2019 #16

Elf Dalia

by Maja Daniels

Selected by
Unseen Platform

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Selected by Unseen Platform

"Combining myth and archive, Elf Dalia begins a conversation between past and present that challenges the perception of photography as document."

Mysterious and mythical, Maja Daniels’ Elf Dalia interweaves folklore with archival material to depict life in a remote, fictional community based on the Swedish town of Älvdalen, where her grandparents live. The project’s title, loosely inspired by the name of an ancient language derived from Old Norse and spoken by the town’s residents, explores the familial connection – or rather the linguistic disconnection – that Daniels felt in relation to her grandparents and the generations before them.

During the six years that Daniels spent exploring her family heritage, she was introduced to the archives of Tenn Lars Persson, an eccentric local scientist and inventor who lived in Älvdalen during the late 19th and early 20th century. Uncanny and enigmatic, Tenn Lars Persson’s images document village traditions and daily life, as well as his interests in physics, astronomy and the occult. These archival photographs have become integral to Elf Dalia, and operate in dialogue with Daniels’ contemporary images, blurring timelines and challenging the dichotomy between fact and fiction. ‘My aim has been to create a performative space where the past can co-exist with contemporary life.’

Daniels’ artistic process embodies this concept. Inspired by Tenn Lars Perssons’ experimental approach, the artist plays with long-exposure to allow light to leak into the film rolls, suggesting a parallel between the fragility of a photographic negative and a language that is on the brink of dying out. The resulting images appear otherworldly and timeless, the subjects partially obscured. Forest landscapes are streaked with light and colour, a tattooed man is half-illuminated by sunlight, and two teenage boys sit nonchalantly on a car amid clouds of smoke.

The most recent additions to the series are Daniels’ self-portraits, wherein stacks of driftwood from her grandfather’s collection are pieced together to create totems. This process takes from Norse mythology, which believed that the gods created humans from pieces of wood. In creating these abstract portraits, Daniels speaks to her own shifting identity.

Combining myth and archive, Elf Dalia begins a conversation between past and present and challenges the perception of photography as "document". ‘Elf Dalia is not an observation of a place at a specific point in time. It is a very personal narration based on imagination, emotion and desire.’

Text by Jenny Willcock, Unseen Platform

Read more (1 min read)

Lena's Braid

Lena's Braid

The Moon

The Moon

by Tenn Lars (1878 – 1938), courtesy of Elfdalen Hembygdsförening

Three Girls

Three Girls

by Tenn Lars (1878 – 1938), courtesy of Elfdalen Hembygdsförening

Forest Lake

Forest Lake

Cat

Cat

by Tenn Lars (1878 – 1938), courtesy of Elfdalen Hembygdsförening

Key, Rälldalen

Key, Rälldalen

The Solar System

The Solar System

by Tenn Lars (1878 – 1938), courtesy of Elfdalen Hembygdsförening

Self-Portrait/Totem Study nr. 01

Self-Portrait/Totem Study nr. 01

Photo of Elf Dalia by Maja Daniels

by Tenn Lars (1878 – 1938), Courtesy of Elfdalen Hembygdsförening

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Maja Daniels

Gothenburg, SE

Youwrtsfwebjxorkhyhj

Maja Daniels

Gothenburg, SE

Maja Daniels (b. 1985, Sweden) is a photographic artist whose work can be described as a multi-layered academic and artistic practice that includes photography, sociological methodology, sound, moving image and archive material. With a background in sociology, Daniels’ art explores themes of human relations, identity and self in a contemporary Western context. Intimate and detail-focused, her previous projects include documentation of the daily experiences of Alzheimer’s patients and stylised portraits of glamorous Parisian twins in Monette & Mady. Daniels latest project, Elf Dalia, came about upon moving to the remote Swedish town of Älvdalen. Interweaving folklore with archival material, she explores her familial connection to the community. Elf Dalia is published by Mack Books.

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