PHYLLIS ODESSEY

nordic DNA

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Bara Kristinsoottir, Iceland
From a series about greenhouses in Iceland
Photo courtesy of Scandinavia House

What is nordic in nordic photography?  Anna Tellgren, curator of Moderna Musett in Sweden posed the question at the  Darkness and Light: Contemporary Nordic Photography Symposium  at Scandinavia House. Tellgren could not define it.  Elina Heikka, Director of the Finnish Museum of Photography was also at a loss to elucidate any defining characteristics, instead she should slides of various photographers from all the Scandinavian countries.  The same query was asked of the five photographers on the panel at the symposium.  Swedish photographer, Tova Mozard had no trouble answering the nordic question.  “I feel remote from nature.  I never wanted to go outside as a child.  I wanted to be part of fiction, staging feelings and emotions.  I don’t feel I belong in the Nordic tradition of photography.”

Mozard, along with her fellow photographers, debunked notions and cliches about  the nordic landscape.  “I felt landscape was in the way.  I

Peter Thomsen Iceland

Peter Thomsen
Iceland
Photo courtesy of Scandinavia House

felt very aggressive towards it.  My goal was to take part in the debate about the way we use the land.”  Petur Thomsen, Iceland.

Ulla Jokisalo

Ulla Jokisalo
Finland

Ulla Jokisalo

Ulla Jokisalo
Finland

The landscape these photographers are interested in is psychological… the landscape of their minds and memories.  Their “hero” is  Ingmar Bergman.  From the nordic perspective, Bergman films make emotions real, even if the dialog is fake.  The assumption that nordic artists are at one with nature was firmly quashed.  A previous generation may have felt differently.  The photographers represented in this exhibition, have travelled and lived all over the world.  This has changed their viewpoint. Their photographs are the visual representation of this change.  I especially liked Ulla Jokisalo photographs which combine photos with objects.  Like everyone else in the world, technology has influenced their methodology. Interestingly many of the photographers are using analog photographic techniques.  It seems that when you are traveling to Siberia, having only battery-powered equipment, is not that smart.

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Tova Mozard
Sweden
The Big Scene
photo courtesy of Scandanavia House

Tova Mozard’s film, The Big Scene (2012) was shown at the symposium. The film is also being screened at the exhibition.  Three women  made-up for a performance sit on a stage with a therapist.  They are related: grandmother, mother and daughter.  Tova Mozard, filmmaker and photographer is the daughter.  Weirdly, the grandmother’s husband (mother’s father) killed himself.  Tova Mozard’s father ( her mother’s husband) died of a drug overdose when Tova was 13 years old.  Both of these losses occurried when all three women were fairly young.  How the death of these men affected the relationship of the women to each other is the subject of the film.  The film is clearly unscripted, it is raw.  Nothing could have been more ‘bergmanesque.”

The sentiments the three women disclosed, felt like a noose tightening around my neck.  I wanted to look away, but couldn’t. Although set on a stage in a theatre, making it a kind of performance,  I was uncomfortable… intruding on an intimate and revealing conversation.   This might be the new nordic.

Darkness and Light:  Contemporary Nordic Photography
Scandinavia House
February 22 – April 26, 2014
30 recent works by 10 emerging and established photographers

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