Bodies sway, black silhouettes against a white background, blurred movements in dreamlike slow-motion. In their collaborative piece, Driven (1998), Monika Larsen Dennis and Maria Friberg act out a brutal push-and-pull choreography, a dance macabre of equal amounts desire and violence. But despite its directness, the work carefully balances between polarities, visualizing a state of ambiguity in-between reciprocity and repulsion. The two protagonists are carefully cropped at the neck and at the thighs, their elegant two-piece suits effectively concealing all apparent gender attributes, leaving the viewer in an uneasy state, a limbo between knowing, feeling, and guessing.
Driven. The title implies that these people are unable to control their own actions, that they are possessed, literally driven by some internal force. They are puppets at the hands of passion, actors in a play whose every turn is carefully staged beforehand, directed by invisible hands.
The slow-motion movements of the looped video sequence enhance its dreamlike, slightly surreal atmosphere, while extending an intimate moment into epic proportions—a quality which is given even greater importance when the video is projected in a public space.
Last seen at the Modern Museum in Stockholm, Driven is a piece which works just as well in a gallery or museum setting as on a large scale in the urban landscape (such as the Wanås castle wall). It was premiered at Elbowroom, a group show curated by Friberg and Larsen Dennis in Stockholm during the city's tenure as Cultural Capital of Europe in the summer of 1998. Later that year it was shown as a monumental outdoor projection at Sergels Torg, the main square in the heart of Stockholm. Driven has since then been included in several European group exhibitions.
Monika Larsen Dennis and Maria Friberg met at The Royal Academy of the Arts in Stockholm in the mid-90s, and have worked together on several projects ever since. They share a common interest in exploring—and confusing—gender roles, or any other given set of rules for that matter. But there are differences as well.
Monika Larsen Dennis mainly works with sculpture, video and photographs. Her work takes its starting point in subjects involving personal relationships, the body and associated themes such as trust and conflict. She explores the principles of pleasure and suffering in hands-on, tactile structures and makes essence out of the dichotomies and paradoxes that exist in all our lives and relationships. Recently she has completed several public art works, both in urban settings and in semi-public spaces, such as universities and libraries.
Maria Friberg is primarily a video and photography artist. Gradually, she has turned her interest to representations of male power and vulnerability. In her works, she places men in dark suits in familiar settings—such as a car or at a conference table—but generally with a twist that emphasizes their feelings of insecurity. Friberg has also been commissioned to make large-scale public artworks, most notably in the city of Helsingborg.
Together, these two artists create performances and artworks which challenge notions of masculinity and femininity, but the major elements of their works are rather communication, particularly between lovers and friends, and dependency. Sometimes these themes are explored brutally, but there are also moments of tenderness in their mutual oeuvre. Their common esthetic is characterized by reduction and repetition, elements "borrowed" from Minimalism but recontextualized and incorporated in a much more literary and emotional context. Whether working with performance, photography or video, they amalgamate the message with the technique, so that the final product is inseparable from the medium.
This is particularly true for Driven.