One plus one
In my contrived memory this work is perpetually on fire. Maybe it's the proportions of this figurine topped by the precision of the arched tip mimicking the relay of the Olympic flame. Or the precarious sliver of natural light and the blurred notion of reflective glass, a scene set for not-so-spontaneous combustion, a la magnifying glass vs. ant. An engineered chance for our national treasure to swipe the burning torch and brazenly lead us down a damp chamber as only Nicolas Cage's flare for drama could do. You can almost hear the theatrical whooshing now.
But the ribbon adds a kink. The worn bow attached to the base of a kite flapping in the wind? Kite-cum-lightning rod. If only Benjamin Franklin knew the frequency with which his image would be ignited for Vin Diesel or Jason Stathman to emerge from a growing plume of smoke, complete with black smudge gracing their indefatigable cheek, charred bills wafting through the air. A vision of triumphant hero– “For Motion Picture Use only” erect trophy to match.
The underlying beauty of Torbjørn Rødland's photographs is their ever-changing resonance depending on personal rapport and daily cultural context. Did you just watch The Simpsons episode with a Franklin bath or read an article on trickle down economics? Are you painfully aware of the devaluation of your currency in the current crisis, or Shake Shack's $10 million PPP loan debacle– here emerges visual manifestation, for you, today. Next month another connection will be made. And the plethora of ones you haven't thought of yet. Rødland's near prescience skill is layering his symbols, imbuing the work with enduring significance and mutability because of his choice connections.
Usually last, but certainly not least, we seek out the artist's title hoping for another hint. I am always relieved when the answer is not, “Untitled”. But Torbjørn is particularly apt in this regard. Next time the opportunity presents I recommend to read his wording first, images second, you will be pleasantly surprised. Here is “Shame Pole”: a physical manifestation of ire towards an entity that has wronged another morally or financially. It is the precursor to the screenshot Twitter post, or the classic Rihanna, “Bitch Better Have My Money”. Public shaming admist our cancel culture and the instantaneous dispersal of information is experiencing exponential growth. With thousands passing by the exposed windows this week, the opportunity for thousands of answers to who the villian can be.