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Tova Mozard stipendiat 2009 Edstrandska stiftelsen.english

Tova Mozard indicated early on that what interests her is the gaze – the way we interpret and create meaning from what we see. She is fascinated by the fact that both the still and moving pictures are so strongly linked to “real life” and the documentary. Her works are often charged with both seriousness and humor, but also with existential questions. According to her, the blend of reality and fiction results in a clearer, even truer, picture of the issues she explores.

It is often said that Mozard’s pictures instill in the viewer a sense of uncertainty. And that they often speak directly to the viewer, thus activating him or her. The feeling of uncertainty is founded in the sliding shift between what is staged and what is documentary in nature. Today, this may be described as a tradition within art having fascinated a large number of artists since the early 1990s. Artists, who, in films and photographs, have stripped fiction of its deceptive illusion. It is, as one critic put it, a well-worn path in the landscape of contemporary art where exploration of unchartered territory is difficult.

Tova Mozard works with photography and video and does not fear tradition. She explores the forms of the narrative and has - indefatigably and continuously – reinvented and reinvigorated the issues of fact and fiction with ever new historical references and points of departure. Her photographs and videos move in and out of each other. The compositions are strict, elegant and thoroughly worked through. Seemingly simple, seemingly random.

Mozard plays skillfully with dramatizations of everyday things and events, allowing fiction and dreams to mirror a reality and lives to which we normally are denied access. Her enthusiasm for what cannot be explained often becomes the sounding board on the “invisible” stage where her works are played out. It is a stage for magic and psychological tension, an invisible movement between inner and outer. The signs of theater are seldom far away. Fiction is a haven from an intrusive everyday reality, a place where mysteries, fairy tales and dreams are central. Mythologies are transformed into something down-to-earth. And the down-to-earth sometimes acquires an almost mythological aura.

Tova Mozard’s early works are sometimes described as personal stories with references to Hollywood and to the American star system. Here are pictures that are often compared to David Lynch’s singular American TV series Twin Peaks from the early nineties. Echoes of the series’ settings and excitement remain as an unpleasant undertone. A young woman – the artist herself – in an otherwise empty café with a painted mural representing a spruce forest. An empty bed in a room in shades of red, a red curtain. It makes us think of the theater, of something staged. Waiting for the performance to begin. Another red room. A video and a photograph. A woman, wearing a large, blond wig is turning her face away from the strong light of a halogen floor lamp next to the sofa where she is sitting. She is talking about the songs she is singing, the different personalities of songs, and the different aspects of her own personality.

Layers of various roles run through Mozard’s art. Staging adds yet another layer. She is fascinated by people whose role it is to play roles as part of their job. They have entered a role in life that has been written for them by somebody else, or they play the role of someone else as part of their profession, or they are lost in a way of life that is far removed from what they once were. It may be someone completely absorbed by his or her fascination with science fiction, a Hollywood film, or love for the Berlin wall. Although Mozard sometimes challenges them, the way she challenges the viewer, there is always a lingering sense of warmth and curiosity. The dramatic element is so toned down, the images are so denuded that it results in an actual meeting. She manages to avoid making them into freaks. Several photographs include the artist herself. She thus has a dual role. This may result in the development of an intricate interplay between the person in charge of the situation and the one exposed to it – depending on what the picture is trying to express.

In recent years death has entered Mozard’s stage. In this, she is joined by the French dramatist, actor and theater theoretician Antoine Artaud. He was persuaded that there was no line between fact and fiction. He advocated a theater which rejected action and psychological realism, returning instead to drama as a primitive rite and expression of the mythology of the human soul, hidden in dreams and obsessions. Death was important to Artaud. He also was of the opinion that it was the duty of theater to affect the public to the greatest extent possible – also physically – so he used unusual and disturbing forms of lighting, sound and delivery. He referred to it as the Theater of Cruelty.

In two photographs, from 2006 and 2008, respectively, Mozard stages two exciting dialogues with Death, In one, Two Speak about Death, the artist herself is engaged in a conversation with another artist known for his conversations with Death: Jan Håfström. They are both in what might be taken for mourning and are standing in an otherwise empty street. Everything is dead, to say the least. The paint on the wall next to them is peeling. Some pallets which no longer are used are leaning up against it. Farther up the street, some boxes are lying, lifeless, outside a club (Club). The title of the piece engages the viewer in a dialogue. And the viewer’s previous knowledge is looking on, nodding with recognition. This is the case also in the second photograph, Young Ones and the Grave. It is a picture taken from a series based on Jean Cocteau’s novel from 1929, Les enfants terribles. It is about two siblings who create a world of their own of fantasies and dreams. Here are the siblings – one of them the artist – in front of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s grave. They are pressing their bodies – and their faces – against a slender tree that grows from the ground about a meter from the grave. They do not reach each other, in spite of trying to do so – or do they? They actually look rather listless. Did not Sartre and de Beauvoir always allow something to come between them in their relationship? They did not do their best, but still became the best for each other… Mozard fictionalizes our notions, placing us face to face with what lies dormant in our imagination.

Niklas Östholm