Reykjavik, Apr. 2011
All events are ruled by the laws of narrative. Some events we incorporate into our own story, reflecting on them again and again as memories and retelling them in the context of a particular time and point of view. Repetition registers events, so to speak, preserving them as part of reality. However, a narrative does not only bow to the laws of the person expressing it but also those of the receiver.
Things shift, events take place in reverse order and the story is created again. A photographer intending to decisively register a time and a place in reality is thus hard pressed to prevent the viewer from filling in the gaps with his or her own imagination. What took place before or after a particular moment? What can be found outside the rectangular frame? In this sense, people either speak of the dictatorship of the viewer or the death of the author. Under the circumstances, it is remarkable that people should generally agree that some things can be defined as reality and others not. Equivocal is the concept artist Katrín Elvarsdóttir uses in her roving between fiction and reality.
The first image Elvarsdóttir shot in the series Equivocal was TV Room; a perfectly straightforward photograph showing the interior of a room, but as a setting it gives free rein to the imagination. The furniture is old-fashioned but you sense this is caused more by apathy than by nostalgia, as the space is not necessarily cosy in the traditional sense. The maple tree outside is also uncomfortably close to the window and bars all view from this gloomy dwelling. This fetching photograph was asking for company and Elvarsdóttir answered its call. Soon, a diverse world of images came into being, based on different points of view within homes, vehicles and institutions. The work came together slowly but surely over the span of a few years, in Poland and Hungary, in Iceland and Italy, wherever Elvarsdóttir came upon the right circumstances on her research journeys. She playfully sought out similar circumstances so that the images might just as well seem to come from the same place.
Elvarsdóttir puts forward the equivalent of time and place, scenery for unrecorded events. To this she adds characters who are introduced as inscrutable participants in a twisted plot. The uncertainty implicit in that which Elvarsdóttir’s images don‘t show makes your hair stand on end. She is forever referencing something that is just around the corner – curtains are pulled and people turn their backs to the camera – there is obviously something we’re not being allowed to see. The home is not shown as a sanctuary but rather a place of secrets and repression. There is a stillness over the images because it appears nothing is happening, but this calm is loaded with tension. The stage is empty and the characters stand passively by. Each photograph is a moment which makes you think about what has just happened or what may happen as a consequence. Is this a state of uncertainty after some momentous event or is it the calm before the storm?
Elvarsdóttir lays out the visible and hidden material in the context of an entire series of photographs. There she opens up the possibility for viewers to connect individual images and fill in the blanks between them. She doesn’t let her fantasy run all over the place, however; on the contrary, she makes use of repetition in a moderate way, as well as references to motifs which echo between the images. Characters are introduced at different times of their lives, but stuck in the same place and even wearing the same clothes. In this work, you sense the circle of repetition, interrupted by the flickering through time. It is almost a dictionary definition of the experience best described as the uncanny: reexperience or déjà vu. The repetition of something based on vague premises, a forgotten or repressed experience, or something that never was but still seems familiar. A repetition that really should not be possible. As the images grow more familiar, the more they avoid making a specific statement. The series begins to describe a lasting state and events which only lack narrative in order to become reality.
The thought of the undefined yet momentous event suggested by the images keeps the viewers in tension on the verge of reality and fiction. Equivocal invites no demarcated meaning or interpretation, any story can apply, no single one is the right one – least of all the one coming from the author.
Reykjavik, Aug. 2008
We are inside looking out. We are outside looking in. A woman in a red coat, a mobile home after midnight, yellow curtains – these are all clues in a fragmented narrative that raises questions rather than provides answers. In the photography series “Equivocal” we witness enigmatic events that we inadvertently have taken part in. Like uninvited guests in a scenario that refuses to reveal whether it is fact or fiction. The fragments combine in multiple ways and force upon us incomplete story lines of an ambiguous nature. Whether we like it or not.
Við erum stödd innandyra og horfum út. Við erum stödd utandyra og horfum inn. Kona í rauðri kápu, hjólhýsi eftir miðnætti, gul gluggatjöld – allt eru þetta vísbendingar í brotakenndri frásögn sem vekja upp spurningar frekar en að gefa svör. Í myndaröðinni Margsaga verð&um við vitni að óljósum atburðum sem við höfum óvart ratað inní. Eins og óboðnir gestir í sviðsmynd sem neitar að uppljóstra hvort hún sé raunveruleg eða skálduð. Brotin raðast saman og þröngva upp á okkur margræðri atburðarrás. Hvort sem okkur líkar betur eða verr.