Torben Ebbesen (1945-), Topographical Portrait, 1994
The issue that Torben Ebbesen appears to address in Topographical Portrait is an existentialist one. Does the body equal our identity? Has the opposition between soul and body in fact been abolished? These questions are still being explored by ethicists today, and Ebbesen repeatedly returns to them as part of his consistent interest in science and philosophy.
The deconstructed portrait
In Ebbesen’s installation, the traditional portrait has been deconstructed. Divided into 12 containers we find fragments of skin, symbolically represented by silicone imprints. Like topographical maps, where contours constitute abstractions on the Earth’s surface, the skin, when separated from the body, becomes a superficial representation of human spatiality.
Ebbesen’s (apparent) portrait places demands on the spectator’s powers of imagination if they are to reconstruct a coherence between the fragmented body parts.
Between narrative and abstraction
Topographical Portrait shows how Torben Ebbesen’s sculptures navigate a field between narrative and abstraction. Often by presenting a specific, physical element of a metaphorical nature. Here, the skin and its recognisable fingerprints – its topographical curves – becomes a metaphor of the imprints that individuals leave on the world.