Hugo Ljungbäck is a Swedish video artist, film curator, and media scholar. His films and videos regularly explore queer subjectivities, and have screened at international film festivals and galleries, from London to New York and Beijing to Buenos Aires. His research focuses on the intersection of video art, surveillance, media archaeology, and the archive, and his writing has appeared in peer-reviewed journals.
He is finishing a BFA in Film, Video, Animation, and New Genres and a BA in Media Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he is also an Undergraduate Research Fellow in the Department of English/Film Studies, Director and Chief Curator of the UWM Film Studies Archive, and a programmer for the Milwaukee Underground Film Festival.
Seeing images of queer people telling queer stories can be incredibly empowering and reassuring for people who struggle to accept their own identities. But it can also be a catalyst in changing people’s hostile perceptions, starting conversations, and inspiring acceptance. As a gay man, my research, filmmaking, and writing are often centered around and informed by LGBTQ+ themes, and through my practice, I raise questions about representation and increase visibility of issues facing the queer community. I aim to counter mainstream and stereotypical images of gay youth as hypersexual by regularly exploring queer subjectivities and telling underrepresented stories about intimacy, coercion, and memory, offering portraits of the hidden, the unflattering, and the unseen. I am interested in the representation of bodies on screen and how they are photographed, framed, and mediated through technologies of vision, and I routinely make myself the subject of my camera. As such, my work is often durational, gestural, and performative, and ideas of authenticity, reality, and artifice are always at stake.
My practice is also strongly informed by a media-archaeological methodology. This interest manifests itself through my use of ‘obsolete’ media technologies, archives, found footage, and a self-reflexive aesthetic that foregrounds the materiality of the moving image and its processes of mediation through compression, interference, and noise. I am interested in media as physical objects—celluloid strips, magnetic videotapes, and hard drives—that can be interfered with through photochemical, electrical, and digital processes. But I am equally interested in the technologies and marginal matter—from cameras, circuit boards, and projectors to tape reels, cassettes, and film canisters—that help make still images move. These artifacts are ripe for appropriation and repurposing as sculptural objects in mediatic assemblages.
Between these two registers, I situate my practice at the intersection of the personal and the academic, which cohabit in productive tension: I frequently turn to queer theory, media studies, and art history to reframe and contextualize my personal experiences and practice, and vice versa. While I work across moving image media, my current practice is centered around analog video, a particularly generative medium for the type of queer media-archaeological inquiry I am pursuing, as the analog video signal is constantly variable and temporary, resisting the fixity of film and binary of digital. The various media and processes I work with allow me to explore the margin of moving image production: to interrupt flows of commercial images, excavate forgotten queer and media histories, and reimagine alternative queer-media futures.