Helsinki Photography Biennial brings the renowned Danish video artist Jesper Just’s “Llano” (2012) to the Helsinki Museum of Photography. The work was featured in the Danish pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013.
Jesper Just lives and works in New York. His works display cinematic features, but he also uses the silver screen in ways that differ from recognizable cinema. The artist describes his work as follows: “It might look like recognizable cinema but the narrative only happens from one room to another because the characters are in new situations; you create it yourself, in that sense.” (Huffington Post , 05/31/2013) Just’s works are characterized by a rich and detailed narrative. The ending is typically left open for the viewer’s interpretation.
“Llano” was filmed in the abandoned city of Llano del Rio. The city was founded by the socialist Job Harriman in 1913. Due to lack of irrigation and water supply, the city later became deserted. In “Llano”, the utopic desert city is filmed in artificial rain in the midst of which an obese woman is trying desperately to repair a stone wall. According to Just, “Llano is a ruin of a place that is no longer, but also a place that really never happened. Here, we have a double meaning—a strange mix of utopia and dystopia, filled with failure as well as potent ideals.”
As well as an unusual cinematic feel, Jesper Just’s work often contains criticism towards codes of masculinity, particularly those established by Hollywood. He typically does this by showing men doing “unmanly” things. Instead of a man, “Llano” depicts a grungy woman. She, in the utopistic surroundings, can be seen as the feminity aesthesized by Hollywood in ruin. At the same time, by using Hollywood’s own visual language, the work criticizes codes of femininity created by movies. In addition, the ambiguous relationships depicted in “Llano”, the lack of dialogue and atmospheric soundscapes are typical of Just’s work. (Mara Hoberman, Art Agenda, 11.6.2013)
Jesper Just has been awarded the Nordic region’s biggest art prize, the Carnegie Art Award in 2008.