Context and Culture
May 9th, 2012
Site Specific Art
Viktor Cebergs is what he calls a public sculptor. He says that many of his jobs begin as one thing and end up as something different. This is mainly because he does consultative works for councils, governments, large corporations and educational groups where there are usually OHS, permit and committee issues.
Viktor studied at RMIT and began as a painter drifting into sculpture with some simple pieces at the end of his course. This has led to a good career that brings in a decent income for him and his family.
Viktor calls his artworks site responsive, he likes to match his pieces to the surroundings often using materials that are from the site or close by. Many of his pieces use Cyprus pine as there is a lot of it around having been used in the past by farmers for windbreaks. He also uses left over pylons as these also have wood that takes weathering well. For a couple of pieces Viktor found the ideal metal at a local business and was able to mould them to the perfect shape for the project.
For much of his work he applies for tenders or applies for works that are advertised for submissions. He does some performance or ephemeral works, one of which was set alight as part of the “performance” part because everything was to be cleared up and removed when finished. For this piece and for quite a few others Viktor enjoys collaborating with other artists. Many of these are larger jobs and he calls in the expertise of people in various fields that he feels he can not complete himself.
He uses such things as powder coated stool piping and laser cut metal sheeting especially for his weather vanes. For several years he has been involved with the ice motel in Sweden. This unique idea has been copied in other places in the world since it first took off. It involves several artists, electricians, engineers and others getting together every year during the coldest part of the year to cut blocks of ice from the frozen river, create blocks of snow and then built rooms, furniture and fittings for motels rooms and foyer and bar out of nothing but ice and snow with some spectacular lighting effects using LED lights of all colours. The creativity in these rooms has to be seen to be believed. There are pictures on the web and I really recommend that they should be given a look. These projects are paid for by the government who see them as good investments for creating interest and tourism to their countries.
Viktor has also, through travelling and constant networking, worked on jobs in Japan, The USA, Canada and all over Australia. The larger site works have provided an opportunity to travel and meet people as well as creating some amazing large artworks for everyone to see.
As he runs a business (the name of this story is in fact the name of his business) Viktor came across as a savvy but creative artist and businessman. He said that no matter what type of work it is he tries to accept a contract. He has spent a lot of his time and money setting up tools and materials to ensure that he is equipped for most jobs and knows how and where to hire anything else he may need.
He has accepted jobs for things he was not specifically trained for but his university degree gave him a great basis to build on and he keeps learning, networking and going to symposiums to keep fresh and find out new trends. As he knows a lot about the legal issues involved with public art pieces and any engineering that has to be done in a public space this has opened doors for him as well. Even if it was just designing some fairly simple signage and getting the lettering done, Viktor’s training and experience have enabled him to do the job extremely well, still obeying OHS and other legal requirements – and with a happy client.
I really enjoyed listening to Viktor. He had great business savvy and didn’t have his head in the clouds. His business is built up by training, networking and learning how to use the established tendering system as well as create contacts and getting his name known. I understood the processes he talked about for public art as I worked for a sign company for over three years and we had to prepare all the paperwork and drawings for permits etc for government and councils. I know it can take months before work begins and the initial design may go through several revisions so you can’t be precious about your work. You also have to learn to work with lots of very different sorts of people and know when to outsource.
This isn’t the “warm and fuzzy” or very “out there” side of art, it may not be breaking any new horizons in the art world in a great degree that will end up in fine art books for the next hundred years but it is creative and it is a good business. It is also information that I am keen to learn about.