About the work

TORBJØRN RØDLAND

ABOUT THE WORK


   TORBJØRN RØDLAND
     Pirate, 2001
C-print
60 x 76 cm
Pirate updates the romantic notion of the Nordic landscape and the woman as idealised nature. Featuring beautiful, unspoiled nature, bathed in a poetic ‘Nordic’ light, the photograph is a type of depiction of nature which refers to the national romantic landscape painting in which man is united with nature through a great experience of nature. In Pirate, however, the ideal world is disrupted. The portrayed woman’s Jolly Roger visor introduces a foreign element in the magnificent nature. Thus the photograph establishes an obvious contrast between nature and culture, between nudity and industrially manufactured consumer goods.

ADVERTISING ROMANTICISM
Pirate demonstrates humorously how the ideals of the Nordic landscape and the harmonious bond between woman and nature still exist in sentimentalised shape, e.g. in the kitsch of advertising. The work utilises the cliché in staged photographs, showing the romantic dream of a union between man and nature to be unattainable. This is a reminder that modern man essentially is alienated from nature and it manifests that the viewer’s desire after similar feelings and states will always remain unfulfilled: The woman does not use nature as a natural part of her life but rather as an excursion spot where in her spare time she can sunbathe wearing a black visor.

KITSCH, IRONY AND NORWEGIAN MOUNTAIN IDYLL
Pirate works partly as a depiction of nature: the trickling water, the massive jutting rocks and sun drenched trees in the background of the picture. Partly the work is about nature and our personal, historical and mythological connections to it. Pirate takes a critical stance on the idea of the photograph as an objective documentation of reality in focusing on the effects of the photographic medium compared to other types of pictures. The photograph is not documentary – although it may appear so at first glance – but rather a staged tableau.

Pirate’s portrayal of the woman as well as nature mimics the aestheticising expression found in lifestyle magazines, as well as their fondness for the ‘natural look’ – here played out in Norwegian mountain idyll. So stylistically conscious in its depiction of the Nordic landscape is the photograph that it is imbued with an almost surreal character. In this way the authenticity of Rødland’s photograph is undermined. Yet this is no mere post-modern game with cultural and art historical references.

It is characteristic for Pirate that amid all its super-real and aestheticised stylistic consciousness it retains something genuine, something fundamentally beautiful. In other words it constantly balances between genuineness and artificiality, seriousness and irony. Rødland himself says: - I am often attracted by foolish things – things that are reduced to jokes. My job is to take away stupidity and humour and see what is left of value. This is not about grabbing a cliché and dealing with it. I won’t use it unless I know or suspect that something important has been lost underneath the layers of banality. I attempt to see what happens if I begin to scrape away all these layers.

About Torbjørn Rødland’s art in general
Rødland’s photographic practice is inspired by the American ’Picture Generation’ which includes artists like Sherrie Levine, Louise Lawler and Richard Prince. This trend in photography provided the foundation for a new conceptual and staged kind of photography in the 1980s. The representatives of the Picture Generation first and foremost regarded photography as a medium to reflect on modern visual culture and to enter into a critical dialogue with art history and advertising images.

Taking his cue from the American ’Picture Generation’, Rødland employs a critical staging of nature. His photographs closely resemble commercial photographs’ appeal to our longings for genuineness and originality. Like the ad photographs Rødland derives inspiration from the national romantic painters in appealing to the viewer’s ideal notion of a spontaneous and unproblematic approach to nature. His works focus on the fact that an entire series of emotions and concepts, associated with romanticism, are still in effect despite having been rendered banal and reduced to clichés. Therefore they are still capable of seducing our imagination through mass media. Consequently the romantic system of ideas has become part of a mass communication strategy which advertising photography in particular has managed to utilise effectively.

NORDIC IDENTITIES
Rødland’s photographs mark the need for cultural self-reflexiveness, for questioning the Nordic identity and culture. Inherent in Rødland’s artistic self-reflexiveness is also the possibility of seeing the differences and nuances in the Nordic identity. And therefore the possibility of, in a photographical context, varying the debate on Nordic culture in a modern society characterised by growing internationalisation and commercialisation.

Rødland’s photography deals with the notion of a particular Nordic culture and identity. At the same time it emphasises the fact that the Nordic culture is a product of mobility, cultural encounters, international subcultures and a comprehensive globalised consumer culture. Thus Rødland takes a critical position on local and national frames of understanding. However, this does not mean that his photographs do not explore local, cultural marks. Rather they retain the paradox, in both recognising and discussing the notion of a distinct Nordic culture and identity.

Rødland’s photographs spotlight how consciousness of the global condition leads to increased attention to local and regional characteristics. With his staged photographs Rødland points to the fact that this is no Nordic monoculture which can be defined unambiguously. On the contrary, there are a number of different definitions of the Nordic, constantly changing under the influence of international currents and trends.

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