Artist Statement
Interview + Press
Annelise Schübeler
Jane Jin Kaisen
Tomas Lagermand Lundme
Aukje Lepoutre Ravn
Elisabeth Delin Hansen
Joanna Frueh
Laura Cottingham
Bo Nilsson
Peter Brandt

By Bo Nilsson.

Marilyn is one of the greatest icons of our time. The interest in her has not decreased since her death in 1962. On the contrary the interest has increased, which is obvious in the numerous works of art that has been created about the subject. However, it is notable that the artistic image of Marilyn has undergone tangible changes over time. This applies especially to a series of contemporary manifestations, with another level of complexity, where the phenomenon of Marilyn is both a point of projections and identification of the artist.

Marilyn was already used in an artistic context in the beginning of the 1950’s. Willem de Kooning combined pinup images of mass culture with an archetypal view on women. The result was an almost grotesque figure that oozed of sexuality. De Kooning’s creation reflected the 1950’s conservative opinions about women, where males labelled them as objects. In the 1960’s Marilyn became almost compulsory in English and especially in American pop art. She appears in the majority of works by American pop-artists, perhaps primarily because she represented a part of the American media landscape, which was their common starting point. Andy Warhol is probably the artist that is mostly related to Marilyn. Warhol created his first Marilyn-creations shortly after her death in 1962. He questioned the image of Marilyn and the interpretation of her. His manifestations do not deal with her personality, but with mass-produced image of her. Thus he emphasizes that he could not have a personal relation to her, in spite of the media’s attempt to create intimacy between two persons, who never met.

In the beginning of the 1970’s several artists began to accuse Warhol of exploiting Marilyn. Elaine Sturtevant copied Warhol’s images by using his templates, which was given to her by Warhol himself. In spite of this, she gained neither the same artistic nor commercial success as Warhol. Warhol’s and Sturtevant’s images of Marilyn are similar, but they don’t have the same artistic status and are estimated at different prices. To Sturtevant this was proof that men dominate the art scene. During the 1980’s Louise Lawler continued using Warhol’s Marilyn-pictures in creations like ”Does Andy Warhol make you cry?”. She photographed Warhol’s ”Gold Marilyn” in a preview of an auction sale to illustrate the commercialism of the art world. These creations are a continuation of the 1970’s political radicalisation, where Marilyn is important in the feministic discourse. Marilyn represents a duality: she is considered a victim of a miserable childhood and a conservative view on women, but she is also regarded as a strong woman, who was conscious about the part she played. As an adult, the exposed girl took her life in her own hands. It is in this breaking point between victim and icon, that Marilyn becomes part of the historical arena with women, who have changed the way women view their own sex.

The feministic conception of Marilyn is not only related to Warhol’s Marilyn-pictures. Already in the black and white series, ”Untitled (Filmstills)”, is Cindy Sherman portraying Marilyn. She uses a cinematic archetype that shares many similarities with Marilyn and also in her later photographic works she reverts to Marilyn’s body language. But Cindy Sherman is not the only artist who has staged herself as Marilyn. In Zoe Leonard’s creation ”Pin-up# 1(Jennifer Miller does Marilyn Monroe)”, 1995, Jennifer Miller is wearing a beard and forming Marilyn’s classic S-formed posture on the red divan. However, not only women, but also men, have identified themselves as Marilyn. The Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura’s creation deals with staging different simultaneous and historical people. Morimura has staged himself as Marilyn in three different photographs called ”White Marilyn”, ”Red Marilyn” and ”Black Marilyn”. Morimura’s photographs do not only deal with the transformation from man to woman. In the creation ”Selfportrait (Actress/Black Marilyn)”, 1996, Marilyn appears with a large sexual organ, whereby a transformation occurs from the portrayed woman to a man. Morimura does not only debate the crossing of sex, but also the crossing of different races, where an Asian becomes a Westerner. When Douglas Gordon received the Turner Prize in 1996 he released a press photo where he was photographed with a badly dressed, blonde wig. He named the photo ”Selfportrait as Kurt Cobain, as Andy Warhol, as Marilyn Monroe, as Myra Hindley”. It is apparent that Douglas Gordon not only wishes to comment on the limit of sexes, but also characters in contemporary culture, whereby he identifies himself with a rock star, an artist, a movie star and a normal person, who became famous through a murder widely discussed by the media.

In Peter Brandt’s artistic productions, Marilyn is not a purposeless visitor, but a constant reference point that seems almost like an obsession. The distanced stance to Marilyn that characterizes the artists above is not to be found in the works of Peter Brandt. Instead there is a confidence, close to the intimate or something that can almost be described as a loving relationship. Bert Stern’s famous pictures of Marilyn inspire three photographs with the title ”Marilyn & Me”, 2000. In the photographs Peter Brandt is wearing a wig and a dash of make-up and is portraying Marilyn, who is studying her face in a mirror. But it is not a regular male projection, but more likely a question of identification – a will to understand the feminine. Marilyn’s heterosexual femininity is so extravagant that it appears to be an act, which makes her excellent material for phenomena such as look-a-likes and drags. Marilyn’s performed femininity can also be compared to the identity she constructed, when she left Norma Jeane Mortensen and became Marilyn Monroe.

In the slightly larger photo series ”Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe & Peter Brandt”, 2001, which was commissioned for the exhibition ”My Marilyn” at Liljevalchs Konsthall in Stockholm, 2002, Bert Sterns photographs once more inspire Peter Brandt. In full body photographs the artist himself is posing with a typical feminine body language, accompanied by feminine accessories such as fur jacket, feather boa and scarf. Wearing an Andy Warhol-wig, he commingles Bern Stern’s photographs with Christopher Mako’s pictures of Andy Warhol. In one of the photographs, the artist is wearing sunglasses, one of Andy Warhol’s accessories in the early 1960’s. These photographs are not just about female and male, but about different identities that he makes his own. In other words, a sort of third personality, where the male and female are facing each other with the result of becoming something in between. Peter Brandt’s creation can be related to the so-called queer research that claims that our gender identity is not determined by nature, but is an thoroughly rehearsed role. Thereby we are not born as neither man nor woman but instead trained as one or the other, which makes it possible for women to appear as men and men as women.

(From the catalogue “Marilyn & Me”, page 6-10, 2004).