Description is vandalism
Lina Selander's dark video works, on show in Oslo for the first time, are characterised by a dense layering of images and text.
Interview by Lisa Andrine Bernhoft-Sjødin
Lisa Andrine Bernhoft-Sjødin (LBS): For your first solo exhibition in Oslo, Repeat After Me, you're showing the works Silphium (2014), The Offspring Resembles the Parent (2015) and The Ceremony (2016), all made together with Oscar Mangione. Your films are like poetry, a tapestry of images and text. It's not always clear what binds the images together, and they feed off each other in a very poetic manner. Do you think of your films like that?
Lina Selander (LS): Yes, I do. Furthermore, the three works showing at Oslo Kunstforening I think of as a triology, a kinship I'm very curious about. What characterises these works is that the constant layering of images isn’t always predictable. Putting these three works together in one show makes them unpredictable in relation to each other as well. The installation is fifty percent of the whole body of any given work I do.
LBS: How do you mean? Does the editing process continue into the gallery?
LS: Exactly. Editing is an essential part of the work. It's the montage of images that drives my films forward. Once they enter the gallery, the process of meta-montage starts. The overall choreography of Repeat After Me at Oslo Kunstforening is a zigzag form, where each film is shown on diagonal transparent screens, so the films bleed through the screen, creating both a reverse image and a further projection on the opposite wall. The three films are separated from each other in adjacent rooms with a doorway leading from one room to the next.
LBS: So the structure of the installation does not only gestalt the layering within the films themselves, but also between the works. Are they synchronised?
LS: No, and that's just it: they're like a glockenspiel, manifesting time and history in different relations depending on when one's watching.
LBS: Their physicality, their presence in the room marks a particular moment, a particular juxtapositioning of the images and events you're presenting.
LS: Yes, the viewer's presence becomes part of my works in a way that underlines the volatility of time and history that exists in our memory. The meta-montage creates unexpected abysses and sudden bridges. Furthermore, my films reflect on and read each other, and when shown together become each other’s critics.
LBS: Memory is important to your work in general, and Silpium (2014) connects memory to money by way of the goddess of memory Mnemsyne, which later translated its value and wording to that of money. The Offspring Resembles the Parent (2015) shows horror images of emergency bills from German hyperinflation of the 1920s and The Ceremony (2016) explores the fantasy of history and memory. How does memory relate to its representation through your chosen medium?
LS: It's a strange time we're living in. It's as if we don't need memory any more, now that our technologies have taken over the task of remembering. We see our world through our technology, and the story the image is telling dims the more intimate interpretation. The image is the event and the negative is the unbroken connection between that event and us. But what is an image? It's purely time and light, right? Representations depend on their specific place in history, and how they're remembered is also dependent on their circumstances and their emotional ties to their specific moment. There's no way we or the camera can inject one image with every single implication of a moment.
LBS: Still we try and fail.
LS: Yes we do. I think of the editing act as a political act: it reaches in and reassembles, re-reads a moment in time.
LBS: By reassembling and adding both archival and your own material you're creating an unstable relation to the stories you're telling – they become emotionally difficult to read and with that many images in one setting, are you concerned about overexposing the viewer to them?
LS: Well, that may well be, though I do think that time is key. The films are quite long, and giving the images time provokes a reaction and a counter-reaction in the viewer that questions their initial prejudice about the subject or the object in front of them.
LBS: I've also noticed that there's a great deal of silence in your films, and when the audio comes on it feels fundamental to the image, regardless of whether it's the sound of a park or your voiceover.
LS: My works have become more and more silent. In many ways, I feel the image has replaced speech. Silence creates its own form of concentration, where speech would be far too leading in terms of processes of thought. Sound is very spatial, creating a now to climb into. That being said, silence is also sound and the question of sound leads us back to my editing process, because the editing, the composition of the films, has replaced sound; it's in the editing that the musical act is unveiled.
At the same time, the voiceover is also a positioning of the artist – it's important that it presents a point of view, that it's female, that it's not an imperial accent, etc. – simply put, that it's not articulated from some official or priviledged position. Because sound creates a minute and emotional now, one becomes acutely observant of what one’s experiencing.
LBS: A momentary anchoring.
LS: Forever assembled and re-assembled.
Lina Selander is a Swedish video artist, who has shown her work in both group and solo shows, internationally and nationally, including representing Sweden at the 56th Venice Biennale, 2015. Repeat After Me is showing at Oslo Kunstforening in Oslo until 26 February 2016.