Trees hung upside down, falling women, duplicated rooms and identities – these are but a few of the details that make up the rich web of Charlotte Gyllenhammar’s art. The uncanny is a constantly recurring theme in her work. The kidnapping dramas and terrorist attacks of the 1970s are relived and reconstructed. Gyllenhammar focuses on hero worship and the idealisation of lost innocence, the sadism of seeing something beautiful fall apart, and an ever-present yearning to enter into the story and the image. Where does all this come from? Anyone searching for autobiographical references will have to look for a long time. Gyllenhammar's art is far more universal than that.
Since the early 1990s her work has centred on the variously cathartic and alienating aspects of the political experience. This is an experience that is defined by the close link between attraction and repulsion, the dualism of being attracted to what you fear and fearing what you are attracted to. At the centre of Gyllenhammar’s multimedia illusion games with cult figures such as Ulrike Meinhof, Ziggy Stardust or Raoul Wallenberg, we always find the child or the anonymous victim, often fused into a single figure. Silent gaping children, cocooned in shredded protective clothing, invoke images of the renaissance and a kind of cybernetic space age. They stand staring into the walls as if they were enduring some sort of punishment. They are confronted not only with film projections of terrifying tales that have become reality, but also with their own gaze that has become an inseparable part of these dramas.
Gyllenhammar demonstrates how participation can turn into paralysis, how life can turn into death, but she also shows the opposite - how dead forms may be animated by being duplicated or deformed, how seemingly hermetically isolated works can be activated by the movements of bodies in space and ongoing social games. The big question is: Can mankind ever free itself from its many subjective prisons? Or are we forever doomed to a voyeurism that is nourished by the image of the other?
Recently, Gyllenhammar has approached the idea of the doppelganger - this romantic figure that challenges the idea of the autonomous self and has fascinated so many; from Hoffman and Dostoevsky to Polanski and Gabriella Håkansson. Freud saw the doppelganger as a projection of the self that does not want to see its evil side, a self that always tries to flee from itself, but is in reality engaged in a self-pursuing narcissistic hunt. In ancient times the doppelganger functioned as protection from the fear of death. At the moment of ones death the doppelganger was expected to survive and move on. This combined promise and threat can also be found in our contemporary fascination with the "promise of sameness" associated with pairs of twins, the life extending technologies of genetic manipulation or self-obliterating virtual avatars, indeed everything that might secure the dialectic between the self and its transformations.