“The partition between the real world and the photograph are nothing new to think about and yet some images refute even the casual link between the two and slip between what we perceive as verifiable and what we know to be the fantastic”
It is not often that I am confronted with work that feels phantasmagoric and yet this year, I have encountered several haunting displays of ephemeral and illusory photography in which the images cater less to a natural grounding of a perceived reality, but instead oppose my reading of their realness for that of the ghostly. The partition between the real world and the photograph are nothing new to think about and yet some images refute even the casual link between the two and slip between what we perceive as verifiable and what we know to be the fantastic. It could be said that the uncanny or the eerie are the dwelling grounds of this phenomenon.
In The case of Geir Moseid’s Plucked (Teknisk Industri AS, 2020), the images within appear at a glance to be a look at domestic life with a soft palette that reminds one of the lives in that we live in familiarity. In one sense it looks as though it were tempting to be a book of relationships or a book about family and home life and yet…there is a whisper to the images. There are people and yet they are obfuscated by shower steam or a deathly wash rag over the face à la David’s Death of Marat. A slow pulse and the stillness of water make me think of an early winter. This winter though is inside the home and the ghosts at the feast have cleared a path from the birthday party table and escaped out the window through the gauze-like blinds into the crepuscular setting sun.
Plucked has the feeling of this winter and these ghosts and yet the whole of it also feels as though perhaps there is a desire to bath its blood promise in the lacrimal tears of former victories. I am reminded of many things and nothing all at once. My references are blinded, left drawing themselves down my cheek and into that same dish of milky tears that Bataille obsessed over with his eggs and his slaughterhouse revisions. There is nothing solid here. Everything here is a reflection, a hall of white mirrors. The walls set boundary to a house of bleached parrafin, the floors dampen the footsteps of children, and an extraordinary para-graphy illuminates an ocean of breeze that blows throughout.
In terms of the title and the design of the book, I keep being reminded of strawberries. The palette Moseid employs oscillates between the ghostly whites with a hint of red registrations. The reds are incredibly subdued and the soft creamy pinkish hue of the design keeps bringing me back to the fruit. Of course, the blood and milk references are also analogous to this color schema. In that, there is also a reference to something that feels like the primary colors of hospitals or the theatrical palette fo the Vienna Actionists, though this is stripped back and bare to reveal a minimal conceptual framework.
Throughout, there are fragments of bodies who shy away from the camera’s gleam. Their image or personhood are obfuscated by tight crops or an implicit act of turning away from the camera. This adds to the ghostly effect. I am also reminded oddly of Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom for reasons undeclared to me. Perhaps the gauze, the cast of fleeting characters and the odd pulse that lies like deathly porcelain underneath the work, undergirding the post-mortem-ness of its imagery. It casts a strangely off an uncomfortable shade of rigor mortis in it’s icy form.
Moseid’s book is severely accomplished for a first attempt. It looks passive at first glance and as you wade through the material over several viewings, the unnatural and eerie feeling becomes more and more prominent. If it does not feel spectral or medical, perhaps there is something more akin to deep slumber in its ability to register the uncanny. It is icy and cold and yet the portraits and the ephemeral scraps of the birthday party give a sense that the ghosts found within Plucked are personal.
There are a few images at the end of the book which suggest an awakening of a long slumber-a hibernation as it were which lead one to understand either the author’s presence or the waking dream or the passing of winter. It is a clever way to remove some of the icy qualities of the book for something more empathetic towards the viewer. That being said, they feel slightly forced. I have little criticism of this to be clear, but I would have preferred the book to be a more congruent solid slab of post-mortem whiteness. This is a purely subjective POV, of course.
I highly recommend this book. It feels like one of those titles that will take some time to percolate and to find its audience, but in time, will potentially be seen as a classic if not one of those illusive bucket list books. Don’t sleep on this. it is a well-considered and strongly edited piece of work ten years in the making and the patience needed to craft this strong of a book as a first offering should be considered as exemplary.