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Jesper Nordahl

A small group of drunken men enjoy themselves at the beach. Bare-chested, they stagger along. Most of them have short hair or shaved heads. The most beefy of them all lies on the sand. He has a mighty beer belly and is wearing nothing more than wet underwear. Two other grab his arms and pull him like a stranded whale behind them. He pulls himself together, leans on someone else’s shoulders and picks up an empty vodka bottle in order to throw it in the air.

A younger man took the beefy guy’s shoes. They wrestle for the shoes and both fall to the ground. When they start to get up the younger one jumps on the beefy guy’s back. He carries him a few meters by pick-a-back, before they both fall to the ground again. The game is repeated. Finally, the beefy guy crawls forward on all four. The other strides his back and let himself be carried. The video ends when the men disappear between the dunes.

Jesper Nordahl was a chance witness to this bizarre scene. He filmed the men from a hidden spot without being noticed. The recordings remain uncommented. They are a matter-of-fact documentation of an everyday occurrence. There is no need to process the filmed material. The men’s behaviour, itself, is already sufficient staging.

This is the paradox Nordahl’s video shows to the best advantage. On one hand the men’s behaviour seems to be absolutely spontaneous. They do not know they are being filmed. They are completely drunk and totally uninhibited. Altogether, it proves that the happenings in front of the camera can be perceived as completely unstaged. On the other hand, it is also noticeable that the men’s behaviour follows clear rules.

Jesper Nordahl’s video clearly displays that the use of corporeality between men is by no means the expression of supposed naturalness. The video illustrates that seemingly spontaneous body language is also part of the role a man is assigned within the hierarchy of a group. Nordahl shows that male bonding is not much more than (homo)social pieces of theatre.

/Text by Jan Verwoert and Sören Grammel. Text originally published in catalogue ‘videonale 9’, Bonn 2001. 

Keywords Body
Aspect ratio 1.33:1 (4:3)
Prod. format Generic SD-video
Duration 00:05:22
Color Color
Year 2000
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About the artist

Jesper Nordahl

Jesper Nordahl (born 1969) lives and works in Stockholm.

Through video and various media his work address social and political issues where gender and knowledge production are central. Nordahls work has been shown internationally, including exhibitions at Shedhalle, Zurich; Index, Stockholm; Artists Space, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Grazer Kunstverein, Graz; Colombo Art Biennale, Colombo; GIBCA, Gothenburg; Galerija Umjetnina, Split. Nordahl graduated from The Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm in 2000 and participated in the Whitney ISP in New York in 2006-07.