Jesper Just b. 1974
A Vicious Undertow (2007)


Shot in black and white Super 16mm film and then transferred to video, the slick contrast, staged lighting and elegant camera movements in A Vicious Undertow are so aesthetically precise that film appears almost artificial. Just's protagonist, an older woman, plays out an enigmatic narrative alongside the film's two other characters, a timeless looking young man and woman, in a dramatic lounge constructed of lush wood-paneling. Whether these characters exist in real time or in a remote space within the older woman's memory, the charged exchange between the two lovers lingers just out of reach. Youth, beauty, and sexuality permeate the film's rich texture, while tones of melancholy and naiveté obscure the characters, their relationships, and the ultimately the film itself, with swaying currents of unrequited moments.

A Vicious Undertow opens like a dance, as the camera pans across a piece of fabric, slowly revealing its owner, Just's whistling female protagonist. Here, through song and movement, Just introduces his three characters with highly physical modes of expression; modes that form the basis of communication in all of Just's films. Until A Vicious Undertow, Just dealt mainly with the complexities of male relationships, usually between a father figure and a son. As in his previous films, there is the continuous suggestion of a storyline in the background, but ultimately Just leaves it to the viewer to tell the story, based on one's own personal memories and associations.

Often using visual and aural cues that reference mainstream film and television Just employs cinematic and narrative tropes from media and film history in order to dissect their conventions. He extracts the climax of a film—the point at which the viewer is completely seduced and rife with anxiety, when the music starts in and the plot is in its final stages of unfolding—but does not offer a single resolution.

A Vicious Undertow has been shown at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, the 'Five Year Anniversary Show' at Galleri Christina Wilson and the Montreal Biennale. It will be shown at the Beijing Center for Creativity in conjunction with the Millennium Art Museum this summer and at the inaugural exhibition of the MediaLabArt Museum in Moscow in the fall. This past year Just has had solo exhibitions at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, the Vienna Kunsthalle, the Moore Space in Miami, FL, the Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Just graduated from the Copenhagen Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 2003. He was born in 1974 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and currently splits his time between Copenhagen and New York.