The Black Bay Sequence, 2010, 60 min 12 sec, HD video (Apple ProRes 422), 16:9, silent.
Commissioned by COMMA at Bloomberg SPACE, London, by Bloomberg LP, 2010.The Black Bay Sequence evolves from an earlier series of works called Baigneurs (I, II and III, 2001/2003). In these Brotherus showed unclothed swimmers in the Northern Arctic lakes and the sea. In this new piece we also see a swimmer go into the water, a woman. The title is a translation of the name of the Finnish lake where the work is filmed – Mustalahti.
The film is shown on a loop, although it is not imperative to watch it from beginning to end, as there is no unfolding narrative. Instead it is a study, with the camera placed at a consistent vantage point, of the water and sky, with the horizon as constant back drop. Due to the consistent framing of the image we notice how the weather impacts on the scene. At times the water is tranquil, a flat and reflective surface like a mirror, whilst at other points it is turbulent and becomes unwelcoming and wild.
Brotherus has made the work over a period of time, at different times of the day and night. She has stated: “I often work in the early morning, in the evening or at night when the scarcity of light means long exposure times are necessary. In a sense this means that my photographs are about capturing a period of time, rather than being about the decisive instant.” In some ways this film also operates like this, more like a series of expanded still photographs, rather than a moving image work.
(---) The human figure that appears perhaps has a secondary role to the piece, yet it is key to it. It is as though she is there so that we can gauge the scale of the scene before us. It is due to this placing of a person in nature, as well as her interest in the sublime beauty of landscape, that has led her work to be compared to Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings. He too would strategically place a figure looking out to the scene before them – as a way of commenting on the futility of man’s attempts to shape and control the wilderness. In Friedrich’s work the person would always seem tiny and insignificant, dwarfed and engulfed by the land around them. However in Brotherus’ work there seems more of an equal, symbiotic relationship between woman and nature. It speaks of a fearlessness, and a determination to not only coexist with our natural surroundings but to thrive in it. (---)This work is about the passage of time as well as the beauty of nature and our place within it.
(From Camilla Brown: Elina Brotherus, Comma 27, Bloomberg SPACE, London 2010.)
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