Artist Statement (2007)












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The GAZE, the Tools and the Subject.    

They have eyes that they might not see (Lacan 1973).

In the quote above it is clear that the focus is on a look, or a gaze, from outside the subject. This gaze is a sort of presence in a time and a space but of which the subject may remain unaware. This gaze can be seen as a threatening Other, which makes the subject fragile and somewhat vulnerable. There is something fascinating about this complex of problems. I cannot avoid relating this to a psychological process or state, and I imagine this situation as two people standing face to face without speaking. The silent tension this creates between them, or the uneasiness that may occur by an “embarrassing silence”, the feeling of exposure that presents itself when you are about to enter a hall full of people and everybody’s eyes are set on you. This intensive feeling and its mechanism, is an entrance to my work. It deals with facing something and the consciousness and subconsciousness surrounding this something. I begin with speculating on the gaze, as a force helping to create legitimacy.

There is no disgrace in looking (Stein 1911).

This phrase is quoted from the short story, Tender Buttons, by Gertrude Stein from 1911. There is a mechanism in these words that demonstrates an inner strife to give legitimacy to an individual interpretation without being held back by the way we have been taught to decipher things in different contexts. The contexts of an ordinary and commonplace nature, where we confront each another, while assuming the various roles of the social game. In these situations a tug-of-war may arise between subjects on the arena of one’s self. This evolves into the self struggling for self preservation or else become lost. A fear, or recognition, of a lack of some kind or the other, of the self, combined with a struggle to hold on to individual strength, is a paradoxical but interesting area where the Other may become a threat. This tug-of-war is simply the self trying to protect itself from the Other, that is threatening its individuality.
It is a fact that we have different views and form groups in relationships/society, that we hold preconceptions and have different behaviour. All the mechanisms, with which we orient ourselves in ordinary social life, are fundamental to this struggle. All these qualities which make us into individuals choosing to assert ourselves in, or submit to, the world, creates a psychological context. My work examines this unstable place and how this is distributed into the very act of looking seeing and being seen.


Association, Intuition and Interpretation.

I stand mute (…) before the fact how one can lie merely by giving oneself right (Sartre 1938).

One aspect of this complex battle between subject/object described above is that the relation between them also can be seen as an area of association on a very private level.
The mental chain reaction or impression created by an image/the senses through association can bring to the surface “internal” and maybe “forbidden” thoughts. It begins like a kind of machinery, where knowledge, personal experiences and memories can be rediscovered and begin to interact. I imagine this to be a way for the subconscious to process various data. Intuition is more of a tool with which we orient ourselves in situations, and can create insight and understanding in an area where no language yet exists. I try to approach this mechanism of how the psyche is capable of finding various avenues, through association, and use it in my work.
As an artist I can neither tell the observer what he or she should see nor is my aim to tell the “truth”, in the sense of providing evidence since truth and reality often are subjective. I only want to provide examples of a reality seen from a certain perspective, no more and no less, and examine the borderland between the individual and the general. I am excited by the idea of exploring this mechanism of thought and the various interpretations it generates, which all are individual and complex.

Interpreting is that singular and creative act, where – as if out of a void, yet based on the trace of a meaning delivered by the anticipation –– something will be said, dreamt, imagined or done. Interpreting manifests itself not only in propositions or fantasies, but also – as an extension of these – as a separate reality which is both a dwelling and a world to the ego. (Reeder 1996/2007).

Concepts like reason, truth, desire, passiveness, existence, are all fundamental in this paradoxical battle between the subject and the external. They are the scene for staging the individualistic strife to ignore the prevailing general expectations. Simply the field of battle where the self is going through a process of establishing and justifying itself by gazing, seeing and being in the now, that is where the self justifies its existence in relation to the other. I aim to create a field that is open to interpretation and association. Maybe it can awaken something that is hidden in the subconscious. It is on the field of intuition that I locate myself, and my photographs.


NATURE, Mystery, Romance, TIME, Boredom, Passivity, Decay, and the Way of the World.

-Without a brutal suffering to which the “I” fits in, sublime and devastated […] I can cope with this for I imagine it to be the desire of the Other (Kristeva 1980).

I often think of a scene in the film Deliverance, where a hillbilly brutally commits rape on a chubby man in the middle of the majestic forest. I can almost feel the scent of the decaying leaves on the ground, and the romance both reflected in and hidden by nature. Then I get disgusted by my own thoughts when I remember what is happening in the scene.
In the concept of nature, determinism, death and decay is implicit, but so are mystery, romance and life. In my work I see nature foremost as a metaphor for time; time in relation to a direction without a specific goal, without cause or end.

Boredom is the root and cause of everything evil. (…) Boredom rests on the nothingness that meanders through existence: the vertigo it causes is like the vertigo of eternally looking down an infinite abyss (Kierkegaard 1843).

When I myself am in the forest, I often get overwhelmed by the feeling of suddenly being thrown into the merciless bosom of nature, that I could just as well decay right there as a part of the eternal circle of life, and nothing would be strange about this. There is something apocalyptic and deterministic about this line of thought which I find is lining life in general. I often forget about death myself, or rather I do not think about myself in relation to it, just like the notion that death only strikes others, which is a terribly convenient lie. I like to use nature as a reminder of time and the way it passes by.

Space is the evidence of the “where” (Merleau-Ponty 1964).

In nature and wildlife films there is both a distancing from and a concrete acceptance of, death. There are innumerable wildlife television series, where a predator catches a prey animal and so on, and every time it really affects me when the film crew is not stopping what is happening, even though it is merely showing the course of nature. Here the perspective undergoes a weird change in relation to the brutal scene in Deliverance. It is simply too close to fear and self preservation takes over. Nature is the naturalness of a here, a there and a now.

The real nature of the now revealed itself: it was the existing and everything that was not the now did not exist (Sartre 1938).

Nevertheless, inherent in nature is also a presence of hope and eternity, and it is this vacillation among the horrendous, seductive, passive, enticing, mysterious, romantic, that I find so interesting. This ambiguousness is in my opinion synonymous with the fear in the subject and the threat from the Other, as well as the inferiority and the individual struggle. The symbolism of nature that I here call attention to; as brutal, merciless and involuntarily progressive as well as the paradoxes of the mysterious and romantic, are the tools with which I try to capture time.



Out of an eye comes research (Stein 1911).

For me photography is a device to collect time, events, feelings, memories and, not least, to see the surrounding world.
When I photograph, it often happens by pure coincidence and habit, I rarely do a set up or go on a mission to take photos. When I do take photos it happens in harmony with a feeling that I am confronted with through a visual impression: a source of association, nostalgia or something funny, and I aim to photograph time as tangibly and real as possible. If it was possible, I would like to photograph time and reality in the same manner that a cancer ridden body is CAT scanned. Later in the studio, I am not interested in the pictures as such. I am rather looking for them to possess something beyond the “image”. I am searching for a presence or an absence but yet not fiction. The camera is the concrete tool while attempting to crystallize and capture this reality, through my gaze. In this way the object and time, become notes in a process and therefore my objects of collection. My relation to collecting is the kind where fear of losing the moment takes hold of my “collectors self”, forcing me to pick up the camera to perpetuate it. I look upon photographs as a physical remnant of a time that was and this makes it a proof of something specific that has been and that I have seen.

What we call a visible phenomenon is, like we said, a quality charged with a texture, the surface of a depth, an incision of a massive being, a grain or a corpuscle, carried by the wave of Being (Merleau-Ponty 1948).
The spectacle of the world, in this sense, appears to us as all-seeing. This is the phantasy to be found in the Platonic perspective of an absolute being to whom is transferred the quality of all-seeing. At the very level of phenomenal experience of contemplation, this all-seeing aspect is to be found in the satisfaction of a woman who knows that she is being looked at, on condition that one does not show her that one knows that she knows.                                                 

The world is all-seeing, but it is not exhibitionistic––it does not provoke our gaze. When it begins to provoke it, the feeling of strangeness begins too. (Lacan 1973).

This visibility before something real, disquieting or imagined is where I often locate my work.


The Kitchen.
An attempt to capture time.

All sorts of things in the world behave like mirrors (Lacan 1954-55 or 1988).

The photographs show the view from my grandmother’s kitchen on a summers day, noon and evening respectively. This place has more or less looked the same since 1982, when she moved here. Certainly, the color of the school outside is changed and now the schoolyard is concrete, but granny has lived here ever since I can remember, and conversation has always taken place here by the kitchen table. The lamp hanging there is, in my memory, the exact same lamp that was there from the beginning.
The place is Lieksa and it is located in North Carelia, about fifty kilometers from the Russian border. In summer the nights are bright and the inland climate, sweeping in from Russia, makes the days scourging hot. The winters, on the other hand, are bitter cold for the same reason. I have photographed this place for many years, and at the same time I have photographed granny.
Material like a 10 millimeter board, 2 x 3” pine wood beams, strips of pine wood, screws, plaster, paint and window-glass, all these are common materials meant for building homes for people. It is the genuine metal and wooden materials, which by necessity are present in our lives and with which we all are fairly well acquainted. I wanted to use those components to get hold of the complex of problems regarding “the now”, “necessity” and “progress”. I used duratrans and the only lighting was the incoming daylight, which this piece by necessity had to depend on. The room in itself and the changes that appear in the piece, as the day goes by and morning becomes evening, is yet another tool that emphasizes the progress of time. I wanted the placing of the screens, meeting each other, to hint at an intense encounter, a “tête á tête”. This transforms the screens into some kind of personalities (to a large degree depending on the pictures themselves) but the material used and the portability of the piece, also point to stage scenery sets. The now can here be seen as the scene where the self plays a part in a theatre.

It is not the picture in itself that is the issue. It is the in-between-ness of where you are standing, the in-between-ness of light and the span of time. The gap between the personal and something general. I look at the window as an entrance to time in a more suggestive way, to time as it is, as something you perceive, are thrown into and are confronted with. As a mirror you are all of a sudden in front of. I try to see the picture as just that intense act of being in some direction or in a mass of time. Or maybe I see the pictures just as two people quarreling about something everydayish that is not something to bother about.

Annika Behm 2006

This is this (Stein 1911).


Narrative Story Telling or Story Telling from a Personal/Documentary Perspective.

In the photograph series “Blue behaves like water and lies”, I wanted to examine the association mentioned above and its mechanism; how images of a certain kind can be interpreted in various ways and I used my own chain of associations as a starting point. When arranging the photographs I tried to sequence them partly so that they could stand as separate entities and avoid them influencing each other too much, and partly I wanted the proximity between them to create tension. I sought to use the mechanism of the series as a whole as well as among the images, where the position of each would be questioned and thus create a consistency open to interpretation. I wanted to get at the possibility inherent in calling into question that what you see before you, and how this can render different interpretations. Since every observer brings his or her own experiences and knowledge, this is where it becomes interesting. Where is the boundary that separates the general and the individual? Is there anything intuitive that cannot be expressed? Is this intuitive image universally applicable or is it merely founded on personal experience?
The title reflects the specific battle that the subject is having with the reflection of the self and the normative requirements of the Other.
To understand something is usually to reflect on it and through oneself, and that which cannot be recognized, remains entirely incomprehensible. What I see in a picture or a situation may be something completely strange; undeniably we are not always attracted to the same questions, friends, and life styles and so on. Is it solely due to a desire for acknowledgement? What actually is the truth when we all hold our own truth independently of other people? We project what we want to see in others and the other way around.
We are experts at: describ[ing] a world covered over with all our own projections (Merleau-Ponty 1948).
This piece is a game of finding interpretations and here I arrange the pictures in the hope of evoking something.


The Underpass Installation.

In every space there is a hint of more (Stein 1911).

As soon as I see, it is necessary that the vision […] be doubled with a complementary vision or with another vision: myself seen from without, such as another would see me, installed in the midst of the visible, occupied in considering it from a certain spot (Merleau-Ponty 1948).

The whole project began in my random collection of images, and in this case it was a photograph in which I found an enormous intensity that I wanted to continue working with. It appeared as a tangible and massive gaze that I had managed to catch with my modest compact camera on a summer day when the underpass was in a deep shadow, contrasted to the lush greenery outside. It was interesting how the light and darkness changed in the underpass photographs, at different times of day. The underpass as a place, just like thousands of places in the suburbs and the public housing programs of the sixties, has an ambiguous quality. Originally meant to protect pedestrians from the traffic on a passing freeway or railroad, it has become something uncomfortable and even threatening since this is a place where unwanted encounters, robbery and assaults can occur. The Underpass Installation is an attempt to capture the feeling of being seen and the strange feeling that may present itself when being in places like an underpass, of a social context where some kind of performance is expected.

Thus since the seer is caught up in what he sees, it is still himself he sees: there is a fundamental narcissism of all vision. And thus, for the same reason, the vision he exercises, he also undergoes from the things, such that, as many painters have said, I feel myself looked at by the things, my activity is equally passivity - which is the second and more profound sense of the narcissism: not to see in the outside, as the others see it, the contour of a body one inhabits, but especially to be seen by the outside, to exist within it, to emigrate into it, to be seduced, captivated, alienated by the phantom, so that the seer and the visible reciprocate one another and we no longer know which sees and which is seen (Merleau-Ponty 1948).

By shooting pictures of the underpass at different times during the day I wanted to reconnect to the thought dealing with differences that create individuality, and I once more imagined the photos into a social context, as subjects in a conversation meeting and interacting. This is a recurring metaphor in my work because I want to create confrontation and context rather than image and surface. I want to recreate the scene where you primarily exist in a visual reality that finally creates an experience of being seen.
If I rename this complex of problems and see the images as false fronts where the context turns the individuals into representatives of the self, the room becomes a carrier of time and the now.

In its countless alveoli space contains compressed time. That is what space is for.
(Bachelard 1957).

My work is about the gap between the subjects, the fear of the Other, time and the fictitious shade of reality from the gaze. The gaze and its extent is the main carrier of this mechanical and psychological tug-of-war and all the forces between them.

…the look, refers back to itself (Merleau-Ponty 1948).


Bachelard, Gaston (1958), The Poetics of Space. (English edition: Translated from the French by Maria Jolas, Foreword by Etienne Gilson, New York: Orion Press, 1964. New foreword by John R. Stilgoe, Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.)

Kierkegaard, Sören (1843). Either/or. Vol. 1-II. (English edition: Princ, Univ, Press 1946.)

Kristeva, Julia (1980). Powers of Horror – An Essay on Abjection. (English edition: Translated by Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia UP, 1982).

Lacan, Jacques (1973). The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Book XI. (English edition: Edited by

Jacques-Alain Miller. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1978.)

Lacan, Jacques (1988). Seminar II, The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis. (English edition: 1954-5, S. Tomaselli, C. U. P.)

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1948). The Visible and the Invisible. (English edition: The 1968 translation. Ed. T. Baldwin, Routledge 2004.)

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1964). The Eye and the Mind, in The Primacy of Perception. Northwestern Univ. Press, 1964.

Reeder, Jurgen (1996). Translation by Reeder. Originally from the Swedish edition of: Reflecting Psychoanalysis - Narrative and Resolve in the Psychoanalytic Experience (The Limits of Interpretation).(English edition: Foss, T. (2003). London & New York: Karnac, 2002.)                                      

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1938). Nauséa (English edition: Translated by Lloyd Alexander (New York: New Directions, 1964).

Stein, Gertrude (1911). Tender Buttons (English edition: 1914 )


Deliverance (1972) Directed by John Boorman, writer: James Dickey