Lens and Landscape is a pair of photo books that transcends geographical boundaries, uniting two photographers from opposite corners of the world who were unable to physically collaborate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Curated by Northing and published by Kinakaal forlag, this publication is the result of an ambitious project that unfolded in unforeseen ways.[+]
In 2019, Northing, a multicultural organization based in Bergen, initiated an ambitious project titled ‘Stage and Landscap'. The plan was to bring together the unique artistic perspectives of Norwegian photographer Tonje Bøe Birkeland and Chinese photographer Maleonn, hailing from Shanghai. Maleonn was renowned for his imaginative and theatrical photographs, carefully staged within the confines of his studio. His absurd visual narratives and psychedelic images usually feature others than himself - actors, models, or onlookers. In stark contrast, Tonje, an artist based in Bergen, used the natural world as her stage, embodying forgotten female explorers of the past and challenging the male-dominated historical narrative. Northing recognized the potential for a captivating collaboration, hoping it would ignite unforeseen creativity.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions thwarted the artists' plans to physically meet and work together. However, undeterred by these obstacles, Northing created a virtual meeting point in the form of a book. L&L serves as a tangible manifestation of their creative encounter, with a conversation between the two artists alongside their most significant works.
The book's design, ingeniously materialized by Yilei and Pan Yanrong, is an artful expression in itself. Divided into two parts, each dedicated to one artist, the book is bound together by a bookcase. To fully understand the intention behind the book, readers are encouraged to lay the bookcase flat on a table and simultaneously open both parts of the book, as the page numbers flow seamlessly from one side to the other. With each spread consisting of four pages, the photographs by the two artists engage in a captivating visual dialogue guided by a discernible logic.
L& L transcends physical barriers, offering an intimate glimpse into the artistic minds of Tonje Bøe Birkeland and Maleonn. Through this innovative book, their unique perspectives and creative visions intertwine, proving that even in the face of adversity, art can forge connections that defy distance and bring people together.