Jon Benjamin Tallerås (b. 1984, Oslo) investigates the relationship between the individual and the urban environment. His work questions ownership through exploring different ways of navigating, seeing and exploring the ever-changing landscape of the city. In his works, Tallerås performs social readings of the city—questioning what is private versus what is public domain. Tallerås’ interpretations of the changing urban language can be applied to many rapidly growing cities in Europe and the world.
The series Window Sealed Shut show run-down buildings that are sealed away from the public. Tallerås is fascinated by the semiotics that are present in the streets, the signs and languages we use to navigate the city. How for example a fence is a sign that tells us that we are not allowed to enter, rather than actually being a physical obstacle that keeps us out. The same goes for the shutters in the images of Window Sealed Shut. They are preventing people from entering, but could easily be kicked in or unscrewed with a simple screwdriver. In the works, the frames are specifically made to mirror the shapes of the plates covering these possible entrances. The frames are made of material found in the city, for instance a roof being refurbished, an old euro pallet or a broken bench, pointing back to pieces of former function in the urban landscape. The combination of materials used to make the frames and the shape of the images dislocate the works—being both a photograph and a sculptural object at the same time.
The second series also draws on Tallerås’ interest in various languages and layers of information within a city. Its point of departure is Tallerås’ movement through spaces outside our normal routes of navigation. Some of the images depict views from different rooftops, accessible via scaffoldings or drainpipes. Views often reserved for those with a top floor apartment. Another image shows a route down under the city via a ladder going down a drain. Both exploring other possibilities for movement and looking for different forms of value within the city. Tallerås has been photographing and navigating through, thus activating, these secluded spaces with his camera and physical presence. In the finished works, the glasses are scratched and engraved with imagery depicting different lock picks and bump keys. Tallerås interest in lock picking is a metaphorical one, with the lock pick symbolizing an unlimited access to the city. The technique of scratching glass is borrowed from the language of vandalism and graffiti, and is something one would often see on train and subway windows.
Tallerås has exhibited his work in institutions such as The Munch Museum’s Munchmuseet on the Move, Kunsthall Oslo, Kunstnernes Hus, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Norway, the Liaf Biennale and Contemporary Art Museum Estonia.