JTF (just the facts): Published in 2021 by Multipress (here). Loosebound (24 x 34 cm) with a banderol, 72 pages (in multiple sizes), with color and black and white photographs. There are no texts or essays included. In an edition of 300 copies. (Cover and spread shots below.)
Comments/Context: Choreography with Potatoes and Flour is a new artist book by the Norwegian photographer Line Bøhmer Løkken. It was published by Multipress, the art book publisher Bøhmer Løkken runs together with other artists. The book was released during an exhibition titled Mjukbrød/hardbrød (meaning “soft bread – hard bread”), which focused on the artist’s father, who spent his life working with his hands as a baker. She translates his tacit knowledge of the craft into compelling images.
The subject of the book, as is pretty much explained in the title, is straightforward, yet the photographs are executed with unexpected joy and creativity. The design of Choreography with Potatoes and Flour is integral to its conceptual structure. It consists of a pile of loose sheets, and most of them are of different paper sizes, with some of them folded. All of the photographs are printed full bleed. A wide banderol with the title and the artist’s name holds everything together. The pages are easy to move around, misalign, and rearrange, and given its design, the book requires active participation from the viewer. Only by unfolding the photographs and moving them around is the narrative of the book revealed. Performative action and engagement with the book becomes part of the experience.
The first image we see is a photograph of a man’s hand, covered in flour, holding a wooden dowel with a thin round shaped dough hanging from it. The page also serves as a cover, hosting other pages. The book takes us inside a baking house, where an old man, the father of the artist, bakes lefse (a traditional Norwegian potato pancake) and flatbread. We never see his full body or his face – the main focus is on his hands, as they work the dough. Isolated images show us fingers gently but firmly sprinkling flour on the surface, a hand flipping a dough, a hand with a brush about to make another movement, and hands gently touching the dough. The position and movement of his hands as he turns flour into dough is fast and precise, sometimes powerful, at other times gentle and delicate. The word “choreography” in the title feels particularly fitting. Working with dough is a very tactile experience and it translates well into the viewers’ experience of the physicality of the book. As we move through the pages, it feels like we are participating in working the dough, and turning and opening the pages, there is an element of surprise and excitement.
One trifolded medium sized page shows hands at work pushing potatoes through a machine and opens to a spread depicting three images of potatoes turning into spaghetti like strings. Another large sheet pairs two black and white images, taken moments apart, showing hands at work with the dough on an impressively large scale. It unfolds to a color photo of what looks like a twisted pile of linen, used in the bread making process. Choreography with Potatoes and Flour shows a baker at work who has been practicing his craft for many years, feeling confident in his knowledge and in the nuances of the process. The movement becomes part of now almost unconscious thought, with the experience-based knowledge developed over time guiding his hands.
The engaging tactile elements of Bøhmer Løkken’s book are reminiscent of the project Drift by Barry Stone (reviewed here), as the artist mailed parts of the book over time, asking viewers to assemble them together. Penelope Umbrico also used unbound loose pages for her photobook Out of Order (reviewed here), causing the book to literally fall apart in one’s hands for her conceptual depiction of the 2008 financial crisis.
Choreography with Potatoes and Flour is a small, yet an unpretentious and joyful publication. It is a great example of taking a creative approach to translating a body of work into book form. By carefully connecting both the content and form, Bøhmer Løkken has created a fun and intimately memorable experience.
Collector’s POV: Line Bøhmer Løkken does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors should likely follow up directly with the artist via her website (linked in the sidebar).