Rasmus Lanken Ottesen
Birgitta Lund’s photographs depict a world disintegrated where reality in all its forms and aspects – individual, collective, political, personal – is in continuous motion.
The Journey is the leitmotif, the form of travel is nomadic; there is a perpetual, never-ending rhythm between departure, transit, and arrival. Several pictures Lund shot from airplanes, trains or cars. Landscapes, buildings and flickering lights are frozen in the fleeting moment in which they rapidly appear and are almost as quickly gone again. The dynamic of the work lies in the unending desire to move both geographically and aesthetically. The expression is multifarious and marked by displacements, which reflect the constant change of new places and atmospheres that characterize the journey.
In the exhibition Ground Zero becomes the current point from which the process of disintegration unfurls. The photographer’s personal journey also starts in New York City, where Lund lived for 18 years before moving back to Denmark in 2003.
In one photograph taken from an airplane window, Manhattan disappears in the horizon in the early evening light. The harbor and the industrial landscape pass beneath the airplane as the last fragments of New York. The city is depicted in the departure, the very moment before it closes itself behind the traveler. In the same frame is a picture of Copenhagen Harbor. Dark office buildings lean toward the waterfront in a not particularly welcoming gesture. The distinction between home and abroad are dissolved in the two photographs: America closes behind the traveler and Denmark, the country Lund returns to, is depicted as an unknown shore. Together the two photographs reflect the fundamental condition of the exile; the outlandish is everywhere. The traveler exists somewhere in the gap between parting with what she is leaving behind and the exploration of new openings in the country she is returning to.
In another photograph, also from the Copenhagen waterfront, a ferry is illuminated and prepared for departure, reinforcing that the possibility of the journey continuing is constantly present.
Beyond these personal connotations, the restlessness of the traveler is also a sign of the times. The photograph depicting an underground station in Madrid holds several aspects of the timeframe portrayed. Above the deserted platforms and tracks leading into the dark hangs a bird’s eye view image of the illuminated city. This picture within the picture stands as a metaphor for the traveler’s attempt to navigate and orientate herself in a world that constantly fades away into fleeting shimmers of light. At the same time the empty train station stands as a silent commentary on the terror that struck Madrid on March 11, 2004, exactly two and a half years after the attacks in New York. The picture connects the traveler’s own uncertainty with the fear underlying the times.
Along with this fear emerges a sense of the surreal in knowing that the truth is in the hands of those in power, who construct their own image of distant wars through the media. In Times Square, Lund captures the unequal fight for reality: a small but determined antiwar demonstration tries to manifest itself against a consuming sea of light created by neon signs.
In Lund’s work the concrete journey becomes a metaphor for disintegration and departure on many levels. Autobiographical elements intertwine with the timeframe she depicts, both thematically and visually, in her photographs. The traveler steps lightly on Earth and is in constant motion. Simultaneously the pictures become fixed points from which the traveler seeks to orient herself in a world – and a life – in transit.
By Rasmus Lanken Ottesen, historian.
Introduction, exhibition folder, Galleri Image, Aarhus, 2005