When I stepped into Ariuntugs Tserenpil’s studio, I thought that I had entered a little workshop or laboratory. There were a number of wooden tables and stacked pallets full of tool kits, wires, and wood; glues, paint, and tape; a drill and even a telescope. As usual, the artist greeted me with a quiet smile and invited me to sit on the couch. We discussed his latest works—moon recordings through a telescope and some other photographic experiments—and then watched a few of his early videos. Close observation of nature and objects and the use of everyday sounds are important elements of his video work. Ariuntugs often distorts the real look of the images through blurry records or negative effects.
Ariuntugs went on to tell me about his childhood habits (he was born in 1977 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia), how he liked dismantling toys and other assembled items, and the strange feeling it gave him to leave them disassembled. I thought about how this early behavior might relate to his approach as an artist—his minimal, monotonous works convey ambiguity, an odd coexistence of tranquility and disorder.
When I asked about his future plans, since his having been invited to documenta 14, Ariuntugs said something that might unsettle ambitious people: “For my artworks I don’t really make serious plans; I just do my work when I want to. I really like the process, but not the final result. I don’t really strive to show my work to people. The feeling I get from the process is important for me. Showing my work is a different kind of process for which I have to prepare. Different times and spaces always create different perspectives.”
Before I left the studio, we watched the video Act (2013), in which Ariuntugs chews moss and spits. When I asked why he decided to eat moss in the work, he said: “Personally, I always feel helpless watching how we human beings destroy nature to satisfy our ever-increasing consumption. We all act as if we have no choice but to consume more and more. One day I was looking at the moss I collected from the forest and suddenly thought, What would it be like if I eat moss? I tried to eat it and recorded my act. The taste was really awful.”