Mathilda Eberhard – [←] ** (2010); [→] * (2010)

Whatever Eberhard lacks in polish, she more than makes up for with her audacity.

Apologies if this is a repetition of a previous persnickety and pedantically harped upon point–however, I am presently too inebriated to be able to figure out how to navigate out of this post and onto my blog to check whether I’m remember on of innumerable discarded drafts (there have been a lot more of those than usual lately, alas) or if it’s just something I thought about addressing and then just couldn’t figure out how to fit it all to words…

Anyway, during the nightmare hellscape that were MFA applications, I thought a lot about why I am drawn to the implications of narrativity much as the magnetized tip of the steel needle finds north on the face of a compass.

On the surface, I am intrigued by the power of stories. People can love you because of and through a well-told tale. Stories can connect people. Yet, the can also be used as Trojan Horses secreting ideological payloads.

My time as a film making student taught me that I might not be as great at judging the merit or lack thereof as far as those sorts of payloads.

I asked myself what would be involved in implying the entirety of a story with a single, static frame?

There are really two reliable ways to do this:

  1. Illustrate a story that is uber familiar to your audience
  2. Or, stage a tableau that allows for a familiar dramatic scenario (Pathos).

The former is the terrain of Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus; the latter: Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window.

Both require being relate-able–a less direct way of saying looking to what has come before. This leads to the sort of work where being lesbian or trans is just another character trait… like born in Louisville, KY, Gay, really likes kabob, etc. as opposed to a wholistic aspect of and projection from the character’s self.

And what we’re finding out is that it’s a lie that our love is only recognizable in the way it mirrors straight love. But we have our own language, or own deeply incised pathos and when you see them you–if you are capable of love–see them too and they mean the same to you.

Eberhard was really far ahead of the curve in a lot of ways. She’s challenging the limits of what pathos allows for in the most fantastic ways.

I haven’t seen any new work of hers in almost half-a-decade. She has an instagram–but it’s private. I would do just about anything to know what she’s up to these days. (She is in the top three on my lists of artists I would do just about anything to facilitate.)

If anyone reading this maybe knows her and could help a super fangirl out it would be supes appreciated.

K Thnx Bye.

Mathilda EberhardUntitled (2013)

Eberhard has two Flickr accounts: one attributed to Anna Mathilda Eberhard started in 2009 and second attributed to Mathilda Eberhard started in 2010.

The first account is a scattershot of self-portraits (some barely legible, others jaw-droppingly acute in their deeply felt intensity and pathos) and just the right amount of savoir faire so as to court transgression without seeming posturing or pretentious.

With this first foray into the world of sharing photos on social media, it’s hard to pinpoint any pervasive influence. Although I don’t suspect for a second that someone could produce such compelling images without some sort of broad familiarity with photo history.

One thing to note is that specific, salient facets of what would become Laura Makabresku’s hackneyed style are prefigured as if in template form by Eberhard’s early work.

There’s something more melancholic about the second account. Moments of sheer joy, intermingled with a sense of crushing, isolation, loneliness. A number of her pictures invoke in me nothing so much as the feeling of being sexual aroused but lacking the motivation to address that sensation by seeking out affection from another or to opt for the route of self-pleasure.

The work grows more searching, incisive. This, for example, is an image indelibly imprinted on my visual memory.

But then the work slowed and stopped. With the exception of a collaborative project called Wild Flower–intending to show “photos of naked bodies in everyday environments to show that all people have a body and no one else has the right to take it away [sexualize/objectify] from the individual.”

The most recent Wild Flower post dates from December of last year.

As much as a adore the work of established artists like Mark Steinmetz, Igor Mukhin, Allison Barnes, Prue Stent or Erica Shires, what really excites me is work like Eberhard’s or k.flight’s.

Every time I revisit such work, I’m taken in by a new detail, a wonderfully atypical way of seeing and representing the world.

Truthfully, I think Eberhard is actually probably third on my list of folks I most want to collaborate with. Despite it’s unevenness, there are very few image makers out there whose work has wormed its way so deep into my brain.

It’s probably a lost cause but does anyone out there reading this know Mathilda? Is she still making work? Could you perhaps put me in touch with her?

Mathilda EberhardUntitled (2014)

Mathilda EberhardUntitled (2014)

Flickr retains little more than a ghost of its late aughts glory.  In fact, it’s pretty much a completely clusterfuck.

There are some notable outliers whose photostreams’ always showcase bona fide next level shit–looking at you: im_photo, chill and 3cm.

I’d include Eberhard to that list except well although I wouldn’t ever suggest that her work is better than those guys, I am just flat out enamored with her work.

This should surprise no one having followed me for any period of time–after all this is the fifth image of hers I’ve posted.

You’ll notice I tend to favor appending quotes to her images instead of commenting on them–partly because I am so awed by them that my fumbled attempts at expression seem entirely cross juxtaposed with the work and partly because I get self-conscious about the fact that I tend to compare things that move me to the very limited set of work I adore (at least initially) instead of come to terms with them on their own ‘ground’.

For example: for as many image makers as will either claim or accept the critical assignment of overlap with Francesca Woodman’s work, Eberhard is probably the image maker who most completely takes up Woodman’s mantle.

But to state that and consider the matter settle is intellectually dishonest. There’s more to it than that it and leaving it there does a disservice to both image makers.

Unfortunately, it’s not something I can express in the positive–i.e. I can say this is what makes Eberhard’s vision singular. However, it did occur to me that there’s a way I can, for the time being, point in the right direction.

Think of the word ‘desire’. We use it primarily as a noun–to describe a visceral wanting. It’s also a verb. I can say to a friend: I desire a delectable brie.–Although grammatically correct it sounds to the ear unbalanced.

In actuality when we desire, there is a tendency to express desire with metaphor–’craving’, ‘hunger’ or ‘thirst’.

Now, consider the qualifications we add to these metaphors when we use them non-metaphorically. We might say her appetite was ‘insatiable’ but we would be much less likely to say his hunger was insatiable unless we are using ‘hunger’ in some metaphorical sense. One eat until one’s hunger is sated.

I’m not sure if it’s just my pushing the point to reach a satisfactory conclusion, but it seems that we speak of thirst differently. Thirst isn’t sated, it is ‘slaked’–implying satisfaction. The space between ‘hunger’ and ‘being sated’–when measured in time–is less ephemeral than the space between ‘thirst’ and ‘slaked’.

I think when you extend this realization of the tendency in the literal to the metaphorical–desire when expressed via a thirst metaphor is more insistent than desire as expressed via a hunger metaphor.

What makes Eberhard’s work so singularly compelling is the way it methodically charts the terrain of thirst as a metaphor for desire.

Mathilda EberhardUntitled (2012)

This is the fourth time I’ve featured Eberhard’s images.

I can’t lie: I am really rather fond of her work. Not all of it is good but there’s never any question as its veracity.

Mathilda Eberhard is always going to show a raw slice of her truth.

I feel as if this manifests in her work in a atypical and anti-photographic way. I am not at all sure how to say it without resorting to nebulous abstractions, so I’ll draw a metaphor: it’s as if image making is not unlike sewing. The thread pierces the fabric passes under it before piercing the fabric again to reappear. The tradition of image making emphasizes the importance of tracing the thread along the surface; and as an image maker you want to offer as vivid a glimpse of the thread as possible. It’s like Eberhard flips over the seam and then focuses on the absence of the thread–an inverted experience of negative time, a focus on the indecisive moment instead of the decisive one.

Personally, I am all about the leaning in brought by narrative tension–I want to know the story. There is no way to extrapolate any sort of story beyond something archetypally human–and therefore seemingly quotidian, mundane.

The thing is: I find myself investing far more into her work than I do with the majority of ‘narrative’ imagery. Perhaps, I have–in my own work–been looking for something in decisive moments that belongs only to the indecisive ones.


Mathilda Eberhard


Is it me or is there something almost post-coital about the way this feels to the eye—towel-wrapped, shower-wet hair and still damp skin sheathed in afterglow and diaphanous light?

In spite of being digital, I wish this were an image I had made. It exemplifies so many imagistic attributes I hold dear:·       

  • It eschews the forced intimacy of knee-jerk close-ups    
  • Employs a scale fixed somewhere betwixt Wall’s voyeuristic medium shots and Angelopoulos’ telescopic long shots in order to offer the viewer a wealth of contextual information.
  • A visually compelling interior is presented so as to avoid the trappings of perfect production design. (Tarkovsky is as close to having a deity as I come, but I’m perpetually frustrated by his über-eclectic, pristinely cluttered sets with no room for real people to live)
  • It features a beautiful young nude woman with exquisite, tiny breasts and pubic hair.

All that is missing is a narrative seed, one moment suggesting what came before and what follows. But this is more of a tone poem, it would seem.

Tone poems, though, are slippery as eel skin. And there is a tendency to use them as an excuse for untouched inconsistencies.

For example, the framing here pans the camera slightly right to ensure the golden light on her back appears reflected in the mirror; this wawker-jawing complicated by the extreme wide angle is nearly balanced out by the uneven curtain rod’s counter-angle—keyword: nearly.

Also, her pose is odd. It is clearly staged but she holds it in such an unself-conscious way that it from avoids appearing contrived.

These inconsistencies cut both ways: justifying the unresolved aspects as endemic to the work is what makes it great; it is also what keeps it from being truly exceptional due to such justification obfuscating the implicit awareness the image provides of viewing something up to a terminal point—the snapping of the shutter—and then being left with little except the technical inconsistencies to ponder for clues that simply don’t exist.