that you're not just playing work.
There are other things we could play instead of work. There are even other forms of work we could play: Handwork, footwork, craftwork, artwork. And there are other workers, besides office workers. Even besides human workers, there are other beings doing the work for us. I've missed the office, and all the beings playing here.
Coworkers II, 2021. Oyster mushrooms

Coexist, 2021. Samsung Galaxy S21 Cover
Artwork & text by Andreas Ervik, photos by Siv Dolmen. Published originally here.

mandag 28. september 2020

An Obituary of the ​Automotive Self​ (1800s-2020s)

Andreas Ervik, Monika Grabauschnigg and Marius Presterud, work from the exhibition Incubation Highway.

Automotive is a hybrid word, combining the ancient Greek word autos self with the Latin derived motive, moving. The word means a self that moves. An automotive individual is a self which moves, a hybrid assembly of humans and cars. The automotive is a specific self, with a moment of birth somewhere in the 1800s, which is now dying. What follows is the story of the incubation highway – the birth, life and death of the automotive self.



Fully formed adult limbs did not spring out, attached to steering wheel, gear stick and pedals. The incubation of the automotive self was an embarrassing infant. It was born out of and gave birth to the embarrassment of being born. This is the embarrassment not simply of your parents having sex to make you, but rather them having soft tissue stretched over bones. What’s even worse is that you have not been assembled. Rather than produced in a factory like a car, you remain humiliatingly bodily.


Here's Why You Get Car Sick: Your Brain Thinks It's Being Poisoned. And your brain is correct in its assumptions. The automotive newborn does not get sick from the speed of travel. The problem is not this old folk notion of souls stuck while bodies race forwards. Horses had more horsepower than the first car engines. The automotive infant gets sick from being spliced onto the vehicle, and from trying to reject this attachment. It gets sick and pukes all over the leather seats, leaving a stain that might never fully wash off.


Vroom vroom – the first almost-words of the kid with its first toy car. Notice how the kid will roll the toy along any surface, back and forward and in circles. The driving is not from and to anywhere. Its driving has no purpose apart from driving. The kid engages the drive simply to move around. A drive to drive.


Swoosh zoom – the next almost-words of the kid. The drive to drive is filled with opportunity of at any point setting off into any direction, including upwards. The car lifts off at any point, repeating the same meaningless circular patterns in the air as it did on the ground. There are no boundaries, the automotive self turns the world into infinite potential for experiencing itself through movement.



The automotive teen girl is picked up after school by that young thug her parents keep warning her about. She listens to rock with him in his car at the overlook. While they make out he gently touches the inside of her thighs, slowly moving his hand up to pull down her panties. This feels too soon. But his car is irresistibly shiny and hard, and I’m horny, so let’s go!


The American settlers were surprised that the natives had not thought to build roads. The natives explained that the continent already had roads, in the form of flowing rivers. The automotive teens laugh at the native’s backwater ways. The highway was incubated, an American dream cutting straight lines of asphalt poured across the continent. The American dream cut straight lines cutting across the landscape, shifting an unthinkable number of packages of meat swiftly and steadily encased in aluminum, copper, steel, glass and rubber, fueled by and travelling on fossil fuel. So sexy!



The adult automotive couple really had no intention of getting a car. It’s just that it was practically impossible not to get a car. Cities have long formed around cars, making distances to everything insurmountable by other means. When we got a kid there just wasn’t any other option than becoming automotive. We had to get the cheapest, safest and most practical car for our growing family.


Please don’t judge us to harshly! We recycle and only drive to work and on weekend trips! We always use seat belts and never drink and drive! We know that cars are the disgusting symbols of the past which destroyed our children’s possibilities of a future! We just had no other option!


Andreas Ervik: Coexist Bumper Sticker, 2020



The automotive old man reminisces the kid’s infinite potential and the youthful lust. He is embarrassed by the newborn, and the adult defeatism and obsession with safety repulses him. Since he’s about to die anyway he might as well burn out what’s left. And besides, cars are no longer dinosaurs. The old automotive feels young once more, radiant from electric energy.


He listens to his young new affection comforting his fear of death: digital signals filtered into a GPS. This voice tells the way – not home, but into space. Video killed the radio star, and Tesla replaced radios with enormous screens showing what old men typically enjoy: a fireplace and video games. The screen shows the message ‘don’t panic’. It’s there to comfort the guy in the red Tesla roadster launched into orbit (yes there is a dying man inside the space suit in the driver’s seat). The message is also directed to those back on earth: even though I’m old I’m still an angsty young nerd referencing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.


The screen now shows the video Elon Musk on William Shatner Singing Elton John's Rocket Man Deepfake: “I miss the earth so much/I miss my wife/it’s lonely out in space/”, sings deepfake Elon rocket man. He misses earth, misses her so so much. But does the old automotive even know what he’s missing, does he even recognize the source of loneliness anymore? How beautiful she was, especially in spring and summer, when plants would grow from moist soil and birds sing to attract mates. 

Andreas Ervik: Fellow Passengers (Swallow's Nest), 2020


Among the many innovations of the automotive self were the car crash. Colliding with other cars, hurtling into ditches or smashing against buildings, as body parts and organs and bones ripping and twisting and contorting into glass and metal. The horrifying and tragic death of these humans, however, is not the death of the automotive self. Its death can come only from the sweet release of the self-driving car.

The self-driving car might finally set humans free from the hybrid automotive self. The cars drive themselves around, without us. And as we’re longer needed for driving, we no longer need to long for our earth. Without embarrassment we have learned to love her again. Freed from the automotive, we can form new selves with fellow travelers of earth.


(This text was written to accompany the exhibition Incubation Highway. The exhibition is installed in a Tesla and published on Norway's leading online marketplace, finn.no. Incubation Highway is organized by Marius Prestured and features work by him as well Andreas Ervik and Monika Grabauschnigg. The exhibition was commissioned by the online platform Cosmos Carl.)

tirsdag 7. april 2020

In anticipation of the annual corona and chill

Photo: Siv Dolmen.

For those not directly affected by corona, this spring provides a peculiar form of relief. To hinder the spread of the virus, people are stuck in their homes. While others are out doing essential jobs in the crisis, many find their efforts deemed so insignificant that they can simply be relieved of their obligations. The current enforced unemployment has added a great amount of nothingness to people’s lives. If your job isn't essential during a crisis, does it matter much even in normal times? 

Anthropologist David Graeber makes the convincing case that more than half of the workforce today performs what he terms bullshit jobs. He contrasts bullshit jobs with shit jobs, where the latter are completely essential but often underpaid. Bullshit jobs, by contrast, serve little to no purpose. If bullshitters simply stop working nothing will go significantly worse. Profit-maximizing seems to not have weeded out bullshit jobs, but instead to have greatly contributed to their growth. The current order is maintained in part by giving people a bullshit sense of importance, through providing big paychecks simply for staying busy sitting in front of computers sending e-mails all day. The crisis reveals the insignificance of what most of us are doing, and opens for questions of whether one could live differently, doing something more essential for others, or at least more fulfilling for oneself. This issue is not only an individual concern, however, but more fundamentally a question regarding the social need for a large workforce.

Photo: Siv Dolmen.

We haven't always been workers. When compared to hunter-gatherers, it's generally acknowledged that people in WEIRDO countries (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic, Online), spend too much of their life engaged in modes of intense effort. Hunter-gatherers work whenever they feel like it, doing whatever seems necessary and fun to do together. They generally enjoy more free time than people of so-called wealthy nations. Weirdos by contrast are generally obligated to work on a strict schedule of early morning commute to spend great parts of their days in office confinement, together with people they may share nothing in common with besides their paycheck. While the average Norwegian work week is somewhat short of 40 hours, hunter-gatherers work as little as half of this. 

While current unemployment might make you eagerly anticipate a return to normality, there are good reasons not to go back to working the way we used to. While our current crisis is horrendous, it overshadows the  looming climate crisis, with its gradual increase of temperature leading to collapsing ecosystems and widespread extinctions. The political willingness to put everything on hold over a deadly infection shows the possibilities of governance. It also shows that most of what we are doing, most of the time, is completely unnecessary. The high-income bullshit worker has a worse impact on the climate crisis than an unemployed person. The climate footprint of the average weirdo is not only unjustifiably large, but avoidable through shifting our political priorities.  The most important change would therefore be to undo our current obsession with getting everyone in a job.

Photo: Siv Dolmen.

There's a famous quote by Barack Obama's chief of staff on the 2008 financial crisis, stating "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Let us not repeat the failures of governmental response to the financial crisis, and let the crisis go to waste again. Instead we should come out of this spring with renewed optimism towards doing less. We could be doing a lot less, both getting paid a lot less, and paying a lot less. Less shopping, but also less to pay for housing and necessities. A global recession can be a good thing, if it is not equally distributed. If instead of everyone taking their fair share of the hit, the recession could be politically organized to affect exponentially, so that those with immense wealth are hit equally immensely. 

This spring shows that a different social organization is possible, where wealth is redistributed so that everyone can share the affluence of corona and chill. There is an ecological incentive towards continuing to add long periods of nothing to the economy. This could take the form of halting production and letting workers relax for long periods annually. Spring could be turned into a period for slowing economic growth, to let earth breath, as oil production stops, air pollution recedes and water clarifies. As the environmental situation turns increasingly dire, annually adding a period of nothingness might be the best option for preventing a death toll of organisms (including humans) of proper pandemic proportions.

tirsdag 12. november 2019


This mask is almost this face.
This fungi is almost this human.
This screen is almost this world.

This idea is almost this movement.
This survival is almost this change.

This primitive is almost this day.
This nearly is almost this nearness.

This thing is almost this thing.

mandag 3. juni 2019

This game won't be announced at E3

George Costanza in the game Kramer's Field (From Software 1995)

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is upon us. Players anticipate E3 because it brings announcements of new games, as well as old games in new coating - the remaster, remake or the often equally enthusiastically embraced, unpolished re-release. Videogame enthusiasts really do like replaying decades old software on whatever the latest gaming system is.

I want to draw attention to a little-known game by the renowned Japanese studio From Software. This is a game that has near zero likelihood of being announced at this year's E3, but there are good reasons for an HD-upgrade: It came out on the original Playstation hardware and makes use of early, low-polygon 3D, and thus its visuals look quite jarring on contemporary TVs. The game also never made it out of Japan, and might deserve the possibility of broader reception. It was called Kramer's Field, and as far as 90s games goes, it was highly unconventional and remains an undiscussed entry in the early days of what would turn into a major video game developer.

Kramer's Field was a spin-off of the more well-known series King's Field, and in particular its second installment. The second game in this series, King's Field II, released in Japan summer 1995, and would find its way to Europe in December that same year, and to USA February the following year. In the West it would simply be known as King's Field, while the Japanese original (just as Kramer's Field) was never ported to the West.

Everything about Kramer's Field is shrouded in uncertainty, with only very little information available online in Japanese, and no software ROM downloadable (a common format for archiving and playing retro games). Kramer's Field released in November 1995. It places you in the role of the character Kramer from the hit tv-series Seinfeld. The series was never big in Japan, however, which might explain how the then relatively unknown From Software could have been tasked with making perhaps the only officially licensed video game of the franchise (bear in mind that they had no prior game releases in the West, and would become known as a major company following the releases of Demon Souls in 2009 and Dark Souls in 2011).

It is not certain that any of the developers at From Software had watched much (if anything) of Seinfeld before making the game. There are some visual resemblances to characters, and locations, but very little of the characteristics of Seinfeld has crossed the transition from American comedy to Japanese videogame. King's Field, and the later games by From Software, such as the Souls-series and Bloodborne (2015) would draw heavily on Western Medieval Fantasy. From Software would filter the fantasy elements through a Japanese framework, to the point where standards of the genre are rendered strange to the point of being almost incomprehensible. Kramer's Field is likewise the result of someone deeply fascinated by anything American and pop-culture, but often completely misunderstanding and even utterly neglecting the humor that made the show so successful. The strange incident that is Kramer's Field would constitute a mystical re-imagining of the iconic 90s Western situational comedy.

Kramer's Field not only shares name with the King's Field series but also gameplay elements, as it uses the King's Field game engine for development. In the second game of the series you control a character washed ashore on a remote island, where you explore and battle beasts. The perspective is first-person, and you roam around a setting that is medieval and mysterious. For the 90s King's Field was unusual, lacking cartoony vivid colors and joy, instead placing the player in a hostile world. The game feels overwhelming and confusing. You do not know where you are, what to do, or why any of it is happening. The combat also has an extremely slowness to it - to the point where it feels like moving underwater.

Kramer's Field is likewise in first-person, letting you see through the eyes of Kramer. The talkative characters you meet in Kramer's Field are cryptic in the way that characters regularly are in From Software games. Although some of the vagueness can be ascribed to my own poor attempts at Google-assisted translations of the dialog, it nevertheless seems bizarre that George would tell Kramer: "Oh, the wretched things that have shown themselves before my soul's gaze, I can feel my own presence fading. Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, where might my friend gone?". This is in fact the way that the central task of the game is introduced, with Kramer asked by the waning George and a completely incoherent Elaine, to find their friend. Kramer's Field turns Jerry into not only a character, but a central glue for the others, a force that keeps them from losing not only their friendship but their mental balance.

The Kramer you meet in Kramer's Field has little resemblance to the jittery and witty character in Seinfeld. His search for Jerry is an introspective, solemn journey. The character moves as if every step is heavy, dreading the potential answers that he may find - what has happened to his dear friend, is he even alive? Kramer moves through a labyrinthine re-imagining of New York City's streets. New York is here all grey streets and buildings which trap you into tight corridors. Here you fight off hordes of equally monotone aggressive characters: mostly looking like homeless people, but also face-less well-dressed humanoid Wall-Street drones. Apart from the streets, you can explore Jerry's apartment, and others in his building, as well as the city sewers.

Seinfeld is famously a show about nothing, where even the most mundane is discussed as if of utmost importance, and no action feels too shallow to pursue. This feature is again mirrored in strange manner in the game. The locations are filled with the eerie emptiness that characterizes early 3d games, as if you are walking around in a dream landscape of a world that is yet to render properly. Yet they are all vividly memorable. One of the best elements of Dark Souls is the interconnected world that the player explores, uncovering new routes and secret paths along the way. These are found in Kramer's Field, where nondescript walls can give way to novel pathways, and normal objects become wormholes: Dialing a sequence of numbers found on a note in the sewers on Jerry's phone turns it into a teleport. Kramer's Field also shares horror elements with the more conventionally Gothic, Lovecraftian Bloodborne. In that game, revisiting locations with greater insight (a form of in-game currency) reveals gruesome beasts that had previously lingered unseen. Instead of tentacles and black goo, Kramer's Field shows the alien horror inherent in everyday objects. After hours of play, the air-condition of the apartment is revealed as a hostile force, that slowly and remotely has been draining power from Kramer, fogging his mind and slowing his movement. It is as if the jittery energy that Kramer possessed in the show has been sapped from him and distributed to the surfaces and objects of the game. Every object thereby feels ripe with potential, but also frightening, as it could lose its insignificance, and turn into a portal or a threat.

Ultimately the game itself could be about nothing. The clues and puzzles that Kramer uncovers may not actually lead to the discovery of Jerry. Halfway between a tech-demo and a seemingly endless dungeon-crawler, it is unsure whether the game can actually be completed. Kramer's Field seems to have had limited release even in Japan, and it represents a mistaken path by From Software. But what would have happened to video gaming had the company more fully embraced this peculiar take on Western culture rather than the dark fantasy route? 

Instead of situational comedy, this is situational horror, which turns humor into anguish: The characeters are imprisoned in the surface mimicry of actually-lived in locations where their every action is determined by the laugh track. The viewers get caught into this prison as well. Mathjis van Boxsell writes in Encyclopedia of Stupidity (2003), that people watching comedy with laugh tracks believe they have laughed more than they actually did. And what could be more horrifying than someone trapped in a room, sitting on a couch and watching someone else, also incapable of escaping their confines, maybe sitting on a couch as well, perhaps even watching tv themselves, with mechanical laughter making sure that everyone seems to be enjoying themselves? What if you were not just watching, but playing it instead, in a comedy where you were the punchline.

The situational horror is comparable to the one found in the zombie game Resident Evil (Capcom 1996; 2002), whose title indicates that the frightening resides in the residence itself. You are placed in a haunted house from which the only escape is to continue playing, to take up residence in the haunted mansion. But as the players try to find their way out they become more and more trapped in the game, for hours and hours, up to decades. The players play and replay, buy and rebuy, from release to remaster to remake. In waking nightmares the players repeatedly find their home to be the haunted mansion, where they again and again are bitten by zombies, turning themselves into the great masses playing. But Kramer's Field is infinitely more gruesome than the classic zombie horror of Resident Evil or From Software's own Lovecraftian Bloodborne. This is because Kramer's Field shows what Ian Bogost terms Alien Phenomenology, or What It's Like to Be a Thing (2012), which is the way that objects experience us. Kramer's Field shows that neither Jerry's or your air-condition ever really belongs to you or to anyone. It shows that objects could always be something apart from what they seem. Jean-Paul Sartre describes the intimate ties between horror and houses:

"To preserve its reality as a dwelling a house must be inhabited, that is to say, looked after, heated, swept, repainted, etc.; otherwise it deteriorates. This vampire object constantly absorbs human action, lives on blood taken from man and finally lives in symbiosis with him. It derives all its physical properties, including temperature, from human action. For its inhabitants there is no difference between the passive activity which might be called ‘residence’ and the pure re-constituting praxis which protects the house against the Universe" (Sartre 1976, Critique of Dialectical Reason)

Kramer's Field shows the situational horror of dwelling with videogames, which derive their physical properties from human actions, requiring our willingness to keep playing for their continued existence. There is no way that Kramer's Field could be announced at this year's E3. The game is just too horrifying.

lørdag 4. mai 2019

Chicago is a machine more than a place

The Chicago machine has four different outlets, cut across two axes:


Internal              +             External

The internal and the external reflect each other as crystalline forms. The horizontal is the straight lines of the streets, placed in flat, symmetrical grids. The streets stretch forever, turning into wind tunnels. That's okay, because no one walks here anyway; the streets are not intended for pedestrians or loiterers. They are made for swift vehicular movement, for easy navigation. The streets connect neighborhoods of near-identical houses, seemingly randomly distributed in states of derelict or freshly refurbished. The buses stop at every block and the subway always makes a loop downtown. Only poor people use public transport.

As an echo to the external grids are people's internal horizons. This is the feeling of freedom that comes with end-point of any journey clearly visible, and the sensation of stretching towards it. Anything is within reach here, but you need to pick up speed.

Since we had no reason to refuse the driver wanting to listen to his tunes, he provides the soundtrack of the American streets. Every element of the music is almost completely drowned  in traffic noise, except the trap snares. Despite the rattlesnake intensity, it produces a calm mood. The driver mumbles along to the rap-song, with impressive accuracy and a lulling effect. In the back seat some guy who is sharing the ride is on the phone. He keeps asking 'where you at where you at where you at, where you goin where you goin where you goin' for what seems like forever. The person(s) on the other side of the phone don't want to say, or don't know, or maybe they just don't have anything to say to each other but want to hear the other's voices.

The car always moves straight forward. It's dark here, in the shadow of skyscrapers that fade into heavy rain clouds. This is an ad for Uber or Lyft, I'm not sure which, showing its self-driving car (there is a self driving it). Or it's a scene from Batman Begins - a short, insignificant moment of tranquility before the real attraction: The car chase catches up on us, turning us into collateral. The high speed intensity of the pitch black Batmobile sends us flying through the air.

There are no levels here except the flat street level. The parks have only well-kept grass and some scattered trees. All this used to be prairie land, with oceans of flowers. Today only some of the graveyards are allowed to remain unkept, as if only the dead can be wild, any wildness must be killed. Chicago is named after shikaakwa, a native word for a wild onion. Where do the wild rabbits go to hide now? They bounce around in a lot with nothing but grass downtown, surrounded only by the vertical lines constructed in concrete, metal and glass. Blocking and reflecting the sun, these skyscrapers form straight lines into people's internal hierarchies. The promise of upward social mobility is always there, but it's not easy to climb up such smooth surfaces. Anything is within reach here, but you need to pick up speed.

There are a couple of necessary preconditions before being allowed the upward drift of indoor skydiving. First we fill out a form that absolves the company in case of injury or death. We also need to be weighed, to check that each of us are below 130 kg. 'Should I remove my coat? No, that's okay, there's no way you're anywhere close to that.' Still, rules are rules. And they must be followed without any reflection by all institutions here: 'You need an in-state ID to swim in the public pool', 'unaffiliated persons aren't legible for Library privileges'. Suddenly I understand the American desperation for the freedom that social mobility could bring, to lift one into the weightlessness of wealth. And I dream about participating in a reality show. I am all the characters, young and old, and each of us is tasked with spending $300k as quickly as possible. I wake up exhausted.

A post shared by Andreas Ervik (@sankeofnorway) on

Among the clearest, crystalline states is the moral concern over others: On the subway, a man got in  just before the doors closed, and I was wide-eyed enough to catch his gaze. If you smile at someone here, they seize the opportunity for interaction. He immediately started mumbling incoherently, and would not stop no matter how clear it became that I could only understand a fraction of what he was saying. He ate fried chicken thighs and dropped the bones on the floor, all the while staring intently at me. He had some important police work to do. He informed that there had been 20 police officers on board the subway earlier, that's why it was late. The police were heavily armed, and I couldn't make out if he actually knew who they were after or not, but he saw it fit to impart the important moral lesson upon me: never, ever, under any circumstance, tell the police anything.

The advice is of course impossible to follow, as the police are everywhere here, anyone here could be policing you. So a young radical, who explains that the new mayor is not to be trusted because she used to be a cop, also tells me: 'Now we're going to do something a bit illegal', and strays from the paved path onto the park grass.

There used to be great oceans of wild flowers here, have you ever smelled the wild flower summer breeze?