Artists on Coping: Lasse Antonsen

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

Lasse Antonsen in Assens, Denmark, during a residency in 2018, talking about his early years as an art student at the Experimental Art School in Copenhagen

Lasse Antonsen is an artist, art historian, and curator. He was born in Copenhagen in 1947, and attended the Experimental Art School as a teenager. After living in Spain and Morocco, Antonsen studied art history at Copenhagen University. Moving to the US in 1978, he continued his studies at Tufts University. He received an MA in art history in 1985. Antonsen was a researcher at the ICA in Boston, and for 25 years director of the University Art Gallery at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he, among others, presented the work of Ana Mendieta, Frank Stella, Ilya Kabakov, and Nancy Spero.

AS: How are you coping?

LA: The pandemic has caused a major reassessment of priorities. My wife – the textile artist Elin Noble – and I, travel extensively in connection with residencies, teaching, exhibitions, and talks. We were scheduled to be in Seoul, Korea for the 2020 Bojagi Forum in May, which has been cancelled, and then in Japan, where Elin was bringing a group of artists to a dye master in the mountains northwest of Tokyo. That workshop has been postponed to next year. A joint residency and exhibition in the Netherlands in 2021 will hopefully still happen. We are fortunate that we have a studio about a mile from our house, where we can still work safely. We have always prioritized a focus on health, friendship, and art, and have renewed our efforts. We are fortunate that self isolation has been an unexpected gift, allowing us to stay in the studio for long, uninterrupted days.

Photograph of the installation, “Carried by the Wind,” at the Kunst Kraft Werk in Leipzig, Germany, 2014

AS: Has your routine changed?

LA: We have been self isolating for more than four weeks, and have adjusted to a daily routine of regular sleep, morning meditation, and Qigong, and each day we take a long walk in the nearby park. We also carefully prepare, or plan, healthy meals. Not traveling and going to museums and attending talks, has made us focus on online films and concerts. We have a large collection of books, and it has been a great opportunity to finally turn to some of those we never read, or never looked at closely. I used to live a fairly irregular life, often reading late into the night, but a new urgency has made me focus on a more strict, daily routine.

Work in progress in the studio, featuring a series of constructed collage paintings inspired by the Korean bojagi tradition. The materials are woven plastic tarps and staples, and more recently fragments of Indian kantha pieces.

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

LA: The pandemic is unsettling. It is an invisible war, and for me it has brought up stories I heard in my childhood from my parents of the German occupation of Denmark during WWII. I was born after the war, but I have vivid childhood images of imagining the streets and public squares as dangerous at all times, and of a city in total darkness at night; images of a world of random violence and death. The early inaction of the US to the pandemic is infuriating, and you end up feeling you are battling not only a pandemic, but also the corruption of politicians and the ruling class.

Untitled #8. Indian kantha cloth and black, woven plastic tarp

AS: What matters most right now?

LA: We try to avoid too much of an obsession with the news, following the spread of the virus, and instead try to focus on reaching new realms of creativity. We are keenly aware of the many people and hospital workers that risk exposure daily, and we feel that our focus on beauty and renewal is necessary, and hopefully later our work can be uplifting for those who have suffered and lost people that were close to them. Another priority has been to remain in contact with family and friends via email, phone and FaceTime. The world is strangely small now, and we FaceTime with friends that are fifteen minutes from us, as much as with friends in Europe and Asia.

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

LA: There will not be a normal to return to. We will all have changed, and international neoliberal capitalism will be altered or transformed. It will either be in a positive direction, or frozen in a new totalitarian power structure. In the arts I hope there will be a shift toward healing, spirituality, and community building, and a balance of local, national and international.

Recent photo in the studio, with a hat Elin made for me out of Indian Kantha cloth

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: