Heterotopia at Ungt Rum Copenhagen

Heterotopia – utopia or dystopia? You decide. Young Copenhagen-based photographers, Sebastian T. Thorsted and Jasko Bobar explore beauty and the human body in their current exhibition at Ungt Rum, Copenhagen – showing until 21st March. Heterotopia explores the human form through styling, editing and photographing from unexpected angles. These images could present a utopian future of freedom and visibility or a dystopian future of distortion of the human body.

Heterotopia
Heterotopia

Heterotopia is defined as ‘a mirrored world in tension with that of our own’ according to French philosopher Michel Foucault. This Danish photography series does just that. Thorsted and Bodar’s transformation of the most familiar image to humans, the human body, creates a surrealist tension that confronts the familiar with the strange. A clash of worlds happens between assumptions of what a body should look like and Heterotopia’s unusual bodies presented. Beige-shaded sculptures photographed and exhibited alongside the bodies emphasise the photographers’ abstract, aesthetic experience intended – maybe asking viewers to look at these human bodies as they would sculptures. This exhibition is about aesthetic exploration.

Sculptural forms are constructed with the models who wear mostly a nude-palate and few pieces of clothing. Also often nude, the bodies are stretched and distorted through extreme camera angles and digital editing to a Tim Walker-esque effect. Thorsted and Bobar create a dream-like space filled with warped figures, who inhabit traditional central framings in a far from traditional way. Yet, Heterotopia is clean and thought through. As would be expected from Denmark, where design often prioritises streamlined aesthetics over more ‘British’ chaotic excess, like in Tim Walker’s photography.

Heterotopia
Heterotopia

“The body has become a widely discussed topic in our society because a cultural value has been put into what form it should have, how it is to be decorated, dressed and trained. But what if we took a step away from the body politic and actually looked at it as an aesthetic object that can be shaped and transformed? “

Beyond making a political comment on modern beauty standards, Heterotopia’s photographs of muscular and curvaceous bodies ask: what should a photograph look like? And, what can the body look like? The photographers’ play with portraiture tradition implies a utopian freedom of representation, as well as evoking a dystopian future for the body driven to extremes.

By Bella Spratley


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