« My Shannyn » | 2005

My Shannyn

By Oliver Kossack

Kristleifur Björnsson's work My Shannyn takes place on the dividing line between ideal and reality. In this border area Björnsson attempts to conjure the image of a woman that corresponds with his ideal and that is derived from his immediate reality. After a long selection process in the privacy of his studio, Björnsson has come up with an intimate cosmos of images of a woman whom he simply calls 'Shannyn' and whom we, as observers, may indeed recognize as Shannyn Sossamon. However, it became increasingly apparent during the work's realization that both Björnsson's ideals as well as his definition of reality are not only informed, but also fundamentally constructed, by the Internet. As real figures - if one may even apply this term - both Shannyn Sossamon and Björnsson's personal Shannyn are simultaneously untouchably distant and tangibly close. The Internet offers a context of immeasurable proportions within which millions of images are generated, manipulated and reproduced on a daily basis. As a tool that has necessarily become accessible for everyone, the Internet represents a labyrinth of mirrors within the global competition for products, images, lifestyles etc. and is thus also a primary influence in terms of how identity is constructed. Björnsson's distance - like that of most people - from the real Shannyn Sossamon is the logical result of her being a Hollywood star. The Internet increases this distance above all by claiming to be able to bring her into 'tangibly close reach' of the user. Indeed, the Internet succeeds in virtually transposing the depicted individuals into our homes, but how is one to comprehend and look through this immeasurably expansive reservoir of images, and with which consequences?

In contrast to the common fan who generally seeks to collect as many articles and pictures of the idolized star, Björnsson only manages to make it up to roughly seven images of Sossamon that relate to his idea of Shannyn. Björnsson then blows this concentrated series of highly evocative pictures up to the size of his studio's walls, using - much like a painter - the simplest tools and most direct techniques (computer/printer/paper). Björnsson's Shannyn pictures are pictures of pictures consciously displaying a flight into isolation - and not the other way round, away from feelings of solitude. Björnsson is a visual artist and hence always looking for new images. In an artistically original manner, My Shannyn reveals two sides of the same coin: the overriding feeling of isolation in a growing singles society as well as the possibility of discovering 'classical beauty' in spite of the layers, excesses and product-oriented manipulation inherent to the world of media-generated images. Through its worldwide presence and application, the Internet is not readily usable as an artistic tool. Against all odds, and by employing the medium in a refreshingly direct manner, Kristleifur Björnsson - paradoxically - succeeds in defining a succinctly contemporary claim: to create personal images out of inner necessity.