Arvida Byström – Self-Portrait (2013)
During the final year of my stint as an undergraduate, I had this Iranian ex-pat professor.
The man was batshit fucking crazy; also, the best teacher I’ve ever had.
I did a photo essay for him on the concepts of reflections, shadows and infinity. It was the first serious photo work I’d ever completed and when he gave the prints back to me after reviewing them he said that he had only one question left for me: if you had the choice between having someone who would fund the film you’ve always wanted to make with money that was unimpeachable with regard to the ethics of it’s origin given the caveat that it was the only film you would ever be able to make; or, you could never make your movie but instead the life you lived would be your singular means of making art–which would you choose?
I started to answer but he advised me that I should take time to consider the question. I informed him that I didn’t need the time because the answer was simple. I would pick the latter option over the former.
I think it’s the only misstep I ever made with him. Given how many hallmarks of Iranian culture, were only ever allowed one at bat, hindsight suggests, he was looking for me to embrace the once in a lifetime opportunity. However, I still stand by my answer.
And although I know it’s dangerous to project my own notions onto someone else’s work but there is such a razor thin line separating Byström‘s work from her carefully curated presentation of self, that I sort of feel like somewhere along the line, someone asked her a similar question and she chose the journey and not the destination.
Honestly, I find her work a bit cloying and redundant. But the things about it that make me affiliate those two words all have to do with quality and integrity of the conceptual underpinnings.
Also–and it’s a rare experience for me–but everything about her work and the way she presents herself, makes me feel all sheepish and twitterpated.
I know it borders on a gratuitous misreading of her work (and is hell of problematic appearing with this image) but I’ve been wanting to post this for a bit and I’ve been at a loss about what to say about it. But what I want to say is definitely tied up in both my fascination with her meticulous social media presentation and well, I think she’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen in my life.