FotoFest 2006

The photographs in the Dancers series fascinate and intrigue from the outset. Are these real live people, are they shop-window dummies or wax models from Madame Tussauds?

On taking a closer look, going beyond the fixed bright stares, with the beads of sweat beneath the make-up betray movement and signs of stage nerves. You realise then that these competition dancers have chosen to cocoon themselves for the occasion in the smoothest, most perfect image so that jury and audience may devote all their attention to body line, the simple colours of the clothes, and the measured and regulated steps placed amongst twirling dresses, somewhere between sensuality and gymnastics, by these icons of eternal youth.

They are in performance, photographed in situ as witnessed by certain clues, a half-opened curtain, scratches on a wall or ribs on a wooden panel that contrast with the smooth artificial appearance of the faces striving for perfection.

Like Diane Arbus previously did, Morten Nilsson has succeeded in going beyond appearances and has captured the fallible yet touching side of humanity: a clumsy movement, an evasive worried look, a rather direct flash shot, a misbehaving hairdo or make-up in need of repair.

Morten Nilsson plunges us, bang, into the up-to-date world of performance and identity. Dancers becomes a sort of metaphor of the Western world, of consumerism and appearances, of conformity and private emotions.

Xavier Canonne
Director, Musèe de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium

Marc Vausort
Curator, Musèe de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium




Dancers is a series of photographs depicting participants in ballroom dancing competitions in Denmark.

Danish artist, Morten Nilsson, attended many such events and asked to photograph contestants in costume between dances. Using a ring flash ( commonly used in fashion work), the artist set his subjects in front of whatever backdrops were immediately available. The photographs produced are direct and unadorned, with the subjects often situated frontally in the center of the frame looking directly into the camera lens. The blank, vacant stares of the sitters are set in contrast to their elaborate and overwrought appearances. Nilsson`s subjects often appear lifeless, like wax mannequins, no longor human, perhaps an allusion to the artificial, often ridiculous facades constructed and worn by people everyday.

Brian Clamp/ClampArt NYC

Morten Nilsson lives and works in Denmark. He has exhibited his work internationally, including at Ffotogallery, Cardiff, Wales; Musée de la Photographie de Charleroi, Belgium; and Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art, Florida. He is represented by Bendixen Contemporary Art in Copenhagen, ClampArt in New York, and Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery in Dallas.

Bendixen Contemporary Art, Formation, June 1 – June 24, Copenhagen, Denmark

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