Wall of Voodoo


How is it possible to make the outer walls of public buildings visually interesting and intellectually challenging? Is there any other ways to use wall space than for loud commercials or to cover them with grey dullness on grey dullness? And yes, is there life on Mars? Dilemmas like dominoes. Dilemmas like productive propositions that are screaming not for answers but new ways to deal with them. To be precise: ways to deal with that generate attention and create suspense within the physical act of seeing and feeling. The walls on both side of the entrance of the Folkhälsocentrum in Laholm provide us with a vision and a perspective. It is a particular and specific work done by the Peter Ojstersek. An artist who went about his first main public commission with the most positive attitude of a visual artist. He did not want to decorate, he did not want to just illustrate or to prove a point. He wanted to challenge, but to challenge in a way that is both pleasurable and engaging. A way in which you are invited and lured into watching and watching once more – without the need or even the chance to solve or to settle what it is what you see when you watch these walls. The main elements in this work, besides the attitude of playing with expectations of what a public work can or ought to be, are characteristically core issues of any meaningful practice of a visual artist. Ojstersek, being a painter, has faced this enormous task of doing something with a wall of the size of 5 meters height and 35 meters of width with the similar touch as with any other of his works. He does what he does so well when dealing with materiality of the image and the constructed size of the image. Funny enough, Ojstersek has turned the question of materiality to his utmost advance. It is a move that requires deep respect since it’s the issue at which so many other public weather and vandalism bound projects fail or have difficulties with. The cleverness of Ojstersek was to use materials that become integrated and central part of the whole work. Materials that situate in an individual way the chosen images to this very given site. The point being that the material of the wall (aluminium) and the colour he used (reflective paint) are both materials that change with time of the day, and with the time of the year. They reflect their environment night in, day out, summer here and winter there. Thus, with these materials, Ojstersek managed to guarantee that there is no one way of seeing these walls. They change and alter constantly. So what about the question of size? Ojstersek provides us a telling anecdote of the process of making sketches for the work. It was a process he had to completely re-do at the very end of the preliminary working period. He realized that he could not be realistic in size, and that he could not just exaggerate a little: he had to go the full distance. Ojstersek understood that in a wall of this size, images themselves do not need to be big, they have to be huge (the largest of the three women has the length of 15 meters). They have to be exaggerated to the notion that one can recognize them immediately for a car passing by or parking into the slot. With the carefully considered and chosen materials and size of the images, Ojstersek has shaped a visual public site that does exactly what it has potential to do: it invites us to think, and to think with about where we are, and how we are where we are. He has created walls with images that we recognize but which we still have to decide what they are and stand for (are these women, just to get the train of thoughts and connotations going on and about, catching frisbees or ufo’s?). Ojstersek does not let us of the hook easily. He asks and he gets our attention with a unique site specific work which becomes a magnetic place of its own right: a very beautiful and pleasurable site of visual collective communication. A contemporary wall of voodoo that is both serious and fascinatingly enjoyable.

Mika Hannula