Casper Sejersen’s unsettling photographs of aural phenomena
The Danish photographer straddles agony and ecstasy in his exhibition at London’s Cob Gallery
‘Let’s say that one minute to 12 is pure happiness,’ Casper Sejersen tells me, mimicking the ticking motion of a pair of clock-hands with his own, ‘and one minute past is the worst thing in the world.’ We’re sitting in the sunny garden of London’s Cob Gallery, within which his works, so many of which balance on a knife-edge between agony and ecstasy, hang on pristine white walls. ‘Still, I’d always prefer to be up there with the tension,’ he smiles, ‘than comfortable down at around 6:30.’
Clock-faces are familiar territory for the Danish photographer, who has built a reputation for capturing dreamlike, absurd and often unsettling images in the field of commercial and editorial fashion, as well as within his personal work. He counts Christian Louboutin, Sophie Bille Brahe, Kenzo and Saks Potts as clients. As a child he was compelled to count, he explains, finding that he could construct for himself a kind of control over any chaos by numbering the four corners of a picture frame, for example, or the minute-hand of his watch. Then Sejersen grew up and learned to drum, putting this fascination with rhythms to good use. But as an adult and an artist, he has found that the most fertile ground is neither in control nor chaos, but in the hair’s width of tension that separates the two.
This exhibition, is titled ‘One, Two, Three, Four’ (for Sejersen’s interest in rhythm, rules and the space beyond them) comprises of still-life compositions – a handful of pearls placed painstakingly in the too-small holes of a large piece of foam, or a cluster of candles flickering in the sound waves of a percussive track – and of studies of the body, or more specifically, of the many ways it can accidentally become damaged in the course of a day. Elsewhere, there’s a sunrise familiar from his own upbringing, and an up-close study of nine well-worn snare-drum skins, stretched out like animal hides to reveal their respective treatment by old owners.
In the rich texture of this mixture of works, curated by Cassie Beadle and Rose Forde, viewers will find quiet nods to themes of freedom and constraint, sexual politics, violence, childhood memory – but counterbalancing them, the soothing mundanity of the everyday, or private, personal games played out here in public. There’s a touch of synaesthesia at play – but only insofar as we’re all synaesthetes on some subconscious level, before society smoothes out our oddities. Or is that these nuanced visual depictions of aural sensations have parallels with ASMR, and the dedicated digital world which exists around it? Either way, Sejersen’s deeply personal and yet profoundly familiar works strike a chord. They will continue to echo in your mind, like the echo of a dropped object, long after leaving. §