From Iceland — THIS MAN IS REAL


Published August 6, 2004


After gaining such a strong presence in this town it’s impossible not to stop by and see the photographs. Albert, perhaps, draws you in but the photos are not as plentiful as you’d expect with such an extensive advertising campaign. They are, however, engaging. In a scene which is apparently an example of classic Finnish humor, Albert sits around with some friends in disgusting squalor, playing instruments in a sort of surreal disorder.

Another photo depicts Albert having a conversation in a pub while two men strangle one another at the next table. Even at first glance, these scenarios don’t seem particularly authentic. And in fact all the photos of Albert are staged. The series blurs the line between the function of photography as documentary and its use as a creative tool, manufacturing situations which are more pointed towards satire. The exaggerated circumstances are perhaps scenes from his actual every day life, but here they are calibrated to an absurd level, apparently embodying the essence of Finnish humour… which can be described as dry, to say the least.

To add to the proliferation of Albert’s image, his home city of Kotka, Finland runs a website with a special section dedicated to Albert ( This site aims to present his daily life in Kotka and refers to him as an “exhilarating cyber star”. The illustration of Albert’s life is presented as a very serious enterprise; another example of Finnish humor. Also on the website are snippets of Albert’s musings for his local newspaper, where he has furnished such quotes as: “At the age of 46 I still have my own teeth. And the fact that I do is due to my upbringing.”

Albert is a miracle of nature to be sure, and part of the charm of the photographs is the intimacy with which you can see Albert’s face, his mesmerizing, scrambled set of teeth, and in fact every sinew of his body. At some level, the fact that his stances are fabricated becomes irrelevant. A sort of distillation of Albert emerges, some blend of glee and resolve painted on his face.

All this attention on Albert does not bode well for the rest of the artists featured in this show, but each photograph in the small exhibit is respectable, the type of clear, rich images which allow you to feel that you are seeing completely into a different realm. But you just can’t help but focus on Albert. Perhaps it’s the pig.

The show is located on the 6th floor of the downtown library until 29 August.

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