Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg (b. 1970, Uddevalla, Sweden) is no stranger to setting up the stage, to revealing and creating the masque itself. From film experiments to set designs to placing others in uncomfortable third-eye, out-of-body scenarios, it is intriguing to resign to the artist's prism of talents—one specifically: moving between and among the fake and real. Dahlberg takes his time with it all; his results are indicative of careful deliberation. He executes an aesthetic ride of 'otherness,' cultivating one's rapport with precise environments and experiences, dissecting Bachelard's 'poetics of space' along the way. Dahlberg embraces muted perspectives and attempts to defy gravity—quite literally, as in his video installation Three Rooms, 2008, a maze of questions and answers, the comfort versus discomfort of absolute erasure.
In Dahlberg's recent exhibition serving as closure for Magdalena Malm's Mobile Art Production, he has configured a new, site-specific sound and light installation, An Imagined City, 2012. With a tendency to overlap art, architecture and film, this work revolves around the central site of an old post office in Stockholm on Nybrogatan 57 undergoing restoration, thereby serving as a transformative site by its very nature. Both the geographic locale and work itself are in continual flux.
Jonas Dahlberg, An Imagined City, MAP - Mobile Art Production, Stockholm, October 1 - December 31; Courtesy of the artist.
During autumn and winter months, Nordic evenings are longer, dark and heavy due to the latitudinal coordinates and approaching Winter Solstice. During the shortened day, An Imagined City focuses on the site’s architectural qualities; at night, the focus shifts to the presence and absence of light and connotations of negative space. Four large square windows, resembling arbitrary chessboard squares, can be seen only at night. These lights cajole one to consider the contrast between placating light and a more accusatory wattage. Structural beams orally express a series of narratives revolving around specific locations, buildings and sites from a cluster of filmic jewels. A black façade becomes a screen, giving observers a capacity to share architecturally-inspired, personal memories alluding to any given city's structural potential. Dahlberg provides fodder for a more active audience—those who dare to venture how spaces can psychologically affect, confuse and mould them.
In addition, on a lengthy black wall introducing the passing saunterer to the installation (it lines the sidewalk), one views a list of already accumulated text references to space on a backdrop—ranging from the classic, the contemporary, and cult films originating from international directors. Another component of this work consists of the artist's invitation for others to contribute to a growing filmic archive of subjective memories associated with specific rooms and spaces appropriated from film scenes for a possible publication. Information on how to contribute to this archive of memories is on Dahlberg's home page.
Some of the artist's previous works are videos highlighting miniature versions of constructed architectural sets—ranging from rural panoramas to cityscapes to interiors which viewers either simultaneously experience firsthand or via avant-garde film techniques. One instance of this type of work exists as permanent installation in Moderna Museet's restroom titled Safe Zones No. 10, 2006. One must reconcile with the layered complexities and contradictions of surveillance; the observer notes Dahlberg's suspended restroom model whilst standing inside the actual restroom or monitored and displayed on a nearby video screen.
Jonas Dahlberg, Tree Rooms, 2008, Three channel installation, HD video, Black and white, Silent, Duration 26:58 min loop, Dimensions 46 Inch LCD monitors, Installed at Gallerie Nordenhake; Courtesy of the artist.
Furthermore, Dahlberg's current exhibition at Göteborg Konsthall, Hall of Mirrors, going on now until January 6, 2013 teases between fiction and reality and emphasizes how much this zone remains Dahlberg's playground. The show includes seven films and a sound work including The Shadow Room, 2011, inevitably serving as partial retrospective for the last decade, 2000-2011. This space illustrates the artist's visual ambitions, offering respite or escape from daily routines and access into a slower, intensified sphere of reflection.
For those with an affinity for theatre and grandiose spectacle, Dahlberg's recently commissioned scenography for the premiere of Verdi's opera of Shakespeare's Macbeth at the Grand Théâtre in Geneva impresses with its translucent white curtains, melancholic shadows and Baroque split stairwell. Dahlberg's creative pursuits remain malleable and receptive to change, steadily flowing in a rising trajectory.
[Image on top: Jonas Dahlberg, Shadow Room, 2011, Single channel installation, HD video, Black and white, Silent, Duration 10:31 min (continuous loop), Projection dimension ~ 4 x 3 meters; Courtesy of the artist.]