Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Abstract art can certainly fuel one’s imagination. When the main attention of a photograph is more diffuse, that is, not so concrete, we can let our thoughts wander, and we can project our own experiences, wishes, and hopes into what is shown or not shown. When individuals and places are not easily identifiable, viewing “any person” or trying to decipher “any landscape” might make us imagine we are looking in a mirror or observing our own backyard or vicinity.
This is the approach that makes Mimi Svanberg’s photobook so appealing. Bits and pieces she has observed are given a good dose of distancing through risography enhancement, a printing process which I discussed in greater detail in my review of Eroshoot, another volume in this series. Suffice it to say here that the views of Svanberg appear as though seen through screens in a manner first pioneered in the early 20th century by William Mortensen. The resulting alienation effect is like a seance with Franz Kafka: we don’t always know what we are looking at, and transformations seem likely and imminent. The moments observed are not only fleeting, but might disappear at any moment without notice. And most important of all: it is our interpretation that is called on to make some sense of it all. Ambiguity is the main feature of really fine art.
Subjects, objects, scapes here are not at all obvious. Is the lady shown in that image merely resting or is there some threat impinging on the scene? Is that dog relaxing or is there an attack about to happen that we need to worry about? Is that landscape part of a peaceful realm or is there a natural disaster looming just beyond? When does a tree cease being unique so that it becomes a representative of thousands of trees making up a forest? What makes the particular into a generic representation? The images juxtaposed across from each other on each spread are also interesting: we puzzle over connections that might only be implied due to clever curating but are waiting to be given meaning in the imagination of the viewer/reader. Most of the images are printed 18 by 27 cm (7 x 10 ½ inches), which is a very good size to feature the risographic process to full effect.
Mimi Svanberg’s statement strongly supports our impressions: “Fragments is sort of debris from my life, mind and my dreams, moments floating around in a nonlogical way not bound to any place, space or time, every image is a little shard. It is a project about the absence of time, about being everywhere at the same time. It has dark undertones and a dreamy frequency.” Accepting and exploring a fragmentary world that is less than perfect goes a long way toward making us more inquisitive, resistant, and able to navigate these our turbulent times and spaces. Congratulations to Mimi Svanberg and the Bessard team for offering us this project full of the kind of mystery that challenges our imagination.
Mimi Svanberg – Fragments
Photographer: Mimi Svanberg (from Stockholm, Sweden)
Publisher: Éditions Bessard, Paris, France (L’Atelier RisoGraphique n°6); © 2021
Soft cover, saddle-stitched; 21 x 29.7 cm (8.25 x 11.75 inches); 40 pages, unpaginated; limited first edition of 200 copies; ISBN : 978-24-91052-06-5
Photobook Designer: Thibault Geffroy
Artistic Director: Pierre Bessard
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).