by Helene Boström

Turn Down Center Line
by Timothy Persons

Heredity and Environment
Arvet och miljön
by Niclas Östlind

Playing With Realities and Realities In Play
by Charlotta Nordström

Turn Down Center Line
by Jenny Rosemarie Mannhardt

by Frida Cornell

Freedom as Insight into Necessity
by Urs Stahel

On Tartan Tracks
by Helene Boström

Ground Rules (english)
by Katrin Hiller von Gaertringen

Vänd rätt upp
› Turn Right Up
av Milou Allerholm

Ground Rules (english)
Ground Rules (svenska)
by Joa Ljungberg


Swedish artist Pernilla Zetterman’s series When is an intense visual study of behavioral patterns, performance, control, and discipline and how they form identity. Using a powerful battleground for identity making, the home, Zetterman explores how a behavior act as the grammar for a language to be studied and learned, taught and passed down to future generations.

The photographs are taken in the homes of three generations of women: a daughter, a mother, and a grandmother. Unlike Juergen Teller’s unabashed narcissism in his family exposés, Zetterman’s scenes offer nothing sensational or far-fetched but instead concentrate on the everyday and ordinary, or apparently ordinary. She zooms in on the most intimate details of the homes: Decomposing lettuce in a refrigerator. A shiny night guard. A lock of baby hair. A black handbag overfilled with used tissue paper. A moldy bathroom. Starched white sheets in precise rows in a linen closet. Rotten fruit. Zetterman juxtaposes the clinically clean home with the chaotic, messy one down to the smallest detail and seems to be searching for clues into just what behavior will be learned or inherited. The still-lifes are precise and perfectly lit, as if photographed under a microscope in a laboratory. Contrasting these single images with two triptychs of daughter-mother-grandmother’s stomachs and feet, she changes to another kind of photography; the kind that can be found in medical books. (Are we looking for a disease? Is it a hereditary one?) But the triptychs also bear qualities similar to John Coplan’s nude self-portraits; they are exposed, raw, vulnerable, without any trace of self-aggrandizing.

The journey Pernilla Zetterman takes us on in this series of photographs, through the familiar details and smells of the home, is an exploration into ways in which identity is negotiated and shaped through discipline and behavior. Zetterman continues on this investigating path of identity making in her other series but shifts the location from the privacy of the home to more public arenas: the menage (equestrian culture) and the stadium (track and field).

Helene Boström
Writer and owner of the bookstore Konstig in Stockholm.Text for the “Magazine Exit – Womens Gaze”, (September 2017)

Turn Down Center Line

Turn Down Center Line is a journey through Pernilla Zetterman’s personal reflections in her search to find the voice at the core of her being. She leads this quest through her own language from a world of self-induced silence. No small talk or unnecessary niceties fill in the blanks on this walk. It’s the visual anthology of a woman in pursuit of being heard.

Photography was the medium Zetterman chose early on as a means of communication, using the camera as a mode for observation towards a new consciousness, as Roland Barthes describes it in Camera Lucida. I remember seeing an old photograph that Zetterman took of her grandmother when she was around seven years old. The portrait was cropped, leaving only the body without the head. In a sense, this perfectly describes the quiet world Zetterman chose to live in. Hers was a place transfixed by what was observable. A personal vernacular without any borders. She created very specific disciplines to help her in organizing and controlling those elements that made up her daily habits. Running and riding are good examples of how she utilized her innate sense of authority over the cause and effect of her actions. Whether it be circling a track or cutting and combing an animal’s hair, Zetterman used these acts and then countless repetitions as a way to insulate her identity.

The objects she collected that were used for these individual exercises became the markers by which she defined her life. It wasn’t the object as much as the devotion to it that created this closeness of disjointed trust through the process of repetitive doing. No one will ever know how seventeen years of muted conversations will wear upon the essence of a young woman’s future. The images in this book have been edited to reveal patterns that emerge and disappear, exposing expectations that carried unseen consequences. Zetterman’s dreams project a consciousness that she abstracts from her photographs, inspiring us to use our own memories as a bridge to find new ways of interpreting a language without words. Turn Down Center Line isn’t an end or farewell but a beginning where Pernilla Zetterman embraces her life, counting her blessings until they become the foundation of her hope.

Timothy Persons
curator and director of Gallery Taik Persons. Text for the monograph “Turn Down Center Line”

Heredity and Environment

Photographs in family albums are confusingly similar. Apart from the standardised appearance, there isn’t a lot of difference between the events that call for the camera to be brought out. It involves social occasions that one wishes to photograph for posterity. Both formal and more casual moments with family and friends, as well as trips and other excursions, provide the pictures’ context. Everyday life however is seldom portrayed. With the help of these photographs, you can calmly study and compare people’s appearance, in a way otherwise not allowed. That’s when specific characteristics can be seen between family members, and these traits vary in a way that always shows, simultaneously, kinship and unique combinations. This all takes place in the visible, tangible world, but there are aspects that evade photography’s registration. At least, at first sight. Families are also bound together by inner dispositions that characterise the individual’s actions and relations. For better or worse, those ties are often very strong.

How heredity and environment shape us as people is a prominent theme in the art of Pernilla Zetterman. A work from 2005 depicts the back of a photo frame, the kind put on drawers or TVs – before they became flat screens. The frame is photographed in a white, shadowless light, which more than anything else makes apparent those thin brass tabs that hold the whole thing together. Of the photograph in the frame, we know nothing at all, except that we have seen similar pictures before. With a conspicuous objectivity, Pernilla Zetterman succeeds in portraying, here and in other works, the transference that takes place from older to younger generations in a family, which can only be felt indirectly. The personal is political and, in these works, class and terms related to becoming a woman are strongly present.

Stay, the exhibition’s title, can vary in meaning depending on intonation: either conveying an appeal or an urgent request. There is a duality that contributes to the emotional charge of the video of the same name, where two hands carefully caress each other. They are the hands of a man and a woman. Both appear elderly and through the never-ending movement their long-worn wedding rings soon catch the viewer’s eye. The title, Stay, has a most concrete background, which is both present in the works and acts as a point of entry to the entire exhibition. Certain forms of yoga help develop an ability to endure pain. Using tried and tested methods, the senses can be controlled to alleviate the suffering of pain. The instinctive impulse to flee is suppressed and replaced by the will to stay in the experience, thereby disarming and managing it. This is a collaboration between mind and body. Practice makes perfect and a recurrent element in Pernilla Zetterman’s works is the abrasive repetition that exists in prolonging the practice. The desire to perform and the need for control are two driving forces that she repeatedly portrays. However, this time, there is a more conciliatory stance – characterised by a method that fends off the compulsive streak.

Photography and memory are intimately linked. Even faded and colour-deteriorated pictures can recall moods and awaken recollections of places, occurrences and people, which have long since been forgotten. Or, as could be the case, never would have been remembered if it weren’t for the pictures. All the works in Stay are being exhibited for the first time and in one of the series, Hand in Hand, amateur photographs from the 70s are the point of departure for a narrative on sisterhood. The pictures show two girls – one somewhat older than the other – clearly posed for the photograph and looking directly at the viewer. It is however difficult to distinguish between the various pairs of sisters participating in the project. In front of the camera, to a certain extent, we become pictures even before the split-second exposure. Postures and expressions are adapted to the conventions of photography, through which a levelling effect takes place. But there is also a temporal displacement and despite being taken in the present day, the photographs convey a sense of the time that has passed. The relationship between then and now is also found in the five pictures: Locked Front Door, No Questions No Answers, Own Will, Someone Closed and Sit Tight. This time there are no originals from the family album, instead they are based on childhood memories, made crystal clear through the staging. An interpretation whose conciseness becomes an active way to stay in the experience and emotion.

The nature of photography in registering traces and impressions has given the medium a unique position as a truthful witness. There is a risk however that the documentary ideal not only exposes, but also disguises a multifaceted and perspective-based existence. Pernilla Zetterman has, in a fruitful manner, seized fiction’s possibilities to convey more than immediately meets the eye. However, traces of a more definite form are present in the exhibition through the used and crumpled tissues, which have been cast in plaster and placed about the room. Fragments that bear witness to a corporeal state and emotional stress. The work has a predecessor: the picture Contents of Mother’s Handbag (Behave 14)  from 2005. In such a manner, there is an alternation between various forms of expression and a number of movements between picture and object, as in the video with the spinning white porcelain horse. It is a souvenir from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, famous for its dressage programme that reaches a phenomenally high standard. Placed opposite each other – the tissues in one corner, the riding school’s discipline in the other – a precipice open up. But with her works, Pernilla Zetterman creates an arc from one side to the other.

Niclas Östlind
Curator and doctoral candidate at the Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Text for the exhibition “Stay”, Norrtälje konsthall, 2012

Arvet och miljön

Fotografier i familjealbum är till förväxling lika varandra. Förutom det standardiserade utseendet skiljer sig inte tillfällena när kameran tagits fram nämnvärt åt. Det handlar om sociala händelser som man vill föreviga. Både högtidliga och mer uppsluppna stunder när släkt och vänner samlas, men också resor och andra utflykter är sammanhang som bilderna vittnar om. Vardagen gör sig dock sällan påmind. På ett sätt som annars inte låter sig göras kan man med fotografiernas hjälp ogenerat studera och jämföra människors utseende. Då ser man att det finns specifika karaktärsdrag som förbinder medlemmarna i en familj, men att dessa egenskaper varieras så att det alltid uppstår på samma gång besläktade och unika kombinationer. Allt detta utspelar sig i den synliga och gripbara världen, men det finns sidor som undandrar sig fotografins registrerande. Åtminstone vid första anblicken. Familjer är också sammanlänkade av inre dispositioner som präglar individernas handlingar och relationer. På gott och ont är styrkan i de banden ofta stor.

Hur arvet och miljön formar oss som människor är ett framträdande tema i Pernilla Zettermans konstnärskap. Det finns ett verk från 2005 som föreställer baksidan av en fotoram av den typ som placeras på byråer eller teveapparater – innan dessa blev platta skärmar. Ramen är fotograferad i ett vitt och skugglöst ljus och mer än något annat ser man de tunna flikar av gulmetall som håller ihop det hela. Om det fotografi som inramas vet vi inget säkert förutom att vi har sett liknande bilder förr. Med en iögonenfallande saklighet lyckas Pernilla Zetterman gestalta, här och i flera andra verk, de överföringar som sker från äldre till yngre generationer i en familj och som endast indirekt ger sig till känna. Det personliga är politiskt och i dessa arbeten finns en stark närvaro av klass och kvinnoblivandets villkor.

Stay, eller på svenska stanna, är den aktuella utställningens titel och beroende på betoningen får den ett vädjande eller ett uppfordrande anslag. Det är en dubbelhet som bidrar till den laddning som finns i videon med samma namn och där två händer ömsom smeker ömsom håller fast varandra. Händerna hör till en man och en kvinna. Båda äldre och i den aldrig avstannande rörelsen fångar snart deras länge burna vigselringar betraktarens uppmärksamhet. Titeln Stay har en högst konkret bakgrund, som både är närvarande i verken och fungerar som en ingång till utställningen i sin helhet. Inom vissa former av yoga utvecklar man en förmåga att uthärda smärta. Med beprövade tekniker gör det förnimmande subjektet sig allt mindre styrd av den plågsamma känslan. Den instinktiva flyktimpulsen hålls tillbaka och ger vika för viljan att stanna i upplevelsen, som därmed kan avväpnas och hanteras. Det är en samverkan mellan kroppen och medvetandet. Övning ger färdighet och ett återkommande inslag i Pernilla Zettermans arbeten är den nötande upprepning som finns i övningens förlängning. Begäret att prestera och behovet av kontroll är två drivkrafter som hon återkommande gestaltar. Denna gång finns dock en mer försonlig hållning – präglad av en metod som parerar det tvångsmässiga draget.

Fotografi och minne är intimt sammanlänkade. Till och med blekta och färgförändrade kan bilderna återkalla stämningar och väcka hågkomster av platser, händelser och människor som vi för länge sedan glömt bort. Eller, vilket också kan vara fallet, aldrig hade kommit ihåg om det inte vore för bilderna. Alla verken i Stay visas för första gången och i en av serierna, Hand i hand, har amatörkort från sjuttiotalet varit utgångspunkten för en berättelse om syskonskap. Bilderna föreställer två flickor – den ena något äldre än den andra – tydligt uppställda för fotografering och med blickarna riktade mot betraktaren. De olika syskonparen som deltar i rekonstruktionen är dock svåra att skilja åt. Framför kameran blir vi i en viss mening bilder redan innan exponeringsögonblicket. Hållningen och anletsdragen anpassas till fotografins konventioner, som därigenom får en utjämnande verkan. Men det har också skett en tidsförskjutning och trots att de är tagna i dag framkallar fotografierna känslan av den tid som flytt. Förhållandet mellan då och nu är närvarande även i de fem bilderna: Låst ytterdörr, Inga frågor, inga svar, Egen vilja, Någon stängde och Sitt fint. Här finns dock inga förlagor från familjealbumen, utan fotografierna bygger på barndomsminnen som iscensättningarna skänkt en glasklar prägel. En gestaltning vars pregnans blir ett aktivt sätt att stanna i erfarenheten och känslan.

Fotografins karaktär av spår och avtryck har gett mediet en särställning som sanningsvittne. Risken är dock att det dokumentära idealet inte bara avslöjar utan också döljer den mångbottnade och perspektivberoende tillvaron. Pernilla Zetterman har på ett fruktbart sätt tagit vara på fiktionens möjligheter att förmedla mer än vad som omedelbart möter blicken. Spår i en mer handfast form finns dock närvarande i utställningen genom de förbrukade och hopskrynklade pappersnäsdukar som är avgjutna och utplacerade i rummet. Fragment som vittnar om kroppsliga tillstånd och sinnesrörelser. Verket har en föregångare i bilden Content of Mother’s Handbag (Behave 14) från 2005. På detta sätt växlas mellan olika uttrycksformer och det finns fler rörelser mellan bild och objekt, som i videon med den snurrande vita porslinshästen. Det är en souvenir från Spanska ridskolan i Wien som är känd för dressyrprogram på en närmast ouppnåelig nivå. Ställda mot varandra – papperstussarna i hörnen och ridskolans disciplin – öppnar sig ett bråddjup. Med sina arbeten spänner Pernilla Zetterman en båge från den ena sidan till den andra.

Niclas Östlind
Curator och doktorand vid Akademin Valand, Göteborgs universitet. Utställningstext till utställningen “Stay”, Norrtälje konsthall, 2012

Playing with realities and realities in play

The works of Swedish artists Anna Kleberg, Julia Peirone, Helena Blomqvist and Pernilla Zetterman

Working with photography in art inevitable means taking a conscious grip around perceptions of reality. This never suggests that all photography strive in the same direction, consciously or unconsciously. Instead the possibilities of twisting, turning and extending our minds through the use of photographic images are endless. There is an urge for the viewer of photography to discover what is lost- to recover some kind of hidden reality. This urge exists despite our awareness of historical and social constructions by systems of codes in representation. With this in mind, I would like to present four Swedish artists born in the 1970’s who question the our relationship to the photographic image as a mirror to reality.

Swedish artists Anna Kleberg, Julia Peirone, Helena Blomqvist and Pernilla Zetterman have all earned wide recognition in Sweden and internationally. This article points out a few elements, which make their imagery prominent and important for the Swedish art scene. Ranging from strict documentary imagery to surrealistically manipulated pictures, from nostalgia to subtle horror and displacement, the worlds represented in their art stretches existing concepts of surrounding environments.


Pernilla Zetterman lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden. She studied photography in Sweden and Finland and is as much part of the Finish art scene as the Swedish. Zetterman participates with her work in the well-reputed project The Helsinki School and the touring exhibition, “Photography and Video NOW” during 2010.

In her first monograph published in 2010, “Behave”, Pernilla Zetterman presents two of her photographic series; “When” and “Ground Rules”. In “When”, Zetterman studies three generations of women and part of the series is photographed in her grandmother’s home, her mother’s and her own, where she turns inside and out of objects found in the very near environment of each person. The sense of closeness makes a connection between Zetterman’s different series of work. In “Ground Rules”, she zooms in on the track and field athlete in a similar way as the women in ”When”. Carefully and with a strong, investigating gaze, Zetterman takes close-ups of details that are important in the shaping of different identities. The complicated relationships between distance and closeness, discipline and tenderness find a balance as well as a tension in Zetterman’s images. This creates parallels between the mother-daughter relationship and the athlete’s sense of knowing his or her body. The same can be said about her representations of equestrian culture in the series “Close”. The viewers of these photographs are lifted into worlds where integrity is greatly valued and high achievement lies in finding the key to controlling your own or someone else’s body. In the series “Grammar”, Zetterman turns to bodies and letters as signs to explore questions of language, communication and codification. From a study of dyslexia she has used word combinations and reproduced them through screen-printing and the use of dancers bodies.

Zetterman’s images have a documentary notion about them, but they are presented as a mixture between fact and fiction. The possibility of objectivity is ruled out in her imagery and replaced with exposed deconstructions of reality.

Charlotta Nordström
Department of Art History, Stockholm University
Excerpts from the text originally published in Studija, Visual Art Magazine 77/2011

Turn Down Center Line

The work of Pernilla Zetterman is characterized by an intense exploration of topics such as human control, discipline and the exertion of power. The photographs of the series “Close” result from her personal experience and deal with equestrian culture and its associated cultural codes. Using close-ups Pernilla Zetterman shows the details of the bodies of horses and riding utensils. The study of conflicting emotions is the starting point as well as the central idea of the series. The antagonism becomes apparent in her images which depict the contrast between love and closeness, represented in the close-ups of the animals, and seeming coolness, represented in the still lifes of the riding equipment. Equally, the title of the series “Close” implies the ambivalence of a relationship that may oscillate between intimate closeness and reserved dissociation.

The intimate relationship with another being – human and animal alike – is marked by a conflict that has become the central idea of her work. The video work “Close” reveals the knowledge that the borders between sensations such as intimacy and distance, submission and dominance often blur. In her film “When” the artist refers to the narrow line between strict self-discipline and compulsive self-control when unceasingly swinging the tool intended for controlling the animals above her own head.

Pernilla Zetterman was born in Stockholm in 1970. Her work has already been shown in many renowned exhibitions throughout Europ e. Recently, her art was presented at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in the course of the exhibition “Helsinki School – On Top of the Iceberg” and at the Helsinki City Art Museum in the group exhibition “Helsinki School – Photography and Video NOW”. The first monograph of the Swedish artist was published by Hatje Cantz Verlag in 2009, with an accompanying text by Urs Stahel (Fotomuseum Winterthur). 2004 Pernilla Zetterman was awarded the Victor Fellowship Award of the Hasselblad Foundation.

Jenny Rosemarie Mannhardt
Text from the exhibition “Turn Down Center Line”, Gallery TAIK, Berlin, 2011


In a static experience of time, there is a protective shield between now and then. It is clear what is what, and where in the flow we find ourselves and where we are heading. Sara Appelgren’s, Pernilla Zetterman’s and Johan Willner’s works places us in more unsecured territory. The imagery in their art mediates a dynamic “now”, a synthesis of both unity and manifoldness- memories, longing and future. Together, their images build a platform for different narratives and individual voices of expression. What connects them is the feeling for time and space.

In Johan Willner’s series “Boy Stories”, memory-fragments are joined together to create a new reality. The staged framing reflects the composed memory, i.e. what he today imagines himself to see, very much influenced by the present. The large format camera with its almost unnatural clarity appears paradoxically with a precision we often find when revoking mind-images. It is often said that recollections are vague or hazy, but just as often that feeling or event stands out with a surprising clarity.

The sensations of taste, smell, sadness or happiness, exactly what it looked like, what we said or what we did. It can haunt us or we choose to treasure the image tenderly, wishing it would never change. Johan Willner wants to reconstruct the remembrance with preciseness, almost like a manic ritual, recreate and move on. What actually happened is of subordinate significance.  Pernilla Zetterman also experiments with time, but plays with notions of togetherness, aging and control, instead of fragments. In a close study of her grandmother’s home and belongings, she suddenly finds the origin of her mother’s self as well as her own. Three generations of women are represented through the everyday objects that surround them. Within the strict order in the grandmother’s home, the mothers untidiness is confronted and is found interlaced, and often in shaky balance, with the artist herself. The series “Behave”, focuses on the details, investigates them coldly, almost scientific, searching for similarities and differences. In the illusory documentary pieces, the inheritance trickles through, time that has past, a common history, a self-portrait appears.

The experience of the performative “now” plays a bigger part for Sara Appelgren’s art. The last few years she has worked with different kinds of scenography, with theatricality constantly present, although in an ambiguous and quiet version. In her images, it’s not always certain what is stage and what is reality. The series ”Stage: Within”, shows ten portraits of people in a dressing room, moments before they enter the stage. Deeply concentrated faces look right past us – they are watching their own reflection – and express in their suspense a presence, what just happened and what is about to happen, in an unexpected alliance. The artist projects time into space, it becomes physical, we can almost touch it, the moment so closely bound in time and at the same time it’s approaching the future.

Together, or individually, the reading of works by these three artists, opens up to further thoughts and associations. Their images nourish each other, and rupture the given time frames while they keep their integrity to engage with the private.

Frida Cornell
Freelance curator and writer. Text for the exhibition “Tidslighet”, Galleri Format, Malmö, 2010


I en statisk upplevelse av tiden är det skottsäkert glas mellan nu och då. Det är tydligt vad som är vad, var i flödet vi befinner oss och vart vi är på väg. I Sara Appelgrens, Pernilla Zettermans och Johan Willners konstnärskap rör vi oss i andra, mer osäkra marker. I deras bilder förmedlas ett dynamiskt nu, som en syntes av enheter och mångfald – minnen, längtan och framtid. Tillsammans utgör deras bilder plattform för olika berättelser och enskilda röster. Det som förenar dem är känslan för tid och rum.

I Johan Willners bildsvit ”Boy stories” fogas minnesfragment samman till en ny verklighet. Den iscensatta inramningen speglar det sammansatta minnet, dvs. det han idag tycker sig se, i allra högsta grad präglad av nuet. Storformatkamerans nästan onaturliga skärpa gör att varje detalj framträder med en precision som paradoxalt nog många gånger återfinns i det vi erinrar oss. Man säger att det blir så vagt eller dimmigt, just det man ser långt tillbaka, men lika ofta framträder den där händelsen eller känslan med en överrumplande tydlighet. Förnimmelsen av en lukt, smak, sorg eller glädje, exakt hur det såg ut, vad vi sa eller gjorde. Det kan plåga oss eller så vårdar vi bilden ömt, vill inte förändra den. Johan Willner vill rekonstruera hågkomsten exakt, nästan som en manisk ritual, återskapa och gå vidare. Huruvida det var vad som faktiskt skedde är av underordnad betydelse.

Pernilla Zetterman laborerar också med tiden, men snarare leker hon med begrepp än med fragment. Begrepp som samhörighet, åldrande och kontroll. I en närstudie av mormoderns hem och hennes tillhörigheter finner hon en plötslig resonansbotten i sitt eget jag och i sin mors. Tre generationer kvinnor återgivna i de vardagliga objekt som omger dem. Den strama ordningen i den gamla kvinnans hem möter moderns slarv och finner sin fusion, och inte sällan sin tvetydliga balans, hos konstnären själv. Serien ”Behave” fokuserar på detaljerna, undersöker dem till synes helt krasst, nästan vetenskapligt, likheter och skillnader. Men i den skenbara dokumentationen sipprar arvet fram, tid som förflutit, en gemensam historia och fram växer ett självportätt.

Upplevelsen av det performativa nuet spelar en större roll hos Sara Appelgren. Sedan flera år arbetar hon med en sorts scenografier, det teatrala finns ständigt närvarande, om än i en dubbelbottnad och nedtonad tappning . I hennes bilder är det inte alltid säkert vad som är scen och vad som är verklighet. Bildsviten ”Stage: Within” visar en serie porträtt på personer i en loge, ögonblicken innan de går upp på scen. Djupt koncentrerade ansikten tittar förbi oss – de betraktar sin egen spegelbild – och förmedlar i sin spända förväntan det närvarande, det föregående och det kommande i en ohelig allians. Konstnären liksom projicerar tiden i rummet, det blir fysiskt, vi kan nästan ta på, känna detta ögonblick så förankrat i tiden men samtidigt så inriktat på det som ska ske.

Tillsammans eller var för sig, läsningen av de tre konstnärernas bilder öppnar till vidare tankar och kopplingar. Än berikar de varandra, spänner bågen och skjuter oss rakt igenom de givna tidsramarna, än drar de sig undan och undersöker egensinnigt det privata.

Frida Cornell

Frilansande curator och skribent. Utställningstext till utställningen “Tidslighet”, Galleri Format, Malmö, 2010

Freedom as Insight into Necessity

Pernilla Zetterman’s The Night Guard neither shows a militia in the seventeenth century under the leadership of Captain Frans Banning Cocq, as depicted in what is perhaps Rembrandt’s most famous painting, The Night Watch, nor does it show the permanent electronic surveillance and comprehensive network the American Lewis Baltz compiles in his novel contemporary history photograph, the twelve-part, twelve-meter-long mural Ronde de Nuit. And yet the focus of the photograph—from an external to an internal, penetrating vigilance—is correct: Pernilla Zetterman begins her book Behave with an image of her nighttime mouthguard, which is supposed to prevent inner unrest from manifesting in teeth grinding. Looking at this instrument, one is tempted to diagnose a shift from the external vigilance of the front of the house to one within the house, accompanied by a far-reaching regulation of one’s own insides, a fusion of individual/physical with psychical control mechanisms. Although that might be somewhat too quickly and facilely argued. Yet there is also this special light which causes the scene, or better yet, the thing, to shine magically in its darker surroundings. “Photographic seventeenth century” comes to mind as a paradoxical exaggeration. Pernilla Zetterman photographs the mouthguard using directed lighting similar to that adopted by Rembrandt and Caravaggio. The object glows in the darkness and radiates from out of itself. This lends it an unheard-of magic. Thus, Zetterman photographs in the best tabletop-photography manner and causes the object to radiate as though it were the new Audi Quattro, the holy grail of bodily stability, or the key to the unconscious. The blue tint gives it a coolness that we only know today from advertisements and surveillance. The mouthguard becomes highly ambivalent, an “internal” horseshoe, and a glistening crystal at the same time.

Turning the page, the next photo shows a seated figure, dressed in light colors, photographed from the side and cropped closely by the camera frame in an almost violent manner so that neither the head nor the lower legs and feet can be seen. This draws our attention directly to the crossed arms and the overly long sleeves knotted behind the back. The figure is tied up in the manner we have come to know from images of psychiatry patients who are being pacified and subdued. At the same time, the figure does not appear contorted but rather sits upright, almost studious. Rigorous, monastic, dressed in fresh, white cotton, it appears to be saying “Yes”, as in the title. One is tempted to add an exclamation mark, since here it appears that someone has brought herself to exclaim “Yes!” with chastened determination. As with the mouthguard, this image is also ambivalent in its meaning. It connects and reverses external force and internal pressure, freedom of choice and insight into necessity.

Both pictures are simultaneously reduced and symbolically invested, thereby developing leitmotifs for the entire book. They introduce the subject that the following images develop in a concentrated visual narrative. They formulate the fundamental rules that the subsequent images live by. They are like doormen to the book, the first visualizations of the title, Behave. This visual language, which peels objects out of their contexts, is only brought into play again in the concluding portion of the book, in the series Ground Rules.

Following this “spectacular” prelude, the mood changes. It becomes lighter, calmer, more deliberate and everyday—or so it seems. All the same, the unspectacular picture Grandmother’s Photograph appears intended to say something fundamental once more. We observe the photograph of the title from behind and see how painstakingly it has been framed. The photograph and protective glass are held by two clips on each side. A fold-out stand supports the frame in the desired position. However, we don’t see the picture. What is shown is the stage of life; we look at it from behind; we see the background, the construction of the stage, some props and features, some of the scaffolding of life. Similarly, in Giotto’s frescos in the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, we look at the cross from behind, at its suspension, its construction. Pernilla Zetterman is playing with themes of ambivalence this time, with the ambivalence of seeing and not seeing. The triptych Everything is Fine #1-3: Grandmother, Mother, Daughter follows: three photographs that concentrate on three pairs of feet and legs in sparse settings—the legs of chairs, feet, floors. One is tempted to say: naked chair legs, naked floors with naked feet. As in a didactic play by Bertolt Brecht, three generations are shown, their attempts to make a fist out of a foot, to roll in the toes, and to thus control themselves so openly, to behave, is passed from generation to generation. The picture of determination that could almost be (mis)understood as genetic.

Then the light wrapper on a slightly darker surface, a photo that has never been shown before, so the title tells us; then a wad of paper on a light backdrop; an ordered stack of opened envelopes (the peacefulness of the picture is disturbed by the sharp jags of the envelopes, which have been torn open with a finger); the view out of a window through a transparent plastic bag which has been washed and hung up, still wet, with clips. An equally poetic and constricting image, a view outward, a vista which simultaneously threatens to seal itself off from the inside again. Then mother’s handbag, a dark bag placed on the floor, with countless wads of little papers pouring forth; a white power strip with cable, bound together with thread, and finally the image of perfectly ironed sheets, meticulously stacked in a wardrobe. A light, solemn picture containing the repetition of embroidered monograms, an image that appears to speak about great purity, about the attempt to maintain virginity, purity, throughout all the years of life—even if only in the carefully ironed and sun-dried bedclothes.

Taken together, these photographs speak about order and attempts at order, about control and domination as a principle of life. An invisible ruler runs through these works, which not only seems to order the things but also always moves up and down the back as a cringing reminder, an admonition, that we should go through life standing upright, with a straight back, goal-oriented and unerring, and that we should never leave the house in a mess. These photographs appear to be speaking about the part of identity that we call conditioning: the prescribed identity, which imprints itself like a scar, the formatting we go through in childhood, which we then confirm or question as adults. Life: trimmed, polished, combed, and folded, unless it resists. In the sheen of the parquet flooring, the rigidity of life is reflected.

In the images that follow, the picture space opens up; it appears to stretch, to allow for perspective. As though it is expanded by the factor of time. The rotten banana peel on a light, patterned table cloth; later, the image of an apple that has gone bad, again photographed within a reduced picture space, show an individual piece of fruit on a surface, highlighting time through the traces of spoilage. Two views, on the other hand, gaze past potted plants and curtains into wide-open space, through the window into a wistfully experienced passage of time: faded lettuce in a see-through vegetable drawer; signs of use on, and beneath, a keyhole, and on a shower stall, upon which the teeth of time gnaw; the blue monochrome picture of a ribbed washcloth; the triptych of the white, fine bellies of women (Grandmother, Mother, Daughter) that symbolize kinship as much as aging. All these photographs equally deal with time, visualize transformation in time, passage, at the same time attentively following the traces of time. Meanwhile there are ongoing signs of order and clarity—stacks of newspapers, stacks of photographs, stacks of photo boxes—which now, in the process of reading the images and the succession of photographs, gain something compulsive, as though ordered, packed, and cleared away in order to confront time, to hold back the progression of things—or they are at least legible as part of a dense, ceaseless system of self-assurance. A last image, taken at dark, the gaze directed at the asphalt, wet from the rain, through which a black crack cuts like a meaningful line, casts a gloomy shadow on the previously viewed images, on the patterns of behavior represented in them. It seems intended to emphasize the abyss, which is only subtly and lightly and almost unnoticeably manifest in the series of pictures, Everyday Walk. The title mitigates the image by emphasizing the everyday quality and aggravates it through the remark that this all happens daily. No pause, no avoidance is possible.

A series of pictures follows that can best be described as a suite, as a short, closed form. The photographs are again as pared back to the essential as at the beginning of the book. White lines appear to slowly emerge from memory, from time, from the snow, and appear in the following as lanes on a running track. White on red, paint on Tartan track. Diverging and converging lanes. Then the photographs appear mostly in pairs: two arms and hands, one closed, the other open, two (self) portraits of the artist in the stance of the steely athlete who always has the goal in sight. The images are consciously composed, constructed; they are intended to communicate freedom and force, love and hate, breeding and accomplishment. The suite of images is titled Ground Rules and it comes across like an alphabet, a set of ground rules to be followed if one wants to improve, to prevail over oneself, if one wants to be victorious. The lines, however, trail off; they break rank or form a heart. They take on a life of their own, the fetters come undone, the cage bursts open, the lines are now abstract and form new possibilities.

Pernilla Zetterman operates a camera that constricts the viewfinder, that so clearly extracts individual objects out of the continuum of the visible world that the images sometimes appear almost constructed, staged, partly choreographed. The eye seeks out those things that have a certain meaning, orders them so that they begin to speak about behavior. Yet never so loud and defined that the visible is exhausted, so that we no longer presume that beneath these visible signs lies a depth, an ultimately fathomless world of determination perhaps, self-determination, inheritance, and conditioning. The artist precedes and re-enacts these small choreographies with pictures that are far more symbolically loaded, which show the way like street lamps, determine the direction, stake out the field, and open the game. The visual-thought-game which entices questions such as “How much homeland, how much family can we stand/do we need?” “How much formatting can freedom tolerate?” “How many railings does our freedom need so that we can enjoy it without fear?” “How much good behavior is necessary, and when does it become a burden to us, or abnormal?” Questions about the regulation and choice of identity, a fragile relationship that must constantly be re-assessed.

Urs Stahel
Curator at Museum Winterthur in Switzerland. Text for the monograph “Behave”, 2009

On Tartan Tracks

Swedish photographer Pernilla Zetterman’s first monograph, Behave, is an intense visual study of behavioral patterns, performance, control, and discipline and how they form identity. Using two powerful battlegrounds for identity making, the home and the sports arena, Zetterman explores how a behavior or a sport acts as the grammar for a language to be studied and learned, taught and passed down to future generations–of daughters or athletes.

The opening series, When, is taken in the homes of three generations of women: a daughter, a mother, and a grandmother. Unlike Juergen Teller’s unabashed narcissism in his family exposés, Zetterman’s scenes offer nothing sensational or far-fetched but instead concentrate on the everyday and ordinary, or apparently ordinary. Neat piles of newspapers.
A moldy bathroom. Starched white sheets in precise rows in a linen closet. Rotten fruit. Zetterman juxtaposes the clinically clean home with the chaotic, messy one down to the smallest detail and seems to be searching for clues into just what behavior will be learned or inherited. The still-lifes are precise and perfectly lit, as if photographed under a microscope in a laboratory. Contrasting these images with two triptychs of daughter-mother-grandmother’s stomachs and feet, she changes to another kind photography; the kind that can be found in medical books. (Are we looking for a disease? Is it a hereditary one?) But the triptychs also bear qualities similar to John Coplan’s nude self-portraits; they are exposed, raw, vulnerable, without any trace of self-aggrandizing.

Zetterman leaves the familiar details and smells of the home and ventures out into an expansive, man-made landscape where it is possible to rebel and victoriously defeat any fixed presets. The final series, Ground Rules, is comprised mostly of Tartan tracks. In the first photographs, the tracks are snow-covered and the lines that separate the lanes are barely visible. But gradually, with each photograph, the individual lanes become more defined, until the distinct borders that separate people/competitors are finally revealed. The rules of training and competition are precise and clear. Yet the large gatefold panorama of a track expresses something more complex: on the one hand, constraint and imprisonment, and on the other, vast, borderless, utter freedom. The sporting arena is more than a site of performance and anxiety, of winners and losers; it is another location of discipline and identity making.

The journey Pernilla Zetterman takes us on in Behave starts with the smallest and most intimate details of the homes and bodies of three generations of women and moves to the anonymous public sports arena. She uses both locations–places that evoke a sense of rigid conditioning–to explore ways in which identity is negotiated and shaped through discipline and behavior.

Helene Boström
Writer and owner of the bookstore Konstig in Stockholm. Text for the monograph “Behave”, 2009

Ground Rules

Pernilla Zetterman’s photographs are based on her private life and are often balanced with conflicting feelings. In her latest series Ground Rules, the starting point was her own experience as an athlete. Zetterman returned to the sport arenas where she once, when young, trained and competed. She used her former training as a track and field athlete as the backdrop for investigating issues of performance, control, motivation and regimentation.

The red tartan track with its white painted boundary lines form paths to follow and move in. They suggest the spirit of competition, but also the boundaries and rules within which performance is strictly measured. In works like “Line 1” or “Line 2” the camera re-enacts the subjective perspective of the runner and shows her limited field of vision. The result is a reduced and cool formal vocabulary that puts only as much on view as is absolutely necessary to formulate the theme.

Along with these almost abstract compositions, two self-portraits are also part of the series. In the first one, the torso, ready and set to go, is reserved, solid and focused. The figure wears a vest equipped with weights to raise her physical performance. The vest looks like a heavy yoke as well as a protection against outside threat. The second self-portrait is characterized by integrity and composure. Here our perspective is drawn inwards; there time for perception, afterthought and reflection is granted.

What do rules mean? What happens when we keep to them, and what when we break them? In reflecting on these questions, Ground Rules demonstrates the narrow line that separates concentration from dispersion, performance from excessive demand, security from confinement.

Katrin Hiller von Gaertringen
For the publication “Helsinki School Vol.3 – The Helsinki School Young Photography” by TaiK, 2009

Vänd rätt upp

En ung flicka håller i en longeringslina. Men det är inte en häst hon manar på, utan en annan flicka. Med piska och muntliga kommandon driver hon henne kontrollerat runt runt runt i manegen.

Scenen är tagen från Pernilla Zettermans (f. 1970) video Vänd rätt upp från 2002. Det är en enkel och laddad bild som lyfter fram det gränsland mellan lek och disciplin som ridkulturen förkroppsligar. Precis som flera av hennes arbeten tar den sin utgångspunkt i det personliga och privata. Tidiga upplevelser från uppväxt eller barndom får fungera som språngbräda för mer övergripande formuleringar.

Första gången jag såg konstnären arbeten var vid ett ateljébesök på Konstfack 2001. Där visade hon en svit fotografier med detaljer av hästkroppar och de instrument vi använder för att tygla och styra djuren: sadlar, tränsel, skygglappar. Detaljbilden är ett effektivt medel, och här frammanade den både en känsla av igenkännande och avstånd, ett slags verfremdungeffekt. Med säker hand dekonstruerade Pernilla Zetterman schablonbilden av ”ridtjejen” och tillät en rad komplicerade och motsägelsefulla tillstånd att komma upp till ytan.

Flera av Zettermans arbeten har kretsat kring frågor om kontroll och självkontroll, hur vi formas som människor. Ser vi på den unga flickans relation till hästen handlar det inte bara om att bemästra. Det är också en relation präglad av närhet och beröring, av behovet av omhändertagande. Verken handlar alltså inte om disciplin i enkel bemärkelse, utan lyfter lika mycket fram den lust och de mekanismer som fungerar som drivkraft.

Det är en aspekt som är grundläggande också i Ground Rules, den konstnärliga gestaltning som Pernilla Zetterman gjort för kth i Stockholm. Verket består av en serie fotografier som löper längs en lång korridorvägg i en ombyggd foajé. Första anblicken är anslående: rakt innanför dörrarna hänger två stora fotodiptyker där konstnären fotograferat linjerna på en löparbana. Varje diptyk består av två spegelvända bilder, där de vita linjerna konvergerar och formar strama eleganta mönster.

Strax till vänster syns ett fotografi med en blåklädd kropp. Bilden är beskuren strax före huvudet, bålen är klädd med en viktväst, en sådan som används för att höja det fysiska motståndet vid träning. Rörelsen är hård och sluten, som om kroppen väntade på att ta sats. I en bild vid väggens andra ände, på andra sidan om de två stora diptykerna med röda löparbanor, har kroppen liksom stannat upp och vänt sig mot betraktaren i en koncentrerad rörelse.

Projektledaren Joa Ljungberg beskriver den träffsäkert i en folder till verket: ”Hon sträcker ut sina armar mot betraktaren i något som både kan avläsas som en värjande gest – hit men inte längre – men också som ett försök att återvinna kroppens mjukhet och flexibilitet. Integritet och lugn präglar denna bild. Här riktas perspektivet inåt, det finns tid för förnimmelse, eftertanke och reflektion.”

Närbilderna på löparbanornas linjer binder ihop gestaltningen formmässigt, men är också av högsta vikt för den ”berättelse” som utspelar sig. Miljön på högskolan varit en viktig inspiration, ”en miljö där visioner och kunskap möter konkurrens och uppoffringar”, som konstnären formulerar det. Bilderna för tankarna till tävling, men också till utstakade banor och regelverk. Verket är kontextspecifikt också i den bemärkelsen att det formmässigt anknyter till platsen. Också genom rummets arkitektur, som med stora öppna glasfönster öppnar upp för en dialog med den närmaste omgivningen. Banornas tegelröda färg – de är fotograferade på Stockholms stadion strax intill – speglar den omkringliggande arkitekturen, och bildernas format löper diskret i samklang med den låga byggnaden.

Jag tänker på några av den amerikanske konstnären Ed Ruschas målningar från sent 1990-tal, där han minutiöst avbildat något som liknar vanlig gatubeläggning med ett rutnät av bemålade gatulinjer. Intill varje linje står ett välkänt geografiskt namn från Los Angeles urbana nät: ”Hollywood, Sunset, Santa Monica, Vine”. Ruscha för upp bildens illusion och den geografiska hänvisningen till en och samma nivå i bildens yta. Det är fantastiska verk i sin enkelhet. På en och samma gång en bild av något fysiskt konkret och en abstraherad kartbild, där frågan vad det är man ser sätts i gungning på ett intrikat sätt.

Men det finns en skillnad mellan Ed Ruschas gatulinjer och Pernilla Zettermans löparbanor. Om Ruscha på ett utpräglat sätt intresserar sig för bilden som språk – liksom de föreställningar ett namn eller en form väcker – som ser jag hos Pernilla Zetterman mer ett försök att gestalta ett tillstånd, ett psykologiskt rum. I de två mindre fotografier som inramar gestaltningen är perspektivet på löparbanorna taget med ”subjektiv kamera”, sett ur betraktarens perspektiv. Som om man blickade ner i marken strax innan startskottet går. Här sker en identifikation med det som utspelar sig i verket, betraktaren bjuds in i hela händelseförloppet. Samtidigt går linjerna ihop på ett närmast hallucinatoriskt sätt, framställningen rör sig mellan dröm och bokstavlig realism.

I verkligheten är ”linjerna” som dirigerar våra liv osynliga. Men precis som i bilderna föreställer man sig att de bildar mönster som konvergerar och förändras beroende på blickpunkt. Ground Rules är en kärnfull gestaltning av teman som återkommit i Pernilla Zettermans arbeten: prestation, kontroll, motivation, disciplin, både på ett kroppsligt och mentalt plan. Men också om kampen att bli sedd, finna lycka. Att tänja på kroppens gränser. Här kan jag möjligen fundera över om bilden med personen som bär en viktväst i själva verket gör helheten väl övertydlig. Hade helheten tjänat på att få förbli mer abstraherad?

Men västen är inte bara en tyngd, den kan också ses som ett skydd. Det är viktigt att påpeka. På samma sätt är det grundläggande att fotografierna av löparbanorna är så vackra, att man försjunker i deras elegans. Man kan läsa verken som en gestaltning av ett helt samhällsklimat, av meritokrati, tävling och hets. Men om inte det förföriska och hisnande perspektivet i löparbanorna hade funnits där hade allt fallit platt. Dit vill jag, tänker jag när jag blickar in i bilden.

I sin text ”Postskriptum om kontrollsamhällena” skriver den franska filosofen Gilles Deleuze: ”Många ungdomar kräver i dag egenartat nog att bli ’motiverade’, de kräver återigen praktiktjänstgöring och permanent utbildning; det är deras sak att upptäcka vilka syften de därmed underkastas, liksom den äldre generationen en gång, inte utan smärta, upptäckte vad disciplinerna syftade till.” (Översättning av Sven-Olov Wallenstein i Nomadologin, Skriftserien Kairos, 1998)

Denna hårfina skillnad mellan att motiveras och formas till att tjäna andras syften framträder som den starkaste delen av Ground Rules. Verket handlar som jag ser det om hur vi som individer internaliserar ett sätt att tänka som ligger inbäddat i hela vårt samhällssystem. Vi riktar piskan mot oss själva. Och vi gör det med nöje.

Milou Allerholm
skribent, text till Statens konstråds katalog #36/2007

Ground Rules, 2006

KTH – Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm
Installation with color photographs

“Control and focus, with the motivation to attain a decided goal. Secluded in a system, in your body. Going around in circles, sometimes in the same footprints as others, without your own guidelines.” (Quote from the sketch description)

Artist, Pernilla Zetterman, has installed a photographic exhibition in the newly established entry and foyer to the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. The work of art takes a distinct grasp of the entire space but can also be viewed from the outside, through the glass façade towards the courtyard.

It is a blue clad, headless figure that leads us into the art work. The body is reserved, solid and focused. It’s ready to move. The character wears a vest equipped with weights to raise the physical performance. The vest looks both like a heavy yoke and appears as protection from outside threats – a coat of armour to shut out the surroundings.

The other parts of the art work unite photographs from Stockholm Stadium’s red clay running tracks. The typical white painted boundary lines form paths to follow and to move within. They suggest the spirit of competition, but also the boundaries and rules that clearly measure the performance.

The photo series ends with a strong physical mark. The white clad character does not seem to be on the path to anywhere, but has returned and stopped. She stretches her arms out towards the observer in something that can be read as a defensive gesture – here but no further – but also as an attempt to regain the body’s softness and flexibility. Integrity and calmness characterize this picture. Here the perspective is drawn inwards; there is time for perception, afterthought and reflection.

Pernilla Zetterman has, in her work for The Royal Institute of Technology, allowed herself to be inspired by the students’ daily struggles, attempts and their being constantly judged. The artist works with issues surrounding performance, control, motivation and discipline, both in a physical and mental sense. “Is the road worth the toil, or is the toil where the value lies?”

Joa Ljungberg
Project manager, National Public Art Council, Sweden

Ground Rules, 2006

KTH Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan Stockholm
Installation med färgfotografier i entré till hörsalarna F2 och F3

”Kontrollerat och fokuserat, med drivkraft att nå ett bestämt mål. Sluten i ett system, i sin kropp. Runt i cirklar, ibland i samma fotspår som andra, utan egna riktlinjer.” (Citat ur skissbeskrivningen)

Konstnären Pernilla Zetterman har installerat en fotografisk gestaltning i en nyetablerad entré och foajé på KTH i Stockholm. Konstverket tar ett tydligt grepp om hela rummet men kan även betraktas utifrån, igenom den glasade fasaden mot teknologgården.

Det är en blåklädd, huvudlös gestalt som med sin rörelse leder oss in i verket. Kroppen är sluten, hård och fokuserad. Den tar sats. Gestalten bär en väst utrustad med tyngder som för att höja den fysiska prestandan. Västen ser både ut som ett tyngande ok och som ett skydd mot yttre hot – en rustning för att stänga ute omgivningen.

Konstverkets olika delar binds samman genom fotografier från Stockholms Stadions röda löparbanor. De typiska, vitmålade gränslinjerna bildar banor att följa och röra sig inom. De inger associationer till tävlan, men också till riktlinjer och regelverk, till tydligt mätbar prestation.

Bildsviten avslutas med en stark fysisk markering. Den vitklädda gestalten tycks inte längre vara på väg någonstans utan har kommit tillbaka och stannat upp. Hon sträcker ut sina armar mot betraktaren i något som både kan avläsas som en värjande gest – hit men inte längre – men också som ett försök att återvinna kroppens mjukhet och flexibilitet. Integritet och lugn präglar denna bild. Här riktas perspektivet inåt, det finns tid för förnimmelse, eftertanke och reflektion.

Pernilla Zetterman har i sitt arbete för KTH låtit sig inspireras av studenternas vardag präglad av ansträngningar, försök och bedömning. Hon har arbetat med frågeställningar kring prestation, kontroll, motivation och disciplin, såväl på ett kroppsligt som mentalt plan: ”Är vägen mödan värd, eller är det i mödan värdet ligger?”

Joa Ljungberg
Projektledare, Statens konstråd