Kunsthall Trondheim is proud to present Jonas Dahlberg’s new film installation The Music Box, in what will be his first solo exhibition in Norway. Dahlberg, who has been active internationally for a long time and presented his work at a number of important institutions and biennales, became known for a wider Norwegian and international audience a year ago, when his proposal won the competition for the national 22 July Memorial sites. Dahlberg’s work Memory Wound, which will commemorate the victims of the terror act on the Norwegian island Utøya in 2011, consists, in one part, of a wide cut through a small peninsula close to Utøya, and has been both celebrated and debated. The artist has described the cut as a “poetic rupture or interruption”, aiming at a “sense of loss that will physically activate the site”. Although most clearly expressed in the memorial site work, this sense of an absolute loss which activates or animates a space, can also be said to be at the core of Dahlberg’s oeuvre in general.
Being trained originally as an architect before migrating into art, Jonas Dahlberg has a deep interest in the spatial. Besides commissions for public art works, he has mainly worked with film and more often than not, the films have evolved around different spatialities. The narration is usually limited to a slow camera movement — the camera searches the place, not unlike a surveillance practise (another expressed interest) — with an almost disinterested gaze. Dahlberg’s rooms are empty except for a few objects, but filled with the kind of presence one expects to find in a space before or after the action takes place, a stage-like quality. Not surprisingly, Jonas Dahlberg created a set design for Verdi’s Macbeth at Grand Théâtre de Genève a couple of years back. And in fact, his films, up until now, have all taken place in a kind of staged environment — immaculate built models which has added to the viewers experience of something being not quite right. A gap in the perception and an oscillation between the intensely present and the missing has given these rooms a double character of being unfamiliar and still almost a common experience, places we somehow recognize.
For his new film, The Music Box, Jonas Dahlberg has chosen a different method. This time the room is a more limited and narrow space, and it’s not a model but the inside of an existing object, a music box. The music box was once a gift from the artist’s grandfather to his mother, and has been present in the family home. It’s a small toy, in which pins on a revolving cylinder creates sounds when struck against the teeth of a metal comb. It’s winded up with a key on the back — the image of the turning key measuring the limitations of time resembles the function of an hourglass.
The main part of the installation is a film taking place inside the music box. In an advanced process the mechanism of the toy has been filmed in small sections with different focus points after which all takes have been integrated to one film and movement has then been created in the editing process. The film operates with a deep focus — all surfaces are in focus simultaneously — which creates a hyper realistic imagery, a kind of image the human eye can’t produce or grasp. Somehow blinded by too much detail we are travelling inside the machine, its proportions and directions impossible to comprehend. Like contemporary cousins to the protagonist in Chaplin’s Modern Times we are lost in a cosmos we can’t overlook.
The Music Box has been produced by Konstmuseet i Norr. We are grateful for the possibility to present the work in collaboration with the museum.
Jonas Dahlberg (Sweden 1970) has, among other places, exhibited at Manifesta 4 (2002), Venice Biennale (2003), Bienal de São Paolo (2004), Modern Museum Stockholm (2005), Kunsthalle Wien (2008) and Kunstmuseum Bonn (2013).