Jesper Just Romantic Delusions
The films by the Danish artist Jesper Just (born 1974) suspend the routines of everyday life so that important personal relationships can be renegotiated. Many of Just’s films take place in unusual settings—places with their own set of rules, where convention can more easily be bent or even overturned. Capturing the complexities and contradictions of emotional life, especially the fears and uncertainties surrounding sexuality and love, Just’s films map out the elusive dynamics of human interaction.
The charting of affection has evolved gradually in Just’s work since 2002, often through the exploration of public and private displays of emotion among men: between lovers, between generations, and within a family. Later productions further develop these ideas of intimate space with a focus on active female protagonists. While commenting on gender politics and the possibilities of relationships that cross a generational divide, at the same time Just’s films present a broader human quest for a sense of individual identity.
In Bliss and Heaven (2004), shown in this exhibition’s entry gallery, a young man follows an older man into a magic theater, an ambiguous space where identity is fluid, unexpected encounters occur, and feelings are more easily shared. In The Lonely Villa (2004), in the final gallery, an older and a younger man communicate through poignant songs, but tentatively, by telephone. While presenting yet another example of life’s many potential conversations, both real and imagined, their exchange is made both more intimate and more distant by that intervening electronic medium.
Just’s new production, Romantic Delusions (2008), in the central gallery, was filmed in Romania; through a focus on the alienation and stigmatization of transgressive sexuality, a sense of not fitting in with the surrounding world, it reflects on broader issues of a contemporary political and economic climate. No Man Is an Island (2002), shown on a monitor and produced while Just was still a student at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, contains the germ of his later films: here, an older man dances freely across a city square, evoking an emotional response from a younger man and catching the attention of passing children; gradually, the children’s mockery gives way to their own attempts to follow the dance. In this potentially liberating leap lies the poetic power of Just’s films.
In many of his works, Just adapts sentimental popular songs without irony or restraint, using them to unmask the vulnerability in many kinds of human relationships. Thus revealing the depth of feelings that people are often unwilling to acknowledge can change not only the film characters’ lives, but those of viewers, too. The films’ recognition of sentimentality—the appeal to tender emotions—as a powerful, positive, and even subversive force is central to the understanding of Just’s multilayered structures; he embraces the pleasures of cinema because the very sensuousness of the medium can bring forth a visceral response. By reaching out to viewers to activate their own memories and imaginations, Just offers a potentially transformative experience.
Associate Curator, Photography
July 4, 2008
A new film by the critically acclaimed Danish artist Jesper Just will have its United States premiere in his first solo exhibition at a New York museum. On view at the Brooklyn Museum from September 19, 2008, through January 4, 2009, Jesper Just: Romantic Delusions will also include three of his widely praised earlier films: Bliss and Heaven (2004, 8:10 min), The Lonely Villa (2004, 4:30 min), and No Man Is an Island (2002, 4:00 min).
Jesper Just’s films explore the complexities and contradictions of human emotion. Using overlapping cinematic, musical, and literary references, his films adapt popular songs to communicate the vulnerability and insecurity in personal relationships. Since 2002, Just has explored the nature of affection and emotional release, often through role reversals and the shifting of power between two male leads. In many of his films, his two protagonists express a yearning and restrained passion for each other that unfold into an emotional performance of song and dance. These short films, appropriate Hollywood’s polished production values but then diverge from the usual narrative story arc in favor of creating a film noir-like atmosphere rather than a conventional plotline. Recent works continue to develop his moody and intimate environments, but with a new focus on female protagonists. His films comment on gender politics and the possibility of relationships across a generational divide, but more important, they present a broader, existential search for identity.
Jesper Just: Romantic Delusions marks the first time an all-film exhibition will be presented at the Brooklyn Museum. On view in the Blum Gallery, three films will be projected on walls and one film will be shown on a monitor. Just’s new work, Romantic Delusions, currently in production in Romania, was commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 08 International; U-TURN Quadrennial for Contemporary Art; and Galleri Christina Wilson, Copenhagen; the Danish Arts Council; and Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris. The exhibition’s publication, Jesper Just: Romantic Delusions, is made possible by the Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York, and the Victoria Miro Gallery, London.
Jesper Just was born in Copenhagen in 1974 and is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen. He currently resides in New York and Copenhagen. His work has been shown extensively worldwide, in both galleries and museums, from the Hammer in Los Angeles to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. His work is in the collections of institutions such as the Tate in London, the Castello di Rivoli in Turin, and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.
Jesper Just: Romantic Delusions is organized by Patrick Amsellem, Associate Curator, Photography, Brooklyn Museum. Dr. Amsellem is also co-curator, with Eugenie Tsai, of a new long-term installation dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, with an emphasis on recent acquisitions, which will open concurrently with the Jesper Just exhibition. Other presentations of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum this fall include the major retrospective Gilbert & George as well as Burning Down the House: Feminist Selections from the Collection.