»Landscape with winter bathers«                                                                                                                                                                                             Svenska

Nothing less than the encounter between the human body and the elements, i.e. a kind of basic research towards the primary and foundational corporeal, physical and sensual experiences of human existence – most often articulated in tandem with an intimate and manifold relation to fundamental geometrical forms – are at the core of Dan Lestander’s art. Follow the encounter between the skin, the naked body, and water, ice, air in the evo- cative and painfully beautiful video »Dreams and Wishes«. Trace exchanges among the elements themselves as in the confrontation between water – here in the form of ice – and fire in the performativesculpture »That’s Life My Friends«. Or meet the symbolic capacity of one particular element as in the snow sculpture »Landing Strip for the Heavens«1. All of the above exemplify and stage bodily engagements in a kind of theatre of the elements, an ingenious examination of the internal properties and dispositions of the elements.

Nature, from an affiliated perspective, ought also to be recognized as an active commissioner in the art of Dan Lestander. The majority of the photographic works, video pieces as well as stills, take place in nature, or in an environment with few cultural or urban indicators. Also Lestander’s sculptural works and performances are charged through both aesthetics of natural forms and applications of natural materials. Crisp and simplified forms of nature or landscapes. Materials such as granite, snow, water, ice, steel. And, as said, expressed as elementary geometric forms – the sphere, the circle, the rectangle.

All this could perhaps be described as a concrete and specific geographical, or even geopolitical, parameter. Dan Lestander lives and works in Luleå in northern Sweden. His art has a solid platform in the environment, nature and climate offered by this particular geographical identity: The light, the euphoric light and its journey towards the white nights of summer. And, most of all, the winter with snow, ice, the cold, kamos – the remarkable light of the winter. Plus, not the least, the contrasts: light, darkness; heat, cold.

Lestander’s art is in addition altogether performative. Each video registers a considered staging of a specific event. Photographs retell moments from carefully directed activities, cautiously and precisely choreographed incidents played out in front of and caught by the camera. Tableaux and stages are installed and employed (sceno- graphy is yet another element in the multidisciplinary art of Dan Lestander); most video pieces performing in a fertile borderland between fiction and reality, where phantasy and document smoothly intertwine, where real- time is used or simulated, a feeling of ongoing time, of events and stories without a pause, a retake, a break.

Also many of Lestander’s sculptures are performative, temporary, transformative; four-dimensional sculptures or sculptures which are processes as much as they are objects: »Atlantis« changes according to weather, wind, circum- stance; »Mirror of the Water« and »Reflection« involves, through the same mirror thematic, all of its environment in the sculpture itself, eliminating the border between work and context; in »That’s Life My Friends« the artist allows welding flames to work on a cylinder of ice, a method which introduces unpredictability, and a work which expresses itself and is realized differently each time it ́s produced.

The current cycle of works (Dreams and Wishes, Breath, I’m Watching, Embraced, Slowly Reviewing and Mind your Head) by Dan Lestander is characterized by having the winter landscape and winter condition as the common denominator and leading thematic. Snow and ice, the cold, the social practices and rites of winter, especially the act of bathing in a hole in the ice, are all articulated in a series of filmic and photographic works. »Breath« puts forth a quiet yet sensual boxing-match with the element of water as challenger, manifested in all its three forms: ice, water, and vapor. The protagonist of the video »I’m Watching« overtake the role of the viewer; a calm investigative gaze is issued by a man immersed in the water in an ice-hole, introducing the beyond, allowing the stage to expand: What is the position of the viewer? What is it that the camera does not see? In the playfully cruel »Mind Your Head«2 winter-bathers are surprised by snowmobiles. And in »Slowly reviewing«3, the winter-bathers’ extended session is the occasion of a narrative, recalling a beautiful, complex and bitter-sweet relationship.

The central piece in this suite of works, the irresistible and enchanting »Dreams and Wishes«, a work which is film, sculpture and performance all at once, adds a ritual, magical or utopian tone to the examination of winter. Here is an ice-landscape, a frozen lake or an ocean bay, with ten rectangular holes taken up in the ice, following a balanced yet asymmetrical composition. Out of the water and out of each hole in the ice, in intervals of harmonious irregularity, emerges a person, women as well as men, exposed to the face and shoulders, which in one exhalation turn to song, a sounding note which just as rings on the water spreads across the winter landscape; a wordless tone charged with feelings of liberation, euphoria and longing. After the exhalation has been performed, the note issued, there is an inhalation and then into the water and under the ice again. But then the individuals are also swapped. The next emer- ging figure in the same hole is another person. And this choreography invites the viewer to a landscape underneath the ice, a remarkable image of bodies diving, swimming, and navigating under the ice. And this exhalation, sent out across the ice, this border between the ocean and the sky, is not much different from the Buddhist ohm or the aum from Hindu- isms, the syllable which when pronounced is said to be the source of the birth or rebirth of the universe.

Jan-Erik Lundström


1  Landing Strip for the Heavens was produced in collaboration with artists Jan-Erik Falk and Ricky Sandberg.

2  Mind Your Head is a collaboration with the composer Anders Lind.

3  Slowly reviewing is a collaboration with poet Mattias Alkberg.