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Blurring boundaries of identification through a multilayered artistic practice – Jesper Just

Intimacy and plurality on display.  Fragments of reality and staged performativity as reactions to social and cultural categorizations

Jesper Just artistic process

Cinematic composition is only the starting point in Jesper Just’s artistic process. From there, the unfolding of a

Cinematic composition is only the starting point in Jesper Just’s artistic process. From there, the unfolding of a practice that brings together different media in an interaction takes place, entailing with frameworks performed both by his video’s characters and the audience.

The viewer has the chance of an alternative film-watching experience and engagement by fostering bodily participation. «It is almost like creating an English garden in the sense that you are moving around through space and sites where you face reactions. When I am editing my works, I want to be moved myself. It is about trying to express an impact by creating a narrative of movement in space. Physical movement has to be included. In relation to the moving image on screens, it is such a different experience from watching movies at the cinema or on your laptop or even on your phone because there your body is not part of the experience»

The role of movement and space in art

Motion is meant as a force liable of blurring the distinction between outside and inside. « The narrative is about how the audience moves and is moved. Initially, I worked with single-channel films, with a beginning and an end. And those were starting over. You never come into the museum or exhibition space at the right moment when the projection begins.

So now I adopt this never-ending process while working with loop and the idea of having different scenes split up into micro-narratives. In this way, you are enabled to create your narrative, through the movement from one screen or one moment to the other. You end up with a certain narrative, but it is personal and different for everyone. And the more you invest in it, the more it provides.

You can get the essence if spending more time in the space and extract from there a meaning. It is a format for the audience to choose with its vision and its own body. In the cinema, you have this paradigm that you go there to be alone; in such works, this changes: people become part of the performance. I want to create room for these effects»

The attention to movement is also present concerning spatiality. Just ensures that the architectural structures he engages with are intrinsic element of his pieces which must be orchestrated according to the subjects with whom it will interact. Space plays a role in the artist’s creative process, which initiates with a reflection on the location and how it can be shaped, adapted, filled, or entirely rethought. The venue’s history also becomes a reference for what will be integrated afterwards. The sites are approached as living organisms, susceptible to being transformed and renegotiated by the human presence depending on which actions they will incorporate.

Interpassivities 2017 Courtesy Perrotin, James Cohan Gallery, Galleri Nicolai Wallner

Bodies in motion

For Just, movement and dance are expressive agents conveying a communicative exchange between the characters shown in his videos or present in the flesh during the performances. However, the idea of choreographing without conforming and following the canons of that discipline is one of his traits. Such a tendency forces and encourages the viewers to re-orient themselves within the setting. The body is considered the core around which the artist’s diverse media compose a narrative. Hence the fascination for the figure of the dancer, the entity regarding the physicality of movement and what lies in its enhancement. 

«I have worked with dancers, but it’s only since 2017, when the Royal Danish Ballet invited me to stage a dance piece based on my practice, that I started working with classical ballet dancers and that kind of body presence. I got interested in this hyper capable body that is able to do what other bodies are not. A performative body trained in enlivening specific steps. I was interested in bringing that aesthetic body on the stage and experimenting with the idea of aestheticizing the already aestheticized body in order to trigger the audience and make them think about what kind of performative element is placed before their eyes».

Jesper Just’s Interpassivities

Just isn’t concerned with the aestheticization of the body in terms of perfection and extraordinariness, but rather in exerting this expedient to display and emphasize its polymorphism and vulnerability. In the case of Interpassivities, multiple body types and motion phenomena are pulled together alongside the dancers: «I wanted to cope also with a pedestrian body, and the audience body so to have three body paradigms overlapping in the performance.

In Interpassivities, workers came on stage: they are often invisible presences because they are responsible for the setup and dismantling of a show; when that happens, they are usually not around. It was interesting for me having that body present with as much agency as the ballet body. The workers were moving around the dance floor, obstructing both the choreography conceived for the dancers and the space occupied by the spectators by redistributing, lifting, or removing portions of the floor defining the space.

Dancers had to go in and out the aestheticized body into a pedestrian body to be able to move into a hampered space. This condition emphasizes the aesthetic body while being observed in its capability and, at the same time, increases the perception of one’s physical presence: the audience could not sit down or ever be safe and stationary in their position because the floor was being moved around. They needed to renegotiate, like the dancers, their own place while growing awareness of themselves but also of the other audience’s bodies».

Lampoon reviews Jesper Just’s Seminarium

In the installation Corporealités, fractured screens with defective and missing sections fill the exhibition venue. They translate with a sculptural language the idea of the precariousness inherent to human physical experience. Movement appears shattered and disjointed while displayed across a series of deconstructed LED panels, stimulating reactions in the public that interfere with their expectations.

« It seems at the beginning that the film supports a singular shape and idea of perfected bodies, but then in front of you, the screen is falling apart. I adopted these screens to interrupt and destroy perfection and played with the idea of physiology: you watch fragmented moving bodies, and, at the same time, you can look inside the tech body screen. You can say that the physiology of the screen becomes the physiology of the body».

Corporealités embodies perhaps the chain-link leading to the realization of Just’s most recent artistic intervention, Seminarium.  On display is an interrelation between living beings and inanimate high-tech objects.  The body and movement remain at heart, although no longer considered solely in their human guise.


Here, the human being acquires a secondary role while coexisting with other organisms such as plants and devices — biology and technology blend by showcasing symbiotic interplays unraveling among different entities.  « A dialogue is enacted here. Seminarium might have started as speculation, but when you look at the work, there is an actual exchange going on. The plants in the exhibition are fed from the light of the screens, and that is a physical interaction. This project is a step further from the Anthropocene perspective. It talks more of a Post-Anthropocene scenario. Nowadays, the most advanced architecture is built not for humans but for data, vertical farming, and factories. In the same way, the location for this show hosts a project that sees humans not at the core. They have a secondary place within the installation. And the exhibition is about the idea that there is not just one center, but several centers since different elements and beings coexist. The piece involves the notion of a ‘poli’ perspective, and that is why it goes beyond an Anthropocene scenario where humans remain dominant».

Servitudes

Nature and technology in art

The artist’s purpose is to transcend the notion that technology and its development are steered by power plays and implications. For that reason, in this intervention, all the elements share the same agency, and technology converts itself into «a care keeper» for the development and growth of living beings.

The artist was inspired by the idea of nature as understood in the Baroque period, which is also the period to which the show venue belongs. At that time, the garden absorbed the human need to intervene in nature by controlling shapes for pleasure and aesthetic while complying with parameters and codes.

Therefore, potential parallelism lies in the idea that technology could become aestheticized as much as nature in the past. An approach to technology in these terms can facilitate the dissipation of normative cultural and social constructs – in terms of identity differentiation – and stimulate a discussion that reaches beyond the binary categorization of existence. By broadening plural horizons through their aural and suspended language, Jesper Just’s works offer us a gray zone molded in its appearance but willingly left undefined in its final message. A dimension nurtured by pure potential where boundaries can fade in favor of a more inclusive recognition.

Jesper Just artist

Jesper Just (b. 1974) is an internationally recognized Danish artist that lives and works between Berlin, New York Danish artist that lives and works between Berlin, New York and Copenhagen. His immersive interventions, which consist mainly of large-scale video and both architectural and sculptural installations, are defined by an aestheticized use of cinema languages and performative character. Just’s work is included in public collections and has been exhibited in several art institutions and galleries. rk; Anahuaccali Museo, Coyoacán, DF, Mexico; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Giulia Ottavia Frattini

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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