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Jesper just

Candidates 2021

Jesper Just became known some twenty years ago for videos in which tense psychological encounters lead to emotionally loaded scenes. What has happened, or was happening, is not quite clear.  No one of the characters is speaking, but there may be a song accompanying the situation or the characters may communicate by singing.

About

Jesper Just

Jesper Just became known some twenty years ago for videos in which tense psychological encounters lead to emotionally loaded scenes. What has happened, or was happening, is not quite clear.  No one of the characters is speaking, but there may be a song accompanying the situation or the characters may communicate by singing.

The chosen places of the films are different.  In the early work No Man Is an Island I (2002) the scene is a city park while its sequel is staged in an old-fashioned way decorated and somewhat seedy-looking bar.  In the first version, an older man is singing and dancing in the park attracting the attention of the passers-by and some of them remain to observe the situation. A little boy, however, gladly starts imitating the dance movements, while others curiously follow the unfolding scene.

The role of the place was crucial when Jesper Just represented Denmark in the Venice biennale 2013.  He studied in-depth the Danish biennale pavilion, both its spatial and material qualities, in order to build a scene where the viewers’ movements were choregraphed by the artist. He has commented that the idea for these routes was often based on the model of the traditional English garden with its changing spaces and situations. The route of the spectator becomes part of the total experience and thus also of the entire work.  One of the main ideas of his installations is the transformation of a passive onlooker into an active participant.

Exhibition space presents a continuous challenge and inspiration. Jesper Just organizes and designs an installation into a set for the performance to be staged therein. This includes the choreography that guides the viewers’ way of engaging in the scene. 

The exhibition space is a stage for the performers, a scene that also shapes the viewers’ experience while it also serves as backdrop for the films/ LED sculptures on view. A specific aspect here is the hybridization of the functions and roles of both the public and the performers, both in live situations and as documented in film while the stage/scene is either a static setting or undergoing continuous modulations.  

Jesper Just is very aware of the emotional imagery of traditional moving pictures which he utilises in a conscious manner while also adapting them to the rhythms and goals of his own artistic work. A particular kind of passive melancholy haunts also the scene with LED sculptures in the installation Corporealités (2020).  The work tells how ballet dancers trained to the extreme use electric impulses to strengthen or re-train their weakened or injured muscles.

Jesper Just describes the work as follows:

“In Corporealités we see dancers standing, sitting, or lying on the floor. All the dancers are connected to one another in a circuit: hand to foot, head to toe, hand to hand. Through an electronic muscle stimulation system (EMS), electrical impulses are sent via electrodes into the dancers’ muscles.  The targeted muscles react by contracting. The bodies do not dance here, they are being danced.  It is a depersonalized circuit with no defined sender.

The music played is Gabriel Faure’s Pavane and it is both the soundtrack while also an active presence.

The music is romantic. In a ballet performance, the dancers would have expressed it by their bodies following the choreography. Now, there is a shift in emotions; sensitivity is appearing somewhere else. Thus, displacement is an overall theme in the work.”

Jesper Just’s recent installations “explore ideas of agency, performativity, and interpassivity”. The term interpassivity was defined by Robert Phaller and Slavoj Žižek in the 1990s.   He has told of the role of the concept in his work: “… it is basically delegating emotions and feelings, having other people experiencing your emotions on your behalf.” *)

The wordless atmosphere in this film seems to reflect a kind of collective state devoid of illusions and imbued by a feeling of contemporaneous melancholy. The work is reverberating the awkward imperfections of life as encountered even among the ballet dancers trained to perfection.

Maaretta Jaukkuri

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