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Johanna Karlin

I have for many years worked from a post-studio, hybrid practice that draws from conceptual and minimalist traditions, implicating funding bodies, architecture, and public space into a form of contemporary institutional critique.

I create processes of accumulation, collecting and gathering in order to reconsider the common actions and movements of everyday life. For many years I have explored the relationship between the cultivated and the wild growing, as well as the boundaries between art and the world. Until 5-10 years ago, these questions was applied on the urban city but since I have been living in the Country side, from 2010, at a very remote place, in an old farm, I have now applied those questions on that environment. My farm has become a ”Ready Made” in my view and I use it both as a spatial and conceptual construction as well as the place for production and a place to show the art.

My overall project - ”Kläppinge 1:18”, (the property designation of the farm), contains illogical interactions between me and domestic and wild animals, buildings in decay, life and death. The line between art and life is unclear, sometimes invisible. When artists visit me I argue that everything they see is part of my Art work. 


Johanna Karlin

17/11 2022

Fragments of the process

Johanna Karlin's video The Gaze, 2023

Brief description of the film Fåret, Tunet, Slanorna, 2022

Length: 8.39, The film is made in one long unbroken, (unedited) take. 8.39 min.

Sound: Low volume corresponding to the original recorded atmospheric sound.

Display method: Preferably projected large, (so that you get close to the sheep's body)


The place for the setting is the yard at my farm, the poles have quite some time ago been collected and "saved for the future", to construct a fence, to dry grass into hay. With the help of a group of 10 people a construction was built. A non practical construction. 


Without language and tools Klimpen (K) goes on a journey of discovery through the sculpture. A little dreamy, K explores the sculpture with its body and sometimes glances at the "camera", at me. K makes sure I'm close but pretends it doesn't care. K that has access to the herd and to the ability to go off alone. Born and raised on the farm, has in its upbringing alternated between people, cats and the rest of the sheep. K moves as I move, (with the camera, (an Ipad) in my hands). K keeps calm despite being alone. Slowly, K makes its way through the construction to finally step out and stand still just in front of it. As if it were directed. All the time with a reasonable distance from me.

A group of people helping out constructing the sculpture

With the help of a group of people, a construction was built up consisting of wooden pols of varying lengths. The poles were anchored to each other with the help of tension straps. The result was a non-functional construction that neither fenced in nor provided shelter, but became a sculpture for the sheep. (How the construction came to look aesthetically was not important, but the focus was on THAT the individual poles were tied together into a coherent construction.)

The wooden pols, "saved for the future" found by me on the farm.

The pools have once, (quite some time ago) been collected and saved for different purposes like a stabilizing part in a roof or for constructing a Hay fence, to dry grass into hay.

The wooden pols, "saved for the future" now found by me, collected and put together in one place.

The courtyard of the farm

The place for the construction - the courtyard, also called Tunet, at Kläppinge 1:18, i.e. on the farm where I myself live, looks like a U, and forms a natural room. The sheep have access to the site all year round and keep the vegetation down. They have ”set the stage” for the sculpture themselves. The location, eastern Öland, is dry and it almost never rains there.

Picture of the lamb "Klimpen" from 2017

The film was made possible thanks to the strong attachment the sheep (now 5 years old) has to me, the owner and the artist, after being rejected by its mother at birth. But it should be added that she is also completely incorporated into the herd, and acts normally there, apart from the fact that she does not understand that there is a turn order and a leader that one follows

Picture of the lamb "Klimpen" from 2017

The film was made possible thanks to the strong attachment the sheep (now 5 years old) has to me, the owner and the artist, after being rejected by its mother at birth.

John Carberry talks to Johanna Karlin about her life style as working process

John Carberry in conversation with Johanna Karlin about her life style as working process
00:00 / 17:10

Talking about the process

The conversation was held as a Zoom meeting on February 12th 2024. Following transcription has been slightly edited for readability.

John Carberry (JC): 

So you’ve got two works. You've got the sculpture, which is called The Sheep. Can you talk about that one a bit? I haven't seen the other one, but I have seen this one. I like it because at the end, the sheep is standing there so proudly, like it built the sculpture. It reminds me of working with humans who act like that—they just wander in at the end and say, "What a great job I did." So you're like, "I don't know who you are."


That's what comes to mind when I see the sheep standing there so proudly. It was really bizarre.


Johanna Karlin (JK): 

It was really bizarre that this happened. That particular sheep, I think, is maybe female, but perhaps she's mixed, which would explain why she was abandoned by her mother. 


Yeah. Okay. Now I’m starting to talk to you, but maybe that's okay?



Yeah, I do this all the time. I just talk to people and then chop it up so it sounds coherent.



Because I know I'm terrible at not making full sentences. My husband, who's a documentary filmmaker, always points that out.


Anyway, the film I made with the sheep, The Sheep, the Sculpture, and Me, was a project that developed around material that was on my farm, these long wooden poles. They were kept for future use, but the future never came, so they became a sculpture for the sheep instead. Normally, these would have been used on the farm for drying hay or something similar. Now, the sheep got this sculpture made from this material, almost like a theater setting, right in the middle of the farm. I had a group of students with me who helped put it together because it was impossible to do alone.


I didn’t know how the sheep would react, but I knew that this particular one could be on its own and also with the other sheep. The other sheep always want to be together, as normal sheep do, but this one doesn't. It reacts differently and likes to keep track of me. If I'm around something, it starts to hang around like a teenager, as if saying, "Uh-huh, what are you up to?" It almost shows off when it’s aware that I am there, giving me a glance once in a while before going back to its business.


It was just by chance. I was doing different filming setups, but this was spontaneous. I saw her alone and grabbed an iPad to film. The film, which is eight minutes and thirty-nine seconds long, was captured from start to end. I was happy the sheep moved around and, in the end, I could back out, and it kept standing as if it had been directed. I couldn’t believe my luck.



That's cool.


I haven’t seen the other one.



The other one is four short films, 30 seconds each. You see different sheep standing and looking at me. They are also on their own, which is unusual for sheep. When you look at them, it feels like they are staring right at you, which is a bit weird because they normally wouldn’t like being alone.


The setting is on the farm, just by coincidence. I talked to Sarah (Douglas) about that. She asked how I know when to film. I just have my mobile on me all the time. I take photographs and film here constantly. It’s not something I think about consciously, but when I look at these images, some of them are a couple of years old. My process is really long and slow. I don’t always know what I’m up to. It can take years. Now, with this farm, my land, and my houses, I can work as slowly or quickly as I like. There are always things to discover here.


That's interesting. Your whole farm is kind of like one of your artworks, isn’t it? Can you explain that a bit to people?



The farm I live on is really old, almost falling apart. I’ve been living here for 13 years. It took some time before I could even think of it artistically. It was just where I lived and kept some animals. But then, when I started seeing it with my artist's eyes, it developed. Now, I consider it almost like a ready-made—the whole place, the land, and the houses. It’s like an object I look at from above, and I’m just one of the things moving around in it. It’s both the subject of my art and a place where I can exhibit or work. It’s everything.



That's pretty good. So it’s like the subject and the container. It sounds like a very efficient model.



I never thought it would develop this way. Looking back, some things seem logical in how they developed, but I never know if it’s going in a certain direction. It wasn’t even a question if I could work artistically here. I just wondered if I would ever see anything with my artist's eyes, and one day I did. Now, it’s my complete world, more or less, at the moment.



It’s interesting that it’s such a slow process. For me, I often have deadlines in a couple of weeks, so it’s always very focused and intense. This last film I made took a year. I started it this time last year and only finished in January. That was strange for me since I never spend that long on something. It sounds like your whole process is much more extended, which must be lovely to have things just bubbling over.



I enjoy it. Before, when I lived in a flat or in the city, I liked it, but it lacked the space to move about and carry things. Having a place to focus on is crucial for doing any art at all. I’ve always been interested in the edge where art and the real world meet.



There’s a tension in that constant interaction. I don’t like living in the city either. I used to spend so much time traveling across town, feeling like I couldn’t get anything done. Now, I can go to town, do what I need to do, and be back in 15 minutes. It’s nice to have space to think.


Have you worked with video a lot before?



No, it’s kind of new for me. Here and there, I’ve done some moving image projects, but I never really worked with images or editing extensively. It’s unusual for me to have a piece of art like these videos. Normally, everything is more like a process, fragments, or installations. I can work on things here on the farm, like transforming a room or an old stable. It was so heavy and went on for so long. In the end, I couldn’t stand it and had to revert it back. 


I almost broke my hand, and no one could see that anything had happened. For me, a lot had happened, but it almost looked exactly the same. People saw something different, but it was very subtle. That’s more what I’m used to—almost like an empty space. This video project is different because it's something tangible. Normally, making an exhibition is an unbelievable struggle.



I don’t know. It’s scary and weird. I thought this whole project would be way harder. I thought we’d be talking on Zoom for ages, but we have a website now.

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