Master of Fine Arts at Kungl. Konsthögskolan [Royal University College of Fine Arts], Stockholm, 1993-98. ERASMUS-student at Hochschule der Künste, Berlin 1995.
Professor at College of Arts at Chung-Ang University, Seoul, 2016-
Hellberg lives and works in Berlin and Seoul.
Many of my projects stem from an interest in a direct confrontation with public space, and with objects and phenomena constituting that space. Artworks I place in public spaces could be seen as attempts to establish communication. Projects are formed around an ambiguous statement rather than formulating questions angled in a specific direction. In other words, these are comments on something that already exists, such as the structure of a city and the habits of its citizens. The projects are kinds of critique – in the form of expressions following analysis – using an existing structure, building, construction or grounds i.e. institutions that are parts of society. The artist and his work are trespassing on the social community.
Alienation – contextual response
The fear of the unknown is strong amongst most people. Whether it is fear of what lies hidden in darkness, or a fear of something beyond one’s knowledge, to ignore this fear could have devastating consequences. Fear is an emotion that can be explored in unexpected ways through art. A street, square or other public space allows a meeting with a non-specialised audience, which brings to the work a vast array of possible readings. Because these spectators don’t necessarily come from similar social or educational backgrounds, the work is therefore placed in an inevitably difficult social context. An artwork in public space may be overlooked or ignored by some, while to others it may appear as interesting, stimulating, provocative, or irritating. As human beings we can only interpret what we encounter with the help of our individual experiences and knowledge, therefore ending up with differing views.
As an artwork in a public space might differ from objects normally expected to be there (thus appearing as an abnormal or alien object) it is almost inevitable that the work will arouse fear in some people, and be rejected by others. It is not necessarily my main concern to provoke fear in viewers, but as an artist it seems important to deal with – rather than avoiding – such fear, and other preconceived notions, wherever they may appear. Above all I see my public-space works as obstacles for the mind, able to trigger differing viewpoints and responses.
Any person who states uncomfortable opinions in public is ultimately responsible for both voicing those opinions and dealing with the attendant risks. Working with art in public space is like walking a tightrope, whereby the artist has the opportunity to reach out to an audience outside the usual art institutions, but does so largely without any institutional safety nets. Placing art in public space requires certain strategies, including a kind of humility on the part of the artist. For art in public space encounters the same problems as architecture and societal or political planning: that is, it materialises directly as a part of society as well as playing a more indirect part as an aesthetic entity.
Creating an unusual situation – contradicting “normality”
Several of the artworks I have realised operate by changing an everyday situation, with a focus on vision. They are plays on reality, as we are accustomed to seeing it. Vision can be defined simply as what we take in with our eyes: the physical phenomenon that occurs when light is transformed, through seeing, into comprehensible mental images. But vision can also be what is ‘seen’ with our imagination: that is, an immaterial and completely abstract occurrence. And this can lead to new ways of thinking and planning for the future; in this way vision becomes a lingual element.