The unknown adventurer*

This is the continuation of my previous posting...
 Baga Gazryn Chuluu, 1929 I (2012)
C-print
125 cm x 190 cm
Image courtesy the artist

In her photographs, the most intriguing aspect is how Tonje uses landscapes as the ambience for mythical journeys.  One certainly does not feel that he or she needs to physically be there to feel the dynamic of natural forces versus one's own inner strength. And that dynamic between the two forces is never at odds but rather complementary with the sense of impatient harmony.  For both must rely on each other in order to preserve their own biography for the present and in history. 


Bayanzag 1931 I (2012)
C-print
60 cm x 90 cm
Image courtesy the artist

Baga Gazryn Chuluu, 1929 II (2012)
C-print
125 cm x 190 cm
Image courtesy the artist
Within each photograph there tells a story of its own.  What I like about Tonje's images is the little small details that they each present through the cinematographic compositions.  While the grand landscapes describe the vastness and their endless possibilities for long journeys of explorations.  Yet the details of the fine grains of sand, the tiny specs of dirty on the mountains and of course, the figures all remind us of how the vastness is made up of little transformations with the passage of time and the patience of nature. 

This series is called Brev fra Monglia (1927-1937) or Letters from Mongolia (1927-1937).  Like the previously mentioned piece, it also has a text accompanion consisting of a fascinating tale of an adventure in Mongolia.  This one reads a little more auto-biographical as the center character is also a photographer as well as an relentless explorer.  The story opens like a personal diary with folklore-like description of far-away places and the exotics of a foreign custom. 

 Bayanzag 1931 II (2012)
C-print
60 cm x 90 cm
Image courtesy the artist

"When I arrived in Ulan Bator for the first time, I stood near the long river banks of Khatun Tuul, known as the Queen River. It was spring and the banks were green. I looked to the city on the other side of the river. An eagle sailed over me, and as I followed it with my eyes, then I turned back to the river and the city. In front of me revealed itself a landscape that separated itself from the rest of the valley. The shrubs and trees seemed to reach for the sky. On the journey I had seen trees that once fought against the harsh climate.  With their gnarled branches, low and depressed treetops. It spread over the woodland as well as the ornamental shrubs apparently effortlessly reaching into the sun with the birds that sang. From the sky there had not one drop of rain-fall for forty days.

Between the trees I glimpsed a palace. As I approached the palace's main gate it closed. I saw lamas in purple robes and yellow hats carrying buckets of water. All high-ranking lamas tended to an earthly garden. The garden belonged to the Bogd Khaan Winter Palace. Or what once was the deceased Bogd's palace. Pilgrims climbed until the last few exhausting meters, before dropping to their knees and stayed at the port for days. Sometimes they seemed near death from exhaustion and starvation, sometimes appeared in a religious trance. Bogd was dead. They grieved over his demise, and most regretted that they had come too late.

What I witnessed this spring day caused me to embark on this journey with an open heart, yet with a restlessness in the body. Like the pilgrim travelers, I also reached the gateway with a sense of not having arrived on time. If I came too late to witness the Mongolian Aimag prince and the magnificent kingdom, I was still on time to witness a kingdom in transition. I saw lamas wandering enveloped in yellow and red. I saw princesses riding through town with deel of one meter length for long arms and big puff sleeves. On their heads they wore ornamental jewelry with coral from the oceans far, far away.
..."


"Da jeg ankom Ulan Bator for første gang, sto jeg lenge ved bredden av Khatun Tuul, Dronningens Elv. Det var vår og breddene var grønne. Jeg vendte blikket mot byen på andre siden av elven. En ørn kom seilende inn over meg, og idet jeg fulgte den med blikket vendte jeg ryggen til elven og byen. Foran meg åpenbarte det seg et landskap som skilte seg fra resten av dalen. Busker og trær syntes å strekke seg mot himmelen. På reisen hit hadde jeg sett trær som speilet kampen mot kontrastenes klima i krokete grener og lave, nedtrykkede trekroner. Her reiste løvtrær så vel som prydbusker seg tilsynelatende uanstrengt mot solen. Fuglene sang. Her hadde ikke falt en dråpe regn på førti dager.

Mellom trærne skimter jeg et palass. Idet jeg nærmer meg palassets lukkede hovedport, ser jeg lamaer i purpurrøde kapper og gule hatter bære bøtter med vann. Høytstående lamaer pleier en jordisk hage. Hagen tilhører Bogd Khaans vinterpalass. Eller det som en gang var den avdøde Bogdens palass. Pilgrimer kryper utslitte de siste meterne, før de faller i kne og blir værende ved porten i dagevis. Tidvis virker de nær døden av utmattelse og sult, tidvis som i en religiøs transe. Bogden er død. De sørger, over Bogdens bortgang, men kanskje aller mest sørger de over at de selv kom for sent.

Det jeg bevitnet denne vårdagen får meg til å begi meg ut på reise med et åpent blikk, men likevel med en uro i kroppen. Som en krypende pilgrimsreisende nådde også jeg inngangsporten til de uendelige steppers land med en følelse av å ikke komme fram i tide. Om jeg kom for sent til å oppleve de mongolske aimag-prinsenes storslåtte rike, kom jeg likevel tidsnok til å bevitne et rike i forandring. Jeg så lamaer vandre fritt innhyllet i gult og rødt. Jeg så prinsesser ri gjennom byen med deel med en halvmeter for lange armer og store puffermer. På hodet hadde de prydsmykker med koraller fra verdenshavene langt, langt borte...."

- An expert from 
Tuva Tengel (1901-1985) –Brev fra Monglia (1927-1937) **Letters from Mongolia (1927-1937) written by Norwegian artist / photographer Tonje Bøe Birkeland.  I gave it a rough translation with the aid of an online dictionary.  (note: a full English translation is in the works by Tonje)


 Baga Gazryn Chuluu, 1929 III (2012)
C-print
125 cm x 190 cm
Image courtesy the artist

 Ger 1931 (2012)
C-print
125 cm x 190 cm
Image courtesy the artist
A little different from the last time, I am not going to tell give the whole story.  But I can tell you that there are more fascinating details about her journey and strange encounters.  Tonje is currently working on the final installment of her "adventure series".  Here are two images of her later work done in Hausdalshorgi, Norway.  I can't wait to read what happened next, but I must to be patient.  

Hausdalshorgi 1926 I (2012)
C-print
125 cm x 190 cm
Image courtesy the artist
Hausdalshorgi 1926 II (2012)
C-print
125 cm x 190 cm

Image courtesy the artist
Tonje Bøe Birkeland's most recent exhibitions include Typer og Arketyper (Types and Archetypes), 2013, featured artists: Cindy Sherman, Vibeke Tandberg, Cajsa von Zeipel and Tonje Bøe Birkeland, Gallleri F15, Moss, Norway; Presence of the Past, 2012, Cecilia Hillström Gallery in Stockholm, Sweden; Open Studios,ISCP, 2012, Brooklyn, NY; New Nordic Photography, 2012, Härnösands Konsthall, Härnösand; New Nordic Photography Hasselblad Center, 2012, Gothenburg.

She was the winner of Victor Fellowship, Hasselblad Foundation in 2012 and the recipient of Studio at ISCP, NY sponsored by Victor Fellowship, Hasselblad Foundation also in 2012.

Click here for full artist bio.


*title borrowed from the artist's original text: Aline Victoria Birkeland–Den ukjente eventyrer (click here to learn more)

Comments

Popular Posts