Public Commission III; Bob Marley, Conchita Wurst and Wang Di (March – April 2018)

art, recent work

I’ve learnt a lot from this commission; about the existence of acoustic absorbers, for instance.

One of the many professions involved in this renovation (I lost count of numbers long ago) is the acoustic consultant, who provides detailed guidelines concerning the interior soundscape. The advice comes with a drawback, though: the suggested pre-fab acoustic panels would cover most of the coloured back walls, which are designed to give each classroom its character… Hmm. The commissioner, the site manager, the architect, the school representative and I discuss the matter. What if the acoustic panels are scaled down a bit, and mounted just below the ceiling – would they still be functional? We decide to investigate a bit further, leaving the issue unsolved for now.

Unlike the other classrooms, the music room is furnished with a site-built wooden panel. It’s made from lathes of different thickness, arranged in a sequence of four: one broad, one thin, two mid-sized; repeat x 14. The visual pattern of the absorber corresponds to some kind of keyboard, or notation of rhythm perhaps. Of course, the surface had to be painted too – it wasn’t part of my commission, really, but I couldn’t keep my hands away…

I decided to use the lilac of the back wall (just a shade lighter) for the bottom and the sides of the lathes. Then the outer surfaces could sport a colour sequence… Hey, couldn’t it be associated to tones somehow? Yes – Chinese music traditionally uses a pentatonical scale, where the notes correspond to white, yellow, violet, red and black. Now that’s a pretty unconventional palette; I’ll give it a try. Furthermore, the colour sequence of five, overlapping the form pattern of four, will produce a pleasant cross-rhythm.

Then there was the carpenter, who suggested I paint the whole thing in red, green and yellow instead, as a tribute to reggae music – well, I could at least sneak such a triplet in somewhere. And isn’t there some other combination of colours connected to a certain kind of music..? I ask around, but get no positive answer. Come to think of Conchita Wurst, stunningly beautiful drag queen and inspiring artist… She may or may not be transgender, but certainly there is a flag that deserves to be better known: the pink, white and blue one.

Salute to Conchita! Salute to Bob Marley and his legacy! And, thinking of legacy – Cecilia Lindqvist, my teacher in Chinese, studied music in Beijing in the early 1960’s. Her teacher then was the renowned qin player Wang Di. Salute also to Wang Di!

Public Commission II; Mapping the School Road (March 2018)

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What does “home” mean to you?
What does “school” mean to you?

Those were the questions I posed to the schoolkids in grade 2 and grade 5… Their answers? “Home” means family, granma and granpa, an annoying little sister, an easy feeling; a house, spaghetti, chips and snacks; love, memories, a native language; a shopping mall, or a beach – a wide range of emotions, persons, places, cognitions and things. And “school” could be anything between a prison and a safe place, associated with knowledge, effort, fun, weariness and sometimes injustice – and, above all, a place to be with friends.

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All the answers, written down on post it-notes, were carefully collected. Next time I visited, I presented them arranged in a pattern where “school” was the common centre, while the “home” notes formed a periphery – a proto-map, missing the in-between part; the school road. Which lead us to my next question: could you draw a map showing your way between home and school?

Denoyer-6-inch-globe-mapBernard J S Cahill: Butterfly Map (conceived in 1909)

Buckminster Fuller: Dymaxion Map (first published in 1943)

Inspired by Bernard Cahill’s “Butterfly Map” and Buckminster Fuller’s “Dymaxion Map”, I offered triangular pieces of drawing paper for the task. What I got in return was a stunning variety of expressions, mirroring individual temperaments and experiences – admirable visualisations and food for thought. However, I will not post any detailed pictures until I have permission…

My next step will be the rendering of those school road maps into visual elements to form an aggregated whole, which can be mounted permanently on the walls. In the meantime, enjoy Jasper Johns’version of the Dymaxion map from 1967:

johns+film
Photo still from Jasper Johns: Take an Object,
a film by Hans Namuth and Judith Wechsler (1990)

Public Commission I; Light and Shadows (February – March 2018)

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It’s not only about 30 square metres of silk, or sacks of wool and nuno felting. It’s also a matter of fibre optics and nifty spotlights, as well as sound absorbents and schoolkids’ maps… Yes, it’s a commission; a public school is being renovated, and “the 1% rule” prescribes that 1% of the budget for a public construction or renovation should be directed to artistic means… so, here we go!

February 7th: this is my first encounter with the actual venue. Downstairs, school is going on as usual – I can hear kids chatting and shouting in the corridors, and the sounds of a ballgame in the schoolyard. Up here, carpenters, electricians, tilers and painters are buzzing around in a complex system of intertwined work processes.

When first presented to the commission, I figured a concept of mapping the school road together with the kids, and rendering their thoughts and feelings into visual objects. Now that I visit the place, I also see potentials in the very light-and-space conditions. Oh, I have to explore this further…

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…this alcove, for instance; what a perfect hangout it would make. I draw a design suggestion for a sitbench, then mail my sketch to Fredriksson the local manager…

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and lo! next time I visit, it’s there!

February 26th: so, thanks to Fredriksson and Mats the carpenter, we have the bench. Now imagine this alcove darker – almost cave-like – and spotted with tiny bright dots… this is where the nuno felting and fibre optics would come in handy. I contact Anna Wahl Gran, who is willing to take on the task of producing the large pieces to cover all the surfaces; walls, ceiling and sitbench. After some detective work, I’m able to purchase a “starry sky” fibre optics set.

March 7th and 8th: two days booked for meeting school classes… but this will be the topic of a separate post. Here’s just a sneak peak of the mapping project:

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Afterwards, I play a bit with torchlights and colour filters along the curved corridor wall. What if the kids moving around here could produce colourful shadows, living images, on that wall… I wonder where to find sturdy build-in spotlights with a distinct, sharp-edged image of light and shadow? And, what would such spotlights cost?

To be continued…

2nd batch

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15 square metres were far from enough. As sun and wind drives away the last of winter, I’m dyeing a second batch – another 10 x 1,5 metres – of blue silk. This is my part of a collaboration with Anna Wahl Gran, who masters the technique of nuno felting… The silk will be laid out with fine wool and felted into a compound; the intense blue will blend with the naturally brown and blackish shades of sheep fleece. While ironing metre after metre of fabric – in order to stabilize the dye – I think of the first test samples from Anna, and of those stunning photos of deep space… (Actually, pure blue isn’t really my colour.)

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Above: test samples of nuno felting with fine wool and dyed silk, made by Anna Wahl Gran.
Below: M81 Galaxy Group through the Integrated Flux Nebula,
photo by D. Lopez and A Rosenberg/ IAC

APOD Lopez & Rosenberg

***

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Equinox

art, recent work

In this moment, Earth is once more passing that point in space and time where day and night are equal all over the planet; the equinox. In the darkness of the Passage room, the compost silently lives on. Outside, intense sunlight is reflected by the remaining snow, while soothed by no foliage. I have started working on a commission. Today’s preparations include laying out wool and dyeing silk. A cold breeze makes the silk flutter wildly on the clothesline. The wool is warm, dark and silvery. I experiment with nuno felting, a technique where thin fabric is attached to the piece of felt. More to follow…

vernal equinox

 

 

 

Passage Room@Satan’s Death (performance)

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As a visitor at Satan’s Death, you would be clad in a loose white shirt, welcomed by the infernal Woland and presented to a narrative frame where you are now entering the afterworld. Further equipped with a white mask, torchlight and earphones, you are requested to move under silence and sent into a whitewashed shadowland to explore your bygone memories and choices…

©Malou Bergman 2

photo credit: Malou Bergman

A voice in your headphones will give suggestions and reflections as to who you are or what to do, accompanied by a slowly evolving piece of music. Turning around a corner, you may suddenly realize that the music transmitted is actually played live; although the four musicians are located in separate rooms – far apart from each other – the cello, violin, wind instruments and grand piano are connected over radio.

©Malou Bergman 3

photo credit: Malou Bergman

During your two hour stay, you will experience installations, sculptures, images and live performances by nobody-knows-exactly-how-many artists (and occasionally encounter Woland) – until finally summoned to the bar, where you are invited to be re-born to the outside world.

Malou_Bergman

photo credit: Malou Bergman

As participating artists, we were challenged to interact with the audience in different ways; by defining tasks and choices in how to interpret our artworks, but also by being present ourselves. I chose the latter, and decided to revive the almost-forgotten pagan celebration of a midwinter wedlock. Impersonating Lussi, the bride of Darkness (in the 19th century christened Saint Lucia), I began exploring the language of performance.

Meanwhile, the compost lived a warm and mushy life of its own. Fungus ligaments spread in delicate patterns and rottening potatoes sprouted white shoots. A centipede quietly patroled the top edge of the container, as I offered apples, satsumas and odorous soil to visitors, and the occasional fruitbat was taken care of by two little spiders – white and merciless as Death.

photo credits: Mia Malcyone

Passage Room@Satan’s Death (construction)

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Hope.

The first part of Satan’s trilogy staged a tale of repression and resistance, while the second part captured a moment of deliriant triumph and loss. In this third and last part, ultimate disaster has already taken place. In such a predicament – what could bring hope? That was the theme presented to the artists involved, as the Satan’s Death project was launched. My spontaneous response was: compost. Because…

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Because compost turns waste into resource. Compost is biding with the power inherent in soil and darkness. Compost is… hope for new life, beyond death and destruction. Definitely, there had to be a compost in the house.

And I wasn’t the only one to think that way; artist colleague Cais-Marie Björnlod had the same feeling. Cais-Marie put her trust in worm composting, while I decided to try the bokashi fermenting method (much encouraged by facebook discussion group Bokashifrämjandet and Kajsa Sjaunja). In the house, somebody had managed to salvage a number of large plexiglass panes from a former construction site, which brought about the idea of a huge crystal-shaped container. For large-scale bokashi experience, I consulted art and agriculture initiative Under Tallarna, and started collecting household waste from various places.

My darling companion Sören Engzell provided crucial technical aid, and the work proceeded quickly. Pallkompaniet kindly provided pallets for the foundation, as well as the device for attaching metal straps to keep the hexagonal construction together – against the pressure of approximately 4 cubic metres of organic material… Meanwhile, Cais-Marie set out to make a number of smaller compost containers to hang on corridor walls. We went to visit Stockholm Biokol to collect biochar in pouring rain… As September turned October and daylight waned with each day passing, the 3500 square metres of Satan’s scenography were spray-painted white; the Passage Room was one of the few places that escaped whitewashing.

When the ‘compost crystal’ was finally fit, I started to fill it up with fermented bokashi, sand, soil and straw. Outside, trees began throwing their worn-out leaves to the ground and rowan berries glowed on naked branches. Some of that also found their way into the compost, along with moldering fruit and fungus mycelium…

On November 4th, the opening night of Satan’s Death took place.

Satan’s Death

art, recent work, time-out

It’s over.

After three years and three productions, with ~1500 co-creators and 15000 visitors; after countless hours spent and emotions shared; after valuable artistic experiences, and priceless, unique friends made; finally, the very last performance from Satan’s trilogy happened yesterday on December 31st, 2017.

“Art is dangerous, because it connects us human beings in the impossible. Instead of waiting: make! Instead of muteness: speak! Believe in the possibility of change. So, let’s!”

To all of you skillful, dedicated and loveable persons – artists, directors, volunteers, family members and visitors – with whom I’ve shared this adventure, I send a wholehearted THANK YOU!

…and: till next!

Satans dödsannons

ResonanceJam@Watertower II

art, beauty, recent work

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Gnesta Watertower, Saturday morning, September 23rd; all photos HHW.

Are we all set? Yes! Ok, let’s turn on the lights and open to the public… Here’s Resonance Jam #2. Welcome!

Shades of blue, orange and yellow blending into each other. Bells clanging – sometimes loud, sometimes barely audible. Shadows playing on the walls; reaching all the way up to the ceiling, then quickly diminishing as visitors move around. Reflections from the handmirrors wandering like moons over soft horizons.


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In the afternoon, Julia’s friend Karin shows up. She climbs the stairs quietly and vanishes without anybody noticing. Then her voice comes back to us, expanding to fill the whole tower as she sings us a ‘kulning’ – an ancient herding call, intense and rich in half- and quarter-tones. Originally sung in mountains and forests, the kulning was often echoed over large distances and accompanied by the bells of home-coming cattle. Here, somebody occasionally touches the floating bells, and the octagonal space provides a very characteristic echo… As Karin ceases to sing, a mellow, saturated silence arises. It grows and stays; a moment of rapture, carried out of time. Slowly, we return to ourselves, hoping for more. Nothing happens for a while. Then, when all our expectations have finally dissolved into thin air, Karin takes up a blue and haunting note to give us another improvised session.

Here you can hear Karin Lindström Kolterud performing her ‘kulning’ at Resonance Jam #2:
Kularkraft

The very last guests to arrive – as the tower is already emptying – is a small family, two young brothers and their parents. Peaceful joy reverberates within.

Many thanks to the Water Tower Society for inviting us, for facilitating, documenting and for cinnamon buns; to Karin for the kulning; and to each and everyone who joined us for ResonanceJam #2!

ResonanceJam@Watertower I

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Björkbom Vattentornet
Gnesta Watertower; photo Bengt Björkbom

So, here’s the old Watertower of Gnesta. Built in 1913, today no longer in use – but occasionally open for events, and carefully maintained by a local society of dedicated people… who gracefully invited Julia Adzuki and me to play along a bit more. We happily accepted – of course – and brought our materials to this amazing space for ResonanceJam #2.

At ground level, the ceiling is barely visible; lost in shadows some twelve or fourteen metres above one’s head. The empty water tank is still higher up, and so is the topmost, hidden space… A wooden staircase is spiralling upwards along the octagonal wall. As the space so strongly accentuates verticality, we decided to address it by constructing mobiles to let the bells and silk float… A tribute also to the idea of water. And light projected upwards, maybe?

Bells, feathers, wire, silk, rope, metal tubes, masking tape, spotlights, light filters, mirrors… And what about little handheld mirrors, Julia suggests – to echo the torchlights that were handed out to visitors in the Resonance Jam #1? Yes, but where to find them..?

Drilling and fastening. Attaching wires and doubling them for safety. Adjusting and fixing weights. Climbing the staircase, tying ropes, hoisting and lowering. Stitching fabric and ironing. During these days of preparation, a saying from the ancient Chinese Book of Changes – the I Ching – comes to my mind more than once; at the very moment when all elements in a process are in accordance with dao, “everything acts to further”. This seems to be the case here – despite any clumsiness or confusion, we stumble into functionality and beauty time and over again.

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