Jonas Dahlberg - Untitled (Verical Sliding) (2001)
Friday, December 21, 2007
The work was first installed in conjunction with shows at Index gallery in Stockholm and Milch in London, (2001). It has since then been presented at exhibitions at Marian Goodman Gallery in Paris (2005), Venice Biennale (2003); Pontevedra Biennale (2002) and Centre pour l'image contemporain Geneva (2003) among others.
The projection has the camera descending, elevator-style, past floor after floor, visiting a seemingly endless succession of passageways, each different yet all decorated with the same faintly patterned floral wallpaper. Light--maybe daylight, maybe artificial, it s impossible to tell--seeps from under closed doors, but there's no reason to think anyone's home--or rather, in their rooms, since these liminal spaces most closely resemble hotel corridors.
Appearances, of course, prove deceptive. Dahlberg's sets are architectural models, built to a circular plan, and filmed with a centrally positioned rotating camera--hence the seamless continuity of the installation's footage. What seem to be tracking shots are really ten-minute, 360-degree pans, describing loci that inevitably read as nodes in a labyrinth--a subtly scary one, since its vertical and horizontal extension implies the impossibility of finding an external vantage point. Taking the panopticon as its starring point, Dahlberg's investigation suggests a psychoanalytic appropriation of the panoptic model, revealing the surveying self as itself both self-surveying and vulnerable to surveillance. Might there be hiders in the house, unseen presences behind those half-closed doors and darkened entrances? The camera's full-circle pan becomes readable as a paranoid attempt to watch one's own back. This is territory Dahlberg has charted before, in Safe Zones I: to fetch a sweater, 1996, Spying out the apartm ents overlooking his, the artist found that a gun collector occupied one. Dahlberg calculated the "safe zones" in his own home, paths from room to room that were outside his neighbor's potential line of fire. Following these, he shot photographic evidence of his neighbor's hobby, but also videoed his own convoluted progress through the zones, a fugitive in his own house.
With the reflexive moment of philosophical thought, Cornelius Castoriadis writes, "Things are no longer simply juxtaposed: the nearest is the furthest, and the forks in the road...have become simultaneous, mutually intersecting. The entrance to the labyrinth is at one of its centers--or rather, we no longer know whether there is a center, what a center is." And Umberto Eco observes that multicursal labyrinths (like Dahlberg's) need no Minotaur, because in them one can make mistakes--the visitor's own errors play the monster's devouring role. Dahlberg's labyrinthine experiment, manipulating categories of interior and exterior, serves as an ambiguous model of the philosophizing psyche, its mood delicately poised between lyrical reverie and creeping paranoia.
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