Annika Larsson

By Tom Morton, 10 May 2002

Men inhabit Swedish artist Annika Larsson’s videos so completely that there’s little room for anything else. Men in sumptuous suits, men leading pedigree dogs by chunky silver chains – they seem to suck time and space into their barrel-chests until all we’re left with is their subtle physical gestures, writ large on Larsson’s screen.

These men (spotty youths and distinguished prime-of-lifers – Larsson deals in archetypes) have an indelible fascination with each other. The video Dog (2001) opens with a blast of Johann Strauss’ Egyptian Waltz, which soon gives way to a dubby groove with a ticking metronome beat. The camera focuses on a sebaceous young man, his blonde hair glimmering against Larsson’s palette of greys, purples and blues. An affluent-looking older guy enters the shot, a handsome dog straining at the leash held in his leather-gloved hand. He measures out a length of lead, contemplates it, lets it sag and pulls it taut. Next he weighs the dog’s tail in his hand, the camera cutting from this juxtaposition of shiny hair and leather to his slowly bobbing Adam’s apple. The blonde man kneels, eats a pastille proffered by the dog-walker and winces as his companion blows on a dog-whistle, unleashes the hound and breaks into a broad, silent grin.

This intimate portrait of men establishing a pecking order hums with sublimated eroticism. Dog’s protagonists, their silvery suits echoing the pooch’s aristocratic coat, seem a step away from fucking or fighting. Larsson’s lingering lens picks up every trembling possibility, while never letting the guys’ loaded glances escalate to a sticky climax. We could read Larsson’s work as a mocking take on masculine mores, but that ignores the compassion she demonstrates for these stunted individuals, locked in a game of ‘who’s the daddy?’ This might be a man’s world, but it takes Larsson’s acute vision to decode its cryptic rituals of power and control.

Tom Morton <rakesprogress AT> is Curios Editor of frieze magazine and a freelance writer on art and culture

Annika Larsson // ICA // London // 12 February–10 March, 2002