Katarina Löfström

Jan Winkelmann / Berlin

Katarina Löfström has stars in her eyes. Where others see city lights on the horizon, the Swedish artist discovers strange constellations, twinkling against a black and boundless outer space. Her computer-animated videos have created heavenly bodies from the night lights of Berlin (Tower, 2004, was filmed from the city’s iconic television tower) and Stockholm (An Island, 2004, captures the amusement park Gröna Lund from a distant shore). By slightly blurring each nocturnal cityscape, Löfström’s projections teeter between abstraction and figuration; illuminated streets and buildings structure these novel asterisms while traffic, ads, and carousels become falling stars, red dwarfs, and supernovas. To see the heavens on earth—to make what is close appear light-years away—places our fragile planet in a wider compass of time and space. Löfström’s point of view, however artificial, asks us to consider the man-made earth as a mystery waiting to be deciphered. Indeed, the artist plays with the human eye’s tendency to invest shifting dots of light, however minute, with a larger life and meaning: Consider the celestial figures of the zodiac or even those little reflectors on bicycle pedals and running shoes. The sound tracks for the projections suggest that meditation is the only way to find out what lurks in the city lights, be it apocalyptic or beneficent.

It was only a matter of time before Löfström discovered the stars on the silver screen—not actors and actresses but rather the stellar trappings of Hollywood corporate logos, from Orion’s to DreamWorks’, that open feature films by lending them a divine or cosmic aura. Following Andy Warhol’s silk-screen Ads, 1985, Löfström opted for the ’60s Paramount Pictures logo, in which twenty-plus stars form in a chorus line, then settle into a sparkling halo around a mountaintop. Unlike Warhol, Löfström erased the letters of the brand name and juxtaposed rotated mirror images of the mountain against each other to create a large poster, titled Twin Peak (all works 2006). The lambda print Man Made Mountain presents a blank version of Paramount’s original logo from the ’30s. Baptized by a string of stars and a snowy summit, the ensuing movies become both eternal and vast in a way that defies the scale of the dwarfed viewer’s body. Their story lines, no matter how all-too-human, are blessed by the skies in order to persist as the legendary stuff of the gods. Both logos, while aged and muted, are immediately recognizable—an impressive confirmation of brand recognition and the brain’s capacity to store useless visual information.

Of course, Löfström is interested in giving the recognizable an uncanny feeling. While Hollywood uses an imagery of overwhelming distances to reinforce the timeless monumentality of its products, the artist puts the distant out of focus to make viewers find and produce their own meaning, if not their own narratives. In contrast to the Paramount logo works, Finale deals with the very end of a film, namely the rolling credits that follow Francis Ford’s Coppola’s Apocalypse Now Redux (2001). Löfström not only replaced the film’s ominous sound track with a more meditative score but also blurred the credits into yet another constellation in deep space. The white letters become glowing dots of light, completely illegible and yet pulsating with some secret message. Not an eye test but a reality check will bring the message back into focus: Instead of deciphering the image, find your own words to describe it.

Jennifer Allen