The title of Monika Macdonald’s exhibition, In Absence, can be read in different ways. It may be about a non-negative absence, where that which is absent is not necessarily something one misses. It may even harbour something good: People can grow stronger and clearer in the absence of something, as when you chop down an old spruce and the vegetation around it receives more light and nutrition and a new chance to bloom. And it may be about a very real sense of loss. About grief and longing.
I imagine that the women in Monika Macdonald’s photographs are located in a borderland between freedom and loneliness, a place you easily end up in when you begin to explore life’s endless possibilities. Several of the women are mothers, and I don’t think they would be happy to be labelled only as such. They would not consider “mother” to be a complete identity.
And that’s how I look at the dark, moving, dirty, beautiful, uningratiating collection of images that is this exhibition: As an exploration of ways of becoming a whole human being, a complex human being, and, not least, allowing yourself to be just that. A striving for an existence that comprises both light and darkness, another layer, beyond the everyday. An existence where something is risked. A place for events that are not displayed on social media to be subjected to the likes of one’s friends.
I pause in front of the photo of a woman who is parting her hair and exposing her neck. Her face is not visible. Exposed to the viewer, she projects an impression of pride and vulnerability at the same time. A head held high, revealing the weak spot: the neck is where wolves and vampires attack, where the blade of the guillotine falls. The image contains an insight: in order to abandon yourself to something, anything, your have to make yourself vulnerable.
Dare to step into the unknown even though you’re afraid.
Take a ride in the car even though you’re not sure where it’s going.
Therese Bohman, Swedish author and art critic.