Testing boundaries with So:ren Berner

Featured in: Issue Nº 1

Category: Interview


Artist website: sorenberner.com

SØREN BERNER is categorized as performance artist, but actually doesn’t even like to be called an artist…

– Opaque interviewed him at Fisketorvet, Copenhagen Mall.

By: Erik Duckert
Photos by: Martin Kurt Haglund

Works from Berners Barbie. 2012. Installation, performance at Nicolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, Denmark and Father I should have listened, 2011. Installation, performance at Museum Helmhaus, Zürich, Switzerland. All photos courtesy of the artist.

A massive fake skylight ensures eternal sunshine in the multileveled shopping center.

Ambient music and muffled chatter forms a biddable ambient backdrop.

– Why, of all places, did Berner want to meet at the mall?

B: “Well, it is a really fine place to meet … all cultures meet out here, they are equal here to a higher degree than anywhere else in the city.”

He is composed, well dressed. Orders apple juice.

B: “I’m doubtful whether to call what I do performance art

– I am doubtful I’ll even agree to the premise of calling it art.”

Søren Berner was born in Denmark 1977 but currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland, he holds an MFA from Amsterdam University. Berner’s work typically have performative elements and employ a playful spontaneity that seems embedded as a constant potential of his being.

B: “I don’t think I’ve understood what it means to be an artist.

If I had to label myself I’d rather use the term enthusiast

– if I had to.”

We stroll the mall.

Drift up the stairs, down the stairs.

Woman puts on make-up, man sits down.

His eyes gently register the shifting surroundings and it feels as if he would be up for anything: that everything is interesting and even the most trivial of situations invites participation.

There’s one cliché about performance art that needs clarification:

Why the nudity?

B: “O.k. so – when am I really naked? What if I’m wearing just a hat?

Or If I’m only wearing underwear or half a pair of underwear revealing just one of my testicles?

Such lines of questioning are really intersting, I think: It’s with that kind of investigative approach the ‘enthusiastic work’ begins.”

– And if you got naked right now?

B: “Then I’d take it up with mall security:

‘Hey you’re not wearing any clothes!’

and I’d answer:

‘well, actually I have a knitted sock covering my big toe, my thumb and one of my ears, so I’m wearing three pieces of clothing’.

It’s all about these constant assessments that hinge on laws and boundaries – I find that inspiring!”

At the end of our meditative mall-stroll we happen upon a segway course

and quickly persuade the clerk to

sponsor the one thing more embarrassing than public nudity…

For more info on So:ren Berner order his portfolio here