Recommended: Yngve Holen and the intersections of nature and technology

Recommended: Yngve Holen and the intersections of nature and technology

Yngve Holen has an undeniable fascination with recontextualising everyday objects, from water coolers that have been split open to 3D printed slabs of meat covered in marble foliage. Let’s get to know him. 

When introducing the Norwegian-German artist, there is a familiar point that slips into almost every summary: The human body is notably absent from Holen’s installations yet humanity is a uniting factor in his work. As technology continues to evolve at immense speed, he reflects on the increasingly blurred lines between man and machine, object and body, organic and industrial, general and individual.

Animistic objects

My first encounter with Holen during a visit at the Boros Collection, a war bunker turned prison, then storage facility and techno club – before finally becoming the contemporary art gallery known among locals as Sammlung Boros. Two detached headlights had been moved closer in the shape of a pair of gleaming eyes, resulting in a confrontational stare ready to attack.

Then, there were the large-scale wheels, each carrying a unique name tag such as Rose Painting and Snowflake. Stripped of their tires, they resemble flowers adorning the wall. “Holen reminds us that we cannot escape nature even through technology,” the guide said, implying that as much as we believe our advanced technological evolution separates us from nature, a complete divide is neither possible nor desirable. 

Divorced from their otherwise lifeless purpose and reimagined by Holen, industrial machinery and contemporary technology take on a much more organic and sometimes even animistic role. In Beijing, he displayed apricot-colored headlights flipped on their side. Glowing softly against the concrete museum wall, they resemble lonely hearts, offering an emotional tone to the commentary on consumerism. In Berlin, Holen mounted the remains of a dissected high-security prison fence to the walls. The sculpture is named BUTTERFLY. His deconstructed CT scanners which are reinvented in vibrant colors and draped in mesh have been described as “futuristic portals to a new reality”. 

Verticalseat. Photo: Didier Leroi.


Vujà dé + Butterfly. Photo: Boros Collection, Berlin © NOSHE.



Holen’s work is a testament to how, as much as we have a certain power over technological evolution, technology holds an equally defining grip on humanity. Through the dissection of means of transportation, phones, appliances, plastic surgery and industrial food production, Holen explores how consumerism and technology impact our thought patterns and behavior. 

In fact, his most recent exhibition “Neuroeconomics” (study of human decision making) questions how desires arise, are employed, and what exactly inspires the impulse to want something. Among the objects he has disemboweled is the Porsche Panamera, otherwise known as the ultimate object of desire for the nuclear family that also craves luxury and speed.” 

Objects of the everyday tend to become almost invisible, but once isolated from their original purpose and relation to humans, Holen is able to push the viewer to face these objects with a new perspective. It comes as no surprise that he experiments with the contrasts between traditional materials such as wood, marble, metal and glass, and modern production techniques like 3D printing, waterjet cutting and, of course, the including fragments of technology. 

Holen’s work can be experienced as eerie and dystopian in its aesthetics, but raises important questions about the impacts of this “symbiotic relationship between humanity and technology” – a theme that belongs to the present as much as the future.

Verticalseat. Photo: Didier Leroi.


Photo: Boros Collection, Berlin © NOSHE.


Sensitive to detergent. Photo: Aram Bartholl.

Cover photo: Hater headlight. Photo: Trevor Patt.

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