JTF (just the facts): Published by Éditions du LIC in 2016 (here). Softcover, 32 pages, with 17 black and white photographs. In an edition of 150 copies. (Cover and spread shots below.)
Comments/Context: Mona Ødegård is a photographer from a small mountain village in Norway. Growing up on a farm, always running around and surrounded by nature, she learned to create and stage manage her own reality. As Ødegård states on her website, her “work captures moments that do not exist without photography”. She has recently published her first photobook/zine, Sliding Down a Slippery Slope, which is her thoughtful response to the current political environment.
The concept of Ødegård’s photobook is breathtakingly simple: it takes the verbal idiom literally and documents people sliding down watery slopes. Metaphorically however, it is concerned with urgent new reality of Brexit and Donald Trump, the rise of the Far Right movement in Europe, the ongoing refugee crisis, and the ever changing war on terrorism. As we seem to be moving away from the shared values of multiculturalism and internationalism, the work poses one direct question: are we sliding down a slippery slope?
Sliding Down a Slippery Slope is a thin soft cover book of a comfortable medium size. The title appears on the cover in dominant deconstructed lettering in all capitals reminiscent of Christopher Wool’s paintings, its loud graphical screaming leaving no doubt as to its opinionated perspective. An image of foamed water at a sliding angle serves as a background for the cover. The book is handmade and bound using a bright orange thread, which particularly stands out against its black and white content.
Inside, black and white photographs capture people going down the water flow in inflatable tubes. The first image depicts the legs and swimming trunks of a young man and the upper body of his friend as they use swim rings. At first, its angle and framing might seems unexpected and even confusing. But as we turn the pages, we see energetic fragments of boys and men with their bodies on tubes again and again as they slide down. The photographs appear only on one spread, shifting between the left and right sides. Most of the images show only half of the bodies (with legs up in the air) adding to the dramatic, uncontrolled atmosphere of the narrative.
The image in the middle appears full spread and shows a girl in her bikini on a swim ring face down, her legs crossed and her arms up in the air. This is the only time we see a full body, and the bright orange binding thread goes through the middle of the image, breaking up the otherwise monochrome narrative. The second half of the book adds images of girls, and once again the cycle repeats, with more flailing legs and sliding forms.
As the images pile up, this fun water activity slowly starts to take a different turn: we are not exactly sure what’s happening, yet there is a certain creeping sense of distress and void. Ødegård’s framing of the photographs begin to feel almost dangerous, and paired with the title of the book, this feeling somehow mimics our concerns about the volatile and changing global environment, its uncertainty and despair.
Sliding Down the Slippery Slope is a small and straightforward project, yet it is quietly brilliant. It exists as an immediate reaction to a fast changing global atmosphere, and it reflects the artist’s demand to express concern and to take a stand. No matter how modest and playful it may seem, Ødegård’s photobook delivers its message with surprising force. It’s a well-conceived contemporary protest book, using the metaphorical message of its visuals as a potent representation of the dangers of our changing world.
Collector’s POV: Mona Ødegård does not appear to have gallery representation at this time. Collectors interested in following up should likely connect directly with the artist via her website (linked in the sidebar).
It might be worth mentioning, Norway itself isn’t a EU member state, and isn’t planning to join, as far as I know. Nice looking book but showing young white people having a good time on a slippery slope is incredibly weak as political satire.