Billboard Series #24:
Torbjørn Rødland (NO/US)
Duo for Trio
10/09/2021 — 31/12/2021
Torbjørn Rødland (°1970, Stavanger) depicts our everyday reality in strange ways. He mixes the seductive aesthetics of advertising and fashion photography with the more profound way of image-making of European classical and symbolist painting. The result is ambiguous images that both attract and repel. Rodland’s practice deals with our human existence – with hope, passions, fears, trauma – through layered and charged images for the internet age.
While Rødland’s photography is not conceptual, his work is undeniably informed by conceptual art: his work is an investigation of photography itself. He treats photography as a material, a manipulative medium capable of playing on our emotions. In addition, photography largely determines our reality (just think of how many photos you come across every day in newspapers, on bus shelters, and on your phone).
Torbjørn Rødland often makes use of classic photographic and art historical genres such as the portrait or the still life. He does this however without the research-driven background of the first generation of conceptual artists of the late 60s and 70s, and without the ironic commentary of the subsequent ‘Picture Generation’ artists of the 1980s.
Torbjørn Rødland is first and foremost a maker of images. His images tend to be carefully staged, with great attention to the way the set is constructed, to how the objects are placed, to lighting, to colours, and so on. Rødland’s images do not permit a quick reading. The artist attaches great importance to the layered nature and open meaning of a photograph. He invites the viewer to make personal interpretations but points out that these personal opinions are shaped by our cultural context. Rødland consciously plays on this and makes his pictures in such a way that the references that they evoke sometimes clash with each other.
In concrete terms, this means that Torbjørn Rødland’s photographs evoke the mythical qualities of both contemporary media and art-historical painting. Each viewer reads the image differently, depending on their cultural interests. For example, an art historian will see the work Goldene Tränen as a reference to a crying Virgin Mary, while a teenager who spends her days online watching porn may have a more sexualised reading of the same image.
Images can of course have different meanings that are sometimes contradictory. Images and their meanings are made up of different layers that are embedded in the personal visual culture of the viewer. This is also the case with Duo for Trio, the image Torbjørn Rødland made for our Billboard Series. We see a heavily pregnant woman, or at least her naked belly. In one hand, the woman holds four empty wine glasses, which refract the light falling on her stomach.
Rødland is fascinated by evolving world views and how they colour human perception, either sober or intoxicated. Duo for Trio feels familiar and strange at the same time. It invites us to listen to ourselves and explore unrealized potentials. As individuals and as cultures, what are we brewing on? – how is change communicated and marketed? – and how do we construct and prepare for the next decade?
All images courtesy of the artist
Installation photography: Michiel De Cleene & Adelheid De Witte
Billboard Series is a long-term art project in public space, for which every three months an artist is invited to create a new, site-specific work for a 50 m2 billboard on Dok Noord, Ghent. Through changing presentations, Billboard Series wants to build a sustainable and productive dialogue with the surrounding neighbourhood and urban landscape, reflect on the changes that this neighbourhood is currently undergoing, and introduce a broad audience to different visual languages and ways of looking at the world.
Billboard Series is a project of artlead, together with 019. Billboard Series is curated by Thomas Caron, takes place within a scenography by architect Olivier Goethals, and is being developed with the support of the City of Ghent and the Flemish Community.