Blown out was realized both as a still photograph and a video while I was on a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in San Francisco. The idea came to me when I saw the strange foam that the ocean whips up on the beaches of the Pacific. I placed a bald, shaved man in this froth, with only his head sticking out of the violent waves.
The production was very dramatic and couldn’t be controlled, which eventually turned out to be a good thing. But in spite of the turmoil surrounding him, the man remains calm. The title was borrowed from surfers’ parlance, it is used to describe a situation where the waves are shattered by the strong wind, thus rendering them useless for surfing. Thematically, blown out is about visual weightlessness, a state of being where you can’t relate to any known scale. In the piece, I play on the opposites of large versus small and control versus the unknown.
The Myth of Power
When I saw Maria Friberg’s huge photograph blown out for the first time, I remember how fascinated I was by the poetry and beauty of the image: A solitary, naked man in wild, foamy waters. Even if only his head and shoulders were visible in the whirling water, he seemed strong – to me it was an image of strength and freedom. I wondered whether being in the white foam was as relaxing as being wrapped by feather-light clouds. But at a closer look, I started wondering whether this lonely man in the immense white ocean was joyfully playing in this powerful element, or if he was possibly in danger? Was he fighting to keep his head over water? Was he able to stand on the bottom? After a while, the image began to reveal its scary and darker sides. Was the man in control or being controlled by the strong forces surrounding him? This other side becomes even more visible in the video version of blown out. In the 35-second loop projection, the man is moving in the water in slow-motion. Here, the context and the environment seem to take over even more, even if the man’s face does not reveal any feelings of anxiety or abandon. The large scale of the projection is a very important aspect of this work. The viewer is drawn into and becomes part of this forceful scenery, and gets a feeling of the ambiguity and of how small even a strong man is in relation to the mighty forces of nature. Rusty Freeman called blown out “a powerful and brilliantly simple representation of man versus his context.”
Excerpt from a text by Iris Müller-Westermann, Moderna Museet, StockholmRent this work for public screenings