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FRAGMENTS OF REMEMBRANCE

WITHIN THE LANDSCAPE


DISAPPEARING INTO THE PAST

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PARALLEL LANDSCAPES

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HIDDEN PLACES

INDEFINITE SPACES

IMAGINARY REALITIES

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  Astrid Kruse Jensen
Nocturnal Dreamscapes

by Max Houghton


These eerie nocturnal surveillances from Danish photographer Astrid Kruse Jensen’s most recent series of work play with the very idea of reality. Who is the young woman looking upon an illuminated box in a shopping mall at night with a somnambulist’s gaze? Why is she there? Who, or even what, captured this moment?

There she is again, at a bus-stop, hands folded protectively across her lap, and again, staring up in awe at a lamp-post, like a neo-Romantic poet. People are mostly absent in Jensen’s images, save for the occasional visitation from a female character, a latter-day Red Riding Hood who haunts these deceptively placid dreamscapes, where an invisible wolf is always lurking. An abiding sense of menace pervades the jaw-dropping beauty of each nocturne.

’I restage situations I imagine could have taken place in certain locations. What is real? It’s impossible to separate your own subjective reality from ‘reality’. You are always with your own reality,’ says Jensen. And it is in this way that ‘reality’ becomes a kind of doppelganger to reality, with only a set of spectral fright marks to separate the two. We are in the realm of the Uncanny, never quite at ease with this strange species of the familiar played out before our eyes. Although only one series carries the title Hypernatural, it is the thread that binds all her work, as she constructs a world more real than the real.

Jensen speaks of the representation of the real as ’photography’s burden’. While her jumping-off point is always reality, Jensen uses photography as a tool to create fictions. Her long exposures permit more than the naked eye can see, creating layers suffused with meaning. The water, for example, in the geothermically heated Icelandic swimming pools, appears denser than that element should rightfully be. Its newfound opacity may be hiding something,  something that could appear at any moment, breaking the spectral silence, breaking the spell.

From Imaginary Realities to Indefinite Spaces, there is always the sense that Jensen is somehow searching for the end; for what lies beyond. As though in the grip of a death drive, Jensen forces the viewer to confront what might be waiting through the thick trees, or inside the creepy cottage at the forest’s edge. Just like an especially dark Grimm’s fairytale, it is while we are transfixed by a story and captivated by the enduring mysteries of nature that terror strikes. Through her instinctive use of the darkness of night combined with her appropriation of artificial light sources, Jensen manipulates her locations, making nature her very own theatre, subjecting it to the vicissitudes of human emotion. Often, where we would expect black-and-white nightscapes, we find an excess of colour. Yet other images are so dark as to be virtually impenetrable, objects half-appearing as the eye adjusts to the darkness.

Houses and trees are constant motifs in Jensen’s work, representing the constant clash between the artificially constructed and nature, or wilderness. Jensen describes her native Denmark as being ’without wilderness’, something she noticed more keenly than ever on her return from Scotland, where she studied at the Glasgow School of Art. Since then, she has recognised her own quest for a space that no longer exists in her own country, and thus has created psychological spaces for herself through her images, where, like solitude standing, she can luxuriate in a silent world.

The final image chosen for this portfolio is from her latest work entitled Construction of Memories. As we contemplate the red swings hanging serenely from the too-perfect tree, the first thought may be of a joyful May Day dance, a familiar seasonal tradition. Yet the people have long since vanished. Instead we see their fictional nooses. The haunting has begun again.