Née en 1972 à Helsinki (FIN).
Vit et travaille en Finlande et en France.
Site personnel : www.elinabrotherus.com
Site de la galerie : www.gbagency.fr
One can with legitimation ask, whether it is simply enough to take well carved and constructed moody photographs on oneself and ones misery. I agree - it is not enough. There has to be more, and that more very much so exists and lives on the surfaces of her photographs. I could actually choose from various feelings such as disgust, insecurity, fear, madness, lonelyness or sadness, but I will concentrate on lonelyness, and especially on lonelyness on the verge of emptiness.
Have you ever tried to portrait yourself in such a way that the photo directly and without any whatsoever mercy or aesthetization pictures you in the state of burning lonelyness? Hmmm, I do not know about you, but what I do know and see is that Elina Brotherus does it, and does it very often and coherently.
What there are is a truck load full of feelings that I assume do not need to be mentioned. What about the background, the personal story behind the photo. Should I tell you that? Naaaah, what will it be, should, or should I not? Let me repeat it: Fundamental Lonelyness. You guessed - personal problems, such as, broken marriage, later love lost and not found etc. Certainly, there is haunting and demanding unhappiness around. It is a kind of lonely unhappiness that fills the emptiness, not asking for permission, and not negotiating but with force confiscating and filling every corner every second and every tiny particle of air that is left to breath. Lonelyness that rules and fulfills the empty spaces as in the natural phenomenas.
But exacly at this point, it is higly important to wonder who is telling the story, who is speaking and who is watching, and whom. Who has the power to decide and to define? I would claim that Elina Brotherus is using self-portraits as a means to watch. She is watching herself, but not only that, because that would be simply boring narcissim. She is watching herself, and her relationship to herself and to her surroundings. It would again fall to pieces and regress into disappointing narrow narcissim if she would openly enjoy the situation. But no, she is not, even if she is definately the one pulling the punches. She is through the cameras eye shaping and making a certain, even if only momentary, space and time for herself.
Thus, she is not actually looking at the viewer. In my opinion, she is gazing far beyond and past the camera and the viewer. It is no longer she who is there, and it is no longer at all important whether she got divorced or what kind of personal dilemmas does she have. These details are only important as the starting point. The story has to begin somewhere, it has to be anchored into some particular and personal setting and a version of reality. Elina Brotherus’ choice is clear: herself.
There are at least two reasons why her photographs are so significant and meaningful. First one is connected to the visual images that we are daily confronted. How often does one see a picture of an evidently unhappy and insecure person, who is not a victim but who is actually in control. She has decided to show how utterly confused and scared she is. Try doing the same thing, but don’t come back and say it was too difficult. Of course it is difficult.
The second reason is even more important. Time after time Elina Brotherus has the courage to face and confront these sentiments and feelings that our present day visual imaginery detests and almost forbids. And the point is that she comes out of this struggle as a winner, dealing with things such as lonelyness, unhappiness and fear, which we all know and feel but which we have hard time to cope with. She does not just do it for fun, I am convinced she has no choice, but to do work it over and over. Thus, the results are not necessarily more authentic or real, but they very are convincing.
Elina Brotherus. She is there. Wounded but awake - in the pictures. Watching the photos sets an ultimatum: stay or disappear, take it or leave it. And yes, I take it, I take the chance to confront the emotions that hurt and burn and bite - and possibly heal.
(Excerpts from Mika Hannula, « A Girl Who Looked Past and Beyond the Camera », publié dans Norden/North, Contemporary art from Northern Europe, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle Wien, May 2000
Elina Brotherus is one of the major figures of the new Finnish photography scene. Born in 1972, her work is of great coherence. She trained as a scientist and obtained a Master’s in Chemistry from the University of Helsinki. She studied photography in parallel with her science degree. Her work has recently been the object of numerous monographic exhibitions, notably those of Bloomberg Space in London, the Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki, the Nicéphore Nièpce Museum in Chalôn-sur-Salône and the National Art Centre in Tokyo. She also makes videos.
The series presented here, although not a work of youth, ended early: in 1999. But it served the artist well as a springboard to develop the following series, as if the first melancholic and autobiographical choice contained the seeds of all the future developments of her creation (notably the question of landscape and the model, which was to remain with her throughout the years to follow).
The series "Das Mädchen sprach von Liebe" is accompanied by a more intimate piece, Brotherus Tyto, made in the same period and which documents the event of a close friend giving birth.
BROTHERUS TYTTÖ (Brotherus, girl)
"My friend Hanna Brotherus is a dancer and a choreographer, who has three sons. In the autumn 2002 Hanna asked me to be there for the birth of her fourth child. She explained that she doesn't remember much of the previous deliveries and wished to have a permanent souvenir of this major theme in her life. The title of the photographic series and the video, shot the following summer, refer to the fact that for the first time on the baby's cot at the clinic it was not written "Brotherus, Boy". (N.B. the Finnish word "tyttö" stands for "girl". It is the habit at Finnish maternity clinics to write on the cot the surname of the family and the sex of the baby.)
We spent the whole night at the clinic. In addition to Hanna and her husband, there were me and another friend, and the midwives would just peek occasionally at the door and say: "Ring the bell if you need anything, will you!" Hanna remembers: "It was a wonderful night, because we had so much fun, and at the same time it was so horrible." We all cried. I think that by taking me along Hanna gave me an enormous gift. For me that night was a most beautiful experience of love.
The video tells the same story with the means of drama. The dancer advances on a road, and when the rehearsed choreography ends, she steps into the forest, into the unknown. There she encounters the new child. It is the mother's way towards her daughter, a daughter who came into life through all obstacles."
Helsinki, August 2004