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The Board Room - Subversive Portrayals of Power


Somewhere else from 1998 is one of Maria Friberg's earliest and best known works. It exists in two versions: as a video and as a photograph, the motif being five men in suits sitting next to each other at a table. However, we see only their legs since the camera — in a drastic and revealing way — is aimed underneath the table. We get a glimpse of the men's ties, but no hands. They all wear leather shoes and dark trousers. In a way not unusual for men, they sit with their legs widely parted and our gaze is directed towards their crotch.

The men's clothes and the milieu recall a conference room where decisions are made and power is exercised. It is one of many closed contexts, mainly populated by men—not least within business and commerce. Both the video and the photograph have a static character, but in the video version the men's legs move tentatively towards each other and their careful approaches have a homo–erotic undertone, which gives the work a special charge. Feminism has pointed to a power structure where shared experiences and networks favour men. In this this homo-sociality men seek out their counterparts, which has an excluding effect and is one important reason why in several fields, women reach a glass ceiling—an invisible upper limit. Maria Friberg is one of the artists who, in the 1990s, used photography and video to convincingly and subversively illuminate and criticize gender structures that permeate society.

Maria Friberg's oeuvre is characterized by the ability to visualize vital questions on power and masculinity, using subtle and aesthetic means of expression. Her portraits of men in suits break, in an interesting way, with norms for how they are usually depicted, which becomes clear in comparisons with portraits often hung on walls of board rooms. Maria Friberg's images also suggest a vulnerability which is seldom ascribed to powerful men. Somewhere else conveys a dreamlike condition and the title expresses a wish to be somewhere other than where one is—somewhere else.

In her later work Maria Friberg has developed the interest in norms and existential questions. She often addresses contemporary phenomena such as our relationship to consumption, the environment or communication. Power relations are still central in her work, as is the desire to challenge preconceived notions of the state of affairs.

Somewhere Else was donated to SSE by Per och Lena Josefsson.

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