Blunderbuss is Kaph’s latest instalment in its twelve-part Norwegian artists series.
Words: Sydney Weinberg
Anna Julia Granberg and Anette L’orange are Blunderbuss, an artistic duo specialising in graphic design, illustration, and photography that powerfully communicates moods while juggling conceptual binaries with an unmistakeable dose of humour. If the four images on display at Kaph through the end of April seem delightfully digestible, however, it’s not because they’re light and sugary, but because each image packs a savoury punch.
Nevertheless, these four images belong to the same series, and there is a clear aesthetic coherence linking them. The mood is dark and aggressive, the color scheme simple and muted, though juxtaposed against this atmospheric broodiness is that rather surprising comic element. In each of the four images, Granberg and L’orange’s bodies are the focal points, though they present themselves in contexts that suggest a more expansive—and subversive—use of the female form. In one image, for instance, they adopt provocative poses straight out of your standard Vogue spread; however, old-fashioned fighter jets whizz above and each woman wears a vintage gas mask. The effect is both funny and sinister: the sexy content—flaunting women in revealing dresses—is complicated by the gas masks, which are, in design at least, obsolete. The gas masks are curiosities, anthropomorphic and ridiculous looking; the situation in which these women find themselves is implicitly ridiculous. In this light, Blunderbuss is ironically poking fun at the media standard that requires attractiveness from women under any circumstance.
Like in the work of the artist Kaph previously featured, Mats Silvertsen, gender stereotypes come under consistent scrutiny in Blunderbuss’s creative output. But while Sivertsen’s commentary was more overt (he drew comics; his characters spoke), there is no literalness available to Blunderbuss; they are necessarily more subtle. Perhaps the most direct of the four images, in this respect, is the stylized photograph of Granberg and L’orange, swathed in voluminous, wedding-style dresses, who lie contorted on a black floor. Though their faces are veiled in white, their mouths are gaping and available.
Much of the emotional efficacy of these four images is derived from the juxtaposition of seeming opposites, the clever deployment of visual paradoxes: the backgrounds are simultaneously old-fashioned and futuristic, the bodies both sexy and de-sexualized, the narratives contained within each work at once wild with motion and oddly static. Take, for example, the image in which Granberg and L’orange run across a roof as smoke billows across the horizon behind them. The smoke is fierce and alive, but the running women look like plastic action figures; they are not captured in the moment—the way a war photographer might depict them—they are frozen by it. It is their destiny to be stylised at even the most absurd times, but they control that stylisation, exaggerating it to humorous effect.
Blunderbuss have a well-curated website which features a broad range of their work. One of the advantages of their exhibition in Kaph is the bite-size framework it imposes on their veritable smorgasbord of content; their ideas are intriguing and much of their work is very successful, though on the other hand, I wasn’t a fan of all of it. Clicking through an older series. I felt a bit like I was watching a game of dress-up get elevated to the status of art. Sometimes, the dressing up could be shockingly tasteless, as when Granberg and L’Orange depicted themselves as genocidal victims, their bodies crumbled and bloodied in filthy pits, or, worse, depicted in the moment of murdering one another. What was undeniably remarkable about that series, however, was their shared command of posture, their ability to manipulate the body into compelling positions. This facility pervades the last work in the Kaph exhibition, in which Granberg and L’Orange, dressed in Mao suits, regard a naked window, their bodies curved into the poses of self-satisfied, contemplative old men. Here, as throughout their work, is that same strange, lurking sense of humour, keeping Blunderbuss two steps ahead of the crowd.