In his first article for Eyes Towards the Dove, Jongho Lee, currently a student at New York University and intern/editorial assistant for the website, reviews Lina Selander whose exhibition A Series of Images About You on view at VOX in Montreal, Canada.
Lina Selander’s works are methodically structured in order to present a coherent dialogue between moving and still images, all strung together by subtitles and narrations, often reflecting upon a specific and significant point in history. Meditating on such and creating a globally comprehensive visual narrative is only one aspect of why she was chosen to represent Sweden at the Arsenale at the 56th international Venice Biennale in 2015. The other is demonstrated by the innovative formal manipulations of her films, clearly visible from the moment one walks into her show, A Series of Images About You on view at VOX in Montreal.
As the exhibition unfolds in a dark room, overflowing with ambient background noise from various works, the first video, Anteroom of the Real (2010-2011), starts out with a piracy warning that turns out to be on a cue card, removed by a hand, instantly creating both a physical border around the images following the cue card, and attracting the audience to the formal structure of a film by breaking the crux of it by using still images instead of movement. The still images serve another role; introducing the viewer to the installation as a whole. By concentrating on each still for about eight seconds, usually of dilapidated buildings, paint peeling off walls, Selander forewarns the audience of the reflective qualities of her works and how they can reveal unappealing truths about one’s individual self, or about the general mass.
In the next three video installations (When the Sun Sets It’s All Red, Then It Disappears, 2008, Around the Cave of the Double Tombs, 2010, The Hours That Hold the Form [A Couple of Days in Portbou], 2007), more specific techniques are demonstrated along with these moving images with the use of sound, vocal narration, and subtitles. Selander used an overlay of sentimental poems about understanding, excuses and rejections over black and white photos of soldiers and war scenes, strangely disassociating the photographs and videos from their physical representations.
Directly across from these three videos the meaning and concept of images is further interrogated through text and videos in To the Vision Machine (2013). A sort of metaphysical take on the idea of images- an exploration of the conception of an image both in its mechanical requirement, i.e. a camera of some sorts, and its subject captured and represented- is portrayed through the deconstruction of a camera is juxtaposed with moving and still moments captured from war, found footage, archeology, etc. The transition to the next piece, Model of Continuation (2013), exemplifies yet another formal conceptual play, where by recording the same content from the previous video projected in another room to create other dimensions, her depth of conceptual exploration in the meaning behind pictures and images through content is demonstrated.
Just as her technical maneuvers got repetitive, the show took a turn as she used the visual vocabulary built up by the previous works in order to reflect upon the nature of mankind. In her installation Lenin’s Lamp Glows in the Peasant’s Hut, (2011), she takes the event of Chernobyl and literally holds it close to the audience’s eyes, as they strain to read the plaque placed on the opposite wall from the video of ambient gray skies, with cloudy, aerial views from the sky, all in a dark room. The footage is the only light that the viewers can use to make out the text on the plaque. The most important and impressive part about this installation lies in how she portrays this event to the audience, which is not through the film or the images projected on screen, but through the plaque and radiographs shown in the installation. The plaque lists people lost during the event, “Clean up/ crew members/ liquidators/ working with highly radioactive mud…” and in a glass vitrine on the other side of the divider from the projection, lie 22 radiographs created by rocks containing uranium, almost as if to suggest that they are still radioactive. Here, the projection representing the same event are not in sync with the information that the plaque or the radiographs are sharing, and with this epiphany, Selander is able to explore deeper not only the function of images, but how it correlates to the missteps of humanity.In The Offspring Resembles the Parent (2015), and Silphium (2014) two visual symbols, a dog and the material Silphium, respectively, are used in order to explore mankind’s never ending search for expansion and greed. As two separate narratives, a wild majestic dog being domesticated, and man harvesting silphium and using it to imprint busts to create coins, a story of physical expansion is being told through the footage, but when the narration is taken into account, the subjects tell a separate story of man trapping themselves in their own expansion. The representation of dogs transition from fierce wild beasts, to submissive, domesticated pets, and the greed of man is portrayed as the jarring videos of machines made from Silphium are crosscut throughout a narrative about the harvesting the material in order to forge the image of mankind into a permanent, tangible object, such as a coin. This double meaning of image is familiar to the audience; we are faced with it everyday in media and advertisement where the visual contents are not accurate representations of the physical object- Selander has only emphasized it further.
The two aforementioned films leaves the viewer unnerved, and left to process the double meaning and the contradiction created through her works. One can argue that some works of art, whether a poem, a photograph, or a film, serve as a reflection of our society today. If this is the case, Lina Selander has held up the mirror so close to our face that we see each and every single one of our wrinkles and pores, reminding us of our individual flaws through her weaving of imagery, words, and sounds, aptly exhibited in the show title.
A Series of Images About You, by Lina Selander is on view at VOX in Montreal until December 5th, 2015.