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Ljóshærðir tónlistarmenn  

Olía á hljómplötuumslög, 2011

Ljósmyndir: Frá sýningu í Björkholmen Gallery, Stokkhólmi: Pelle Bergsten, Heartland Graphic Studio / Ljósmyndir af stökum verkum: Birgir Snæbjörn Birgisson

Myndaröð þar sem fundin hljómplötuumslög með myndum af ljóshærðum konum á umslögunum er breytt og yfirmáluð, allt nema ljóskan sjálf.

 

Blonde Musicians

Oil on LP covers, 2011

Photographs: Installation shots from a show in Björkholmen Gallery, Stockholm: Pelle Bergsten, Heartland Graphic Studio / Photographs of individual works: Birgir Snæbjörn Birgisson

Series, where found lp´s with images of blondes on the cover are transformed, painted over, all but the blonde herself.

 

Verkið var sýnt: / The work has already been shown at:

Studio Stafni, júní 2011 / Studio Stafn, June 2011 (60 umslög / 60 lp´s)

Gerðarsafni, nóvember 2011 / Kopavogur Art Museum, November 2011 (104 umslög / 104 lp´s)

Björkholmen Gallery, Stockholmi,  apríl 2012 / Björkholmen Gallery, April 2012 (171 umslög / 171 lp´s)

Listasafni ASÍ, Reykjavík, sept.-okt. 2014 / ASI Art Gallery, Sept.-Oct. 2014 (120 lp´s)

 

See a Little Light

Looking At, Feeling For and Thinking With

the Works of Birgir Snæbjörn Birgisson

 

Hope. Sure, there is hope, always, right. But hope for

what? For something better and successful? Perhaps,

but not necessarily so. But: there is hope, always

hope for something else, something different, in this

case, something more beautiful. Let me repeat it: for

something more beautiful.

And yes, this more, this increasing, this advancing,

this intoxicating beauty is found in the content of the

works with and within the practice of Birgir Snæbjörn

Birgisson. A practice that is both very specific and

amazingly focused: it deals with not only beauty, but the

beauty of blonde women.

This is then not to be understood as something

objectified, kitschy or plain silly. There is no token,

no formula, but a potentiality, a promise found and

grounded in the everyday life and all the things and

images surrounding it. This is beauty in process – the

hearts and minds on the move, moving in and through

their own groove. This is work in action that takes

seriously the principle of the triple T’s: it translates,

transforms and transmits.

Therefore, the beauty, against all odds, is no longer only

located in the eye of the beholder. It is neither general,

nor generic. It turns into a combination of a personal

take with a common base: it becomes a singularity. It is

situated in and committed to the works, their progress,

their evolvement and emergencies. In clear and simple

words: something that is beforehand neglected is

now altered, changed and turned into something else,

something beautiful.

In the works of Birgisson this “something else”,

something that is more as in more beautiful, can take

the shape of a painting, a sculpture or even a text, a

story painted and told in watercolors. Or: it takes the

shape and make of hundreds of modified LP covers,

an ongoing series called Blonde Musicians, which

started in the year 2011. These are the multiple yet

individual covers of an almost by-passed technology

that represent and promote beautiful blonde ladies in a

wide variety of poses and costumes. Never dirty, never

petty, but always beautiful – in their respective amazing

and strange ways – not to forget: in their peculiar and

hard-won grace.

Can you see a little light here? I thought so, too.

It is a series of album covers that he has been collecting,

found objects, or gathered from the hemisphere of

flea markets here and there and everywhere. That is

the starting point. A cover with a blonde woman – and

then something happens. Then the triple T’s take their

cue. One by one, and constantly in a tightly interwoven

interaction.

First of all, it is translated. Not copied, not imitated, it

is moved from its original context – and it is made into

something else. Before all action is taking place, there

is the translation as in the wish to lift these nowadays

seemingly weird and forlorn objects into yet another

sphere and standard. It is not only about making these

lost and not yet found objects into works of art. It is

more, much more – the act of sky-lifting the inherent

beauty of the covers into the level that they deserve. It

is a deep-seated beauty that contains all the necessary

disappointments, shortcomings and contradictions

of our lives as mixed-up complex personalities, not

as consumed and consulted neat and tidy products.

Its beauty shines so bright precisely because it is

constantly aware of its darker moods and its embedded

temporality.

Certainly, they are and remain album covers. Nothing

there to that, no. But, at the same time, they gain another

integrity, another identity. Yes, another intensity. The

past of the object is clearly and by necessity present. A

past that, I would assume, most of us have contact and

connection with.

These were objects of desire, but of a very mundane

kind. Most of the albums – even if among the over 400

ladies, beautiful ladies in the series there are a handful

of well-known figures from the world of pop music

– depict not the unknown soldier, but the unknown

model, the representative for being blonde, and well,

for sure, beautiful. They were photographed quickly

and cheaply, outside of the limelight, and then used

for the covers of albums that most of the time did not

plan to reach to the top or to be remembered eternally

as milestones in music. They were covers for albums

that were fast and furiously produced for the market as

openly second rate, often furnished with covered hits of

the time by bands that – just like the girl on the cover

– nobody really ever would know anything about. Not

their names, not their wishes, their wants and vanities.

They were there, and then no longer there. But now

they are back. Can you see it, too – the light?

I remember these covers, oh yes I do. I remember

them from my parents’ so-called record collection.

Searching, diving for musical pearls there was a task

that was predetermined not to be a success. But you

still tried, kept on going on – harassed and intimidated

by the obvious contradiction between the content and

the cover, the promise and the not-to-be-happening

delivery.

They remind me of a past that is gone – and also of a time

and sensibility that has certainly nowadays changed. Yet

it is not sticky nostalgia, nor mourning for an imaginary

past where things were pleasant, controlled and cared

for. There is the catch, and the pitch – the connecting of

dots between then and now. It is a bruised connection

that does not break even, but grows either too high or

digs deeper, floating over or freezing under.

Meaning: Did they really look as tacky then as they do

now? Cheap, lazy – even in their semi-sexist take and

texture?

I do not know, but what I do know is that everything is

changed when they are translated as an idea, and made

to move from something to something else – and then

transformed. They are painted over. Carefully, so very

caressingly.

There is a distinguished distance – gained and composed.

An anecdote from Birgisson highlights this move and

movement from the original to the work of art. When

he started the process, he intended to follow a strategy

that would be as accurate and authentic as possible.

Thus, when he began painting the albums, he was, in

fact, listening to the albums themselves – a strategy

that soon proved to be filled with pure agony. Too many

badly covered songs in the molded soundscapes of

cheap production are something no oil paint can reduce

or force to fade away.

Therefore, the distance and the translation, the

movement from there to here was necessary. It is the

move from a silly object to a seriously beautiful work of

art. A work that is both/and, both pretty and, for sure,

ugly. It is a promise of a future with a reminder of its

past, the tracts and the paths of its tears and fears. And

yes: all this achieved in a couple of strokes of oil paint,

with the minimal strategy of making less to become

more, much more.

This is the process where we see the difference. Now

it is what it is – a relic of consumerism from the 70’s

with routes and roots to and from suburbia – and then it

becomes something completely different. It becomes a

celebration, so to say, of the power and ability of the act

of transforming.

What we see, in their newly found re-location, are the

women in their poses, in their summer hats and attires.

They might look coy, or aching in their mission to please,

but they are real. Not lost but found. The setting and

the background are no longer the social imaginary of

the time that has long gone. These ladies, these images

have gained a new time – and place.

For sure, they are what they are. Not innocent, not

naïve. They are objects of desire that serve us well –

and that give us more than we might even be prepared

for. Because as newly established works of art, with

a new touch and style, they raise the stakes and they

become active – they move away from the objectified

passivity and turn into works of art that challenge us.

They challenge us in terms of what we see and what we

remember – how we want to carry on and what we try to

forget but somehow cannot.

All of a sudden the past becomes present, and it cuts like

a diamond, oh yes it does. The shadows of these smiles,

these mental sensitive mountains that are higher than

high and lower than low. It is a series that throws us

off balance and leaves us with an ache. The assumed

cuteness and silliness has disappeared. Instead, what

we have is something that stares back at us. And yes, it

stares hard back at us.

Luckily, there exists a song, appropriated for this

connection and context, that connects the dots. A song

called “Feed the Tree” that bites back and annoys while

it entertains and keeps us safe and sound, wide awake

and willing for more. It is a song by a group called Belly,

an indie band with lead singer and songwriter Tanya

Donelly, from the East Coast of the United States and

making waves in the early 1990’s. Its refrain says what

it needs to say: Take your hat off boy when you’re talking

to me and be there when I feed the Tree.

To repeat: Take your hat off boy when you’re talking to

me and be there when I feed the Tree.

Thus, I believe, we are getting closer and closer. We all

can see a little light. It feels good, it feels great – the

warmth and the empowerment encapsulated in it. And

now, on top of that, we can see that light in action when

it feeds the tree. Oh yes we can. Something is growing,

organically and cleverly.

We can witness and treasure it – when we are lucky

enough to confront these translated and transformed

vehicles of desire in their transmitted environment.

This is a site called the exhibition. We face a wall. A full,

fulfilled wall of beautiful, translated and transformed

women in their transmitted pose and perfection. It is a

wall of pleasure, no pain, but a wall of questions, giveand-

take searchlights for what, where, how and when

– and why not.

The transmission is meticulously performed. The

albums do not hang an inch out of their dedicated

positions. Their internal dance in unison, their choreography

is by their natural character partly contingent,

partly serving the needs of the composition that gives

a chance both for every single one of the album covers

and yes, for the whole as a wall, too.

It is a wall that invites us to be with, to look at, to feel for

and to think with. A beauty that takes and that demands

– but also sends us back again asking for more and

more. For the interaction of the triple T’s: translated,

transformed and transmitted – and returned back to

the action in and through our experiences.

And yes. It is also an invitation to laugh. Not at, no,

never at, but with – to laugh with. With the ladies, the

beautiful ladies, the desired objects that are composed

and distorted, so very helping and hurting, saving and

losing in their inner gravity, in their complementary

greatness.

It is an invitation, especially, to laugh with ourselves,

with all our not-so-tender preys and far-from-perfect

modalities – with the past that becomes present and

exceeds all the boundaries, because it gives us more.

It gives us more light, more energy, more hope, more

beauty to and for where it is needed – to and for the

everyday, the everyday.

 

Mika Hannula