Taking cues from the surrounding landscape, as well as Norwegian art history, Brotherus’ latest photobook blends bodies, mountains, and oceans
The jagged coastline of Norway is the longest in Europe, and the second longest in the world. If it were to be unfolded, the length would wrap around the planet two and a half times. The city of Kristiansand sits in Sørlandet, the southernmost tip of the nation, an area known as “the Norweigan Riviera”. Here, the ocean weaves in between fjords, mountains, rocks and snow. In this part of the world, the ocean is a near-constant sight. For Finnish photographer Elina Brotherus, it became the setting for her latest photobook.
Seabound, published by Kehrer Verlag, presents a series of topographical interventions and interactions. Brotherus plays with the boundaries between human form and the spaces it inhabits; she searches for the right moment, and incorporates herself into the image, punctuating the still landscape with her body. But in these photographs, the figure and the landscape are at peace: opposing forms that have found a balanced cadence.
Like many of Brotherus’ past works, Seabound holds strong links to wider visual contexts, especially those found in art history. When she first arrived in Kristiansand in the winter of 2018, Brotherus visited the Sørlandets Kunstmuseum (the Southern Norway Art Museum), searching for historical depictions of the area. In the museum’s 19th-century landscape paintings, she found dramatic, romantic, and intense reflections of the coastline, a style that is echoed throughout Seabound. In doing so, Brotherus ties herself, and her images, into the wider context of Norwegian art history.
As well as the photographs, Seabound also includes writing: some by Brotherus, and some extracted from books written by Norweigan performance artist Kurt Johannessen, who Brotherus describes as her “self-appointed” guide. Seabound’s portraits are inspired by the “instructions” found in Johannessen’s experimental writings: phrases such as “dream of a cloudy sky”, “lost smoke”, and “something is walking under my feet”.
Johannessen, and in turn Brotherus, was inspired by the Fluxus artists from the 1960s and 1970s, such as Yoko Ono. Both Fluxus artists and Johannessen created abstract written guides to instigate new works, making the mind think in lateral, unconventional ways. In the last four pages, Seabound becomes a logbook, documenting two years of packing lists, diary entries, and extracts from both Johannessen and Ono’s writings. These writings intended to push the artist to reshape their thought processes, and in the case of Brotherus, push her photographic explorations into the landscape around her.
Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Photography in October 2020, where he is currently the Editorial Assistant. Prior to this, he studied a BA in History of Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.