Jan Svenungsson

Lind, Maria. "Press and expose - recent videos from Sweden", in: Nuit blanche - Scènes nordiques: les années 90, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1998

Like in the early days of video many of the artists in this program are using the videocamera - a normal camera or a surveillance camera - as a simple tool of recording events. It records more or less staged situations and performances which are being carried out in everything from the private house and studio to the public arena and the stage of entertainment. Tobias Bernstrup's performance "The Heat of The Night" (1997) as a Euro pop singer, does for instance take place on board of one of the folky cruisers going between Stockholm and Helsinki.

Entering the stage dressed and made up with long nails, as a cross between a gigolo and a transvestite, he starts to sing to music from the early 80s. Some of the songs are composed by himself and he performs somewhat disinterestedly. The audience does not seem to know what to do with the mix of the music and the guy and it is actually slightly embarrasing. The video itself is a straight documentation tinted with unease like several of his other works which in the form of performances, videos and paintings explore artificiality, dealing with surfaces of people as well as with cultural products. Performance has had a kind of renaissance in Sweden in the 90s. It has once again become a way to reclaim the link between art and reality, a means to move out of the firm grip of modernist traditions, which have been so strong in the whole of Scandinavia. Pål Hollender is one of the people who has turned to performance. He makes work which is permeated with discomfort and pain, both physical and mental. Most of his videos are autobiographical. They push the boundaries of what he could, as the performer, possibly endure and you as the viewer can stand watching

In "Trying to get Out of My Body" (1997) Hollender is making stubborn attempts to be an acrobat, swinging himself from one trapeze to another. Not being trained for this he constantly falls down, accompanied by his own shrieks. Right after, he is on his feet again repeating the same procedure. In the audience people begin to feel uneasy, something which is contrasted by the fact that he almost treats the image on the screen of the monitor as a harmonious colorful abstract painting, filming the whole scene from above. Whereas Hollender focuses on himself, exposing his own body to pain, Lotta Antonsson's and Annika von Hausswolff's video "Slap Happy" (1995) is a match for two. Under the pseudonym of Anita & Anita the two women enter a game of clapping, then start to slap each other in the face, first slowly and carefully, then quicker and harder until it turns into a fight. Beginning innocently it accelerates and soon goes out of hand. As Anita & Anita they have also immersed themselves in dreams of fame as rock stars: for instance, they have recorded a live CD for which the audience played the instruments. "Slap Happy" evokes the legacy of the work of artists like Marina Abramovic, Valie Export and Gina Pane. So as several pieces of Lova Hamilton. The soundless video "Look of Love" (1994) shows the artist meticulously preparing and consuming the testicles of a bull. We see her behind a neat counter with a checquered table cloth, like a cook in food programs on TV cutting the testicles into pieces and putting them into a food processor. After drinking the brew she immediately throws up. The filming itself is like in food programs: still camera with close ups of the hands handling the product and occassionally the face of the "cook". Television is the direct framework of Annika Eriksson's short video "Three Possibilities" (1996). It was produced as a part of "Interaction", a Nordic project about contemporary art and massmedia, i e TV, radio and daily newspapers. Eriksson chose TV and was given a one-minute slot. Continuing her fascination for normality, specially the normality of masculinity and the cracks of it, she filmed a man doing something private and almost embarassing. Recorded with a surveillance camera it creates an atmosphere of something secret happening. It shows the man silently trying on three different wigs in front of a mirror inside what looks like a dressing room. In Maria Lindberg's straight video "Mind Date - Thinking of Descartes, Henry Geldzahler (Andy Warhol), Jimmie Durham, Lotta Antonsson, Stig Sjölund" (1997) the artist is sitting in her studio smoking a cigarette. She looks sad, thoughtful and a bit bored. It was made during a residency at IASPIS in Stockholm where she took part in the curatorial and artistic experiment Blind Date, a project where artists were invited to participate in "blind dates" and therefore to communicate, relate to each other's artistic positions and or possibly to collaborate. As this particular "blind date" was one of conflict rather than collaboration, Lindberg 's contribution was to create other meetings, confined neither to time nor space. If boredom is just one aspect of this work by Lindberg it is essential in Jan Svenungsson's video "110" (1995). From a single, immobile point of vue it shows a hand slowly leafing through a pile of drawings. The drawings are made according to a principle which the artist has set to himself: he starts from an image, either a photograph or a map, makes a drawing of it, then draws the drawing and so on until the image is no longer recognizable. It is in other words a strict system which he pushes until it collapses, in this way creating a means to control chaos. This obsessive procedure was started from a newspaper photograph of the Russian right-wing extremist Zhirinovsky. Control and loss of control is at the core of Ann-Sofi Sidén's 35 mm film "I Think I Call Her QM" (1997), here transfered to video. She has married together two often projects: the interest in the deceased, paranoid psychiatrist Alice E. Fabian and the fictional/mythical figure the Queen of Mud. Using the style of mainstream feature films, it tells the story of an odd psychiatrist in New York who discovers an enigmatic creature under her own bed. This mudcovered woman becomes the object of her scientific studies, as well as the object of her fear. A distinct feeling of disturbance is created and transmitted to the viewer in "I Think I Call Her QM". Besides showing allegiance to questions of identity, one thing common to all videos in this selection is that they involve challenge of accepted limits. They show-depict-pressure and exposure of the individual, of the artist her/himself, or another person taking part in the activity. Simultaneously they in fact also "do it", they press and expose the viewer, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.

Maria Lind