Friday, March 6, 2009

Object of Jealous Rage: Loretta Lux

I just got back from a spontaneous visit to Kulturhuset smack in the middle of Stockholm, and I am jumping up and down, redfaced with fists clenched, in a jealous rage.  

Okay, it wasn't totally spontaneous, I knew I wanted to see the Loretta Lux exhibition at some point because I had seen an ad for the show in the local Östermalm paper using this image. Even in its grainy, reprinted state, I couldn't stop trying to get Jan to agree with me that the photo is soooo hauntingly beautiful/disturbing. It is, right? Right? 

And it doesn't disappoint in real life.

But the whole exhibit was full of similarly awesome/creepy images. Like this one

And this one

And this one, which made me realize this wasn't my first encounter with Ms. Lux's work--I had ripped this very image from some other blog to throw into my "Miscellaneous Images" folder a few years ago, something I pretty much never do. But her images just grab you, ya know?

Yeah, see, that's kind of the "problem" with the show. Or maybe the "problem" with effective art: after seeing so many of these images with their hyper-melancholic mood, you couldn't help but leave feeling very...unsettled. And not really in a good way. Like in a "that was so cool but ew, I feel kind of dirty and creeped out for looking at all these kids as hyperaesthetic objects" kind of way. As it wears off, yes, you start to appreciate the fact that art has induced such a feeling, but that's small comfort just as you leave. If twenty minutes makes me feel that way, I can only imagine what a nutjob Loretta Lux must be by now, since she says in a video commentary that she spends about three months on each image.*

Also, Stockholmers, as you run off to see this show, don't forget to pause on the third floor to see Ville Lenkkeri's photo exhibit of scenes from an abandoned Russian mining operation on Svalbard. I was lucky enough to go to Svalbard in July, and seeing these desolate-yet-beautiful images really brought me back there. Scenes of decaying abandonment are not uncommon there, actually, since anything that predates 1944 (er, don't quote me on that) is protected by the state** as the island's "cultural heritage".

*a statement which strikes me as mathematically impossible, considering the number of images in the show
**it's not really governed by a state, actually--an international agreement made in 1920 (er, don't quote me on that) allows Norway to "administer" the island. So everything there is decided by the Governor, leading to hilarious news stories in Longyearbyn's paper that all eventually defer to whatever Sysselmannen says.

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