video (mini-dv, dvd)
duration: 5.22 min
ŠJesper Nordahl 2000

Jesper Nordahl kanon (2000)
(Text originally published in catalogue "videonale 9", Bonn 2001.
Text by Jan Verwoert and Sören Grammel.)

A small group of drunken men enjoy themselves at the beach. Bare-chested, they stagger along. Most of them have short hair of shaved heads. The most beefy of them all lies on the sand. He has a mighty beer belly and is wearing nothing more than wet underwear. Two other grab his arms and pull him as a stranded whale behind them. He pulls himself together, leans on someone else's shoulders and pick s up an empty vodka bottle in order to throw it in the air. As if it where a game, the beefy guy puts the man supporting him into a headlock. They shove each other back and forth. The beefy guy spreads his arms and mimics the bent wing of a seagull. During this act he dances like a ballerina toward another man and butts him with his stomach. In the end, the men leave the beach one after the other. A younger man took the beefy guy's shoes. They wrestle for the shoes and both fall to the ground. When they start to get up the younger one jumps on the beefy guy's back. He carries him a few meters by pick-a-back before they both go to the ground again. The game is repeated. Finally, the beefy guy crawls forward on all four. The other strides his back and let himself be carried. The video ends when the men disappear between the dunes.

Jesper Nordahl was a chance witness to this bizarre scene. He filmed the men from a hidden spot without being noticed. The recordings remain uncommented. They are a matter-of-fact documentation of an everyday occurrence. There is no need to process the filmed material. The men's behaviour, itself, is already sufficient staging. This is the paradox Nordahl's video shows to the best advantage. On one hand the men's behaviour seems to be absolutely spontaneous. They do not know they are being filmed. They are completely drunk and totally uninhibited. Altogether, it proves that the happenings in front of the camera can be perceived as completely unstaged. On the other hand, it is also noticeable that the men's behaviour follows clear rules. Under the influence of alcohol the men's behavioural patterns as well as the distribution of their roles and power, is brought to light that much more clearly. From this point of view their behaviour has been staged from beginning to end. Their body language seems almost theatrical. The hierarchical position of one man in the group corresponds with a certain choreography of gestures. It is significant that the group leader is a man who plays the baroque fullness of his physique to the gallery. Whether he proudly displays his mighty belly, pulls down to the ground or is dragged through the sand, his weight is always the center of gravity for his group of men.

Jesper Nordahl's video clearly displays that the use of corporeality between men is by no means the expression of supposed naturalness. The video illustrates that seemingly spontaneous body language is also part of the role a man is assigned within the hierarchy of a group. Nordahl shows that male bonding is not much more than (homo)social pieces of theatre.

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