The five photos in Vibeke Tandberg's 'Line' series (1999) merge Tandberg's facial features - nose, mouth and the area around her eyes - with those of her friend Line. In the Platonic sense of the expression, Vibeke is in love with Line. Combined, Vibeke/Line gazes at the viewer with an assertive blue gaze from beneath dark eyebrows, pale-skinned and fragile in a flirtatious, 'girlish' way and dressed in a creased white top. The drapery of towels, the suggestions of a 'do not disturb' sign and a white door frame intimate the generic space of a hotel room, but is in fact Line's home.

Tandberg's exploration of the way desire is exchanged makes the project more interesting than simply a questioning of how much of the photograph is Line and how much is Vibeke. A conceptual space between the two women unfolds in a photographic fantasy. The libidinal wild card of being in love absorbs the love object's personality. Tandberg's admiration and longing for Line goes one better than Eros in violating and subsuming the desired person. In a previous series 'Faces' (1998), Tandberg portrayed personality via the people who come and go in one's life. She mixed her acquaintances' faces with her own, without revealing which one was 'Vibeke'. With 'Line', the merging of personae is more aligned with a therapeutic acceptance of repressed elements in the psyche. The biographic fissure that runs through 'Line' is worked through to become the tomb of a specific desire. Each photograph lays bare aspects of this desire's direction and dynamics. The clichéd sexiness of Line/Vibeke's postures only underscores Tandberg's five repetitious stabs at her own desire. In 'Line' the photographic merging reflects the artist's conquest of desire and temporary ego loss, her split personality healed in chaste, almost painterly, monumental photography.

In this post-Sherman era of staged photography, Tandberg is on a quest for latent psychic material, without neccesarily operating within high, post-Modernist parameters of identity, representation and gender. If Sherman belongs to the first generation of American artists who grew up with TV then Tandberg belongs to the generation for whom TV's endless repertoire of cultural images is no longer as promiscuous and threatening. Rather than portraying an authentic self caught up in a repertoire of simulacra, she deals with the slippage between me and you, privileging intimacy as an evolutionary hot-house for identity's deviations. 'Line' is a rendition of what discreet psychodramas are enacted when you live under the same roof as your desire.

Issue 50

First published in Issue 50

Jan - Feb 2000

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