Public Commission IV: Light Fibres, Dark Fibres (April – May 2018)

art, recent work

Having finished painting the acoustic diffuser, I return to the alcove with the circular window. The bench is there, waiting. The dyed silk is now being processed by Anna Wahl Gran and her co-workers at Högklint; felted with dark fine wool into large swathes of fabric… I receive one magnificent piece after another, and store them in the adjacent classroom. And I’ve got a set of optic fibres, a “Starry Sky Set”, ready to install. This requires some planning, a star map, a ladder and a good drilling machine, a staple gun, non-acid wood glue, a lot of tooth picks, and patience.

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First, I mark out positions for each of the 81 individual fibres, arranged to resemble some of the constellations of the Northern and Southern skies. Then, I remove the wall boards to drill the holes. That made, I stretch and fasten the felted pieces over the plywood. Toothpicks, pushed in from the backside, show where the holes are and make way through the strong fabric where the drilling machine would be useless.

Meanwhile, the fibres have been provisionally attached to the original brick wall. Now comes the patience part…

With the felt covered wall-boards loosely set in place, I can squeeze one arm in from behind to manipulate the thin fibres into their holes – working literally by fingertip sense, not being able to see through wood – and meet with the acrylic toppings from the front side. Applying the proper kind of glue, again by the help of toothpicks, and trying not to loose any of those minimal fixtures, measuring 3 by 5 millimetres…

The whole process takes me three full weeks or more, but finally I’ve arrived. And it works!

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Passage Room@Satan’s Death (construction)

recent work, time-out

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.

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

art, beauty, recent work

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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ResonanceJam@Långsjö teater III (public)

art, beauty, recent work

Saturday morning. Soon the public will arrive… Sun is already sneaking in. Checklist: sweep floor, turn on lighting, place torchlights by the entrance. Breathe. Open doors!

One minute later, first visitor peeps in; frowns, turns around, tells friend outside: I’m not going in here! and leaves quickly. Hmmm. Is this what it’s going to be like? Are we too obscure? Will the texts – with their subjects of time, death and space – be perceived as smugly esoteric and/or provocative? Will this whole thing just turn people off?

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Next guest enters, and is provided with a torchlight. He spends quite some time moving around, observing, playing the bells, reading texts… then generously shares his thoughts with me and Julia before leaving. Now, that was comforting!

Hours later, we are convinced that the system is functional; Julia and I actually feel like we are the audience, as we benefit from the visitors’ performances and feedback! The space resonates with sound, light and materiality, with body movements, interactions and close attention, emotions and serious thoughts… Saturday afternoon, Julia finally lits the overhead projector – and of course, here is the place to acknowledge Lena Strand and my other Light Jam colleagues!

Our yellow portal is now working both ways. One lady even seems to have vanished into another dimension, leaving only her shoes behind.

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Sunday morning, I sweep the floor once more, and open doors for the second and last day. Many of our Sunday visitors are very young, and the space adapts to even more versatile conditions.

By 5.30 pm on Sunday, door closes behind our last guest and we begin to dismantle the whole system of resonating bodies before cleaning up.

A deep-felt Thank You to Långsjö teater for providing the space; to each one of our guests for shared joy and valuable feedback; to Esmilda for professional input and Patrick for all kinds of support; to Lena Oja for the grand feast; and of course, to Julia Adzuki with whom collaborating is as rewarding as it is easy…

We draw to a close, in order to make a new opening.

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Resonance Jam@Långsjö teater II (prepping)

art, recent work

170830 03bMorning sun sheds its light through coloured glass panes; the lense of the overhead projector captures it and projects backwards.

Hooks are attached, bells and silk pieces placed, and the sound of the bell clappers is softened by rubber lining. Very consciously, we try to avoid every set-up that suggests a centre or certain symmetry axes – instead, we wish to encourage diffusion and interferences, a recurrent loss of balance which keeps you going…

Next, we begin to play with lighting, and the light pillars get a footing of salt.

Eight of my meditation texts* are written in silver on round-cut indigo cardboards and posted on the walls behind the dark blue acoustic curtains, visible only by torchlight; Julia’s texts appear on tarot-like cards along with a calabash stethoscope.

It’s getting late. Things are coming together, but still the silk needs some ironing before we open to the public tomorrow…

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 (all photos: HHW.)

*selected from the “uncategorized” category at this site.

Resonance Jam@Långsjö teater I (prepping)

art, recent work

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Throughout this year, I find myself trying out something – a method, of sorts. From the mid-winter LightJam – a brilliant concept coined by my long-time friend Lena Strand – to a brief ArtJam c/o Satan’s Democracy in spring. Now that summer is slowly withdrawing, I’m back at Långsjö Teater – playing a ResonanceJam together with much-appreciated colleague Julia Adzuki…

I can’t find any better words than ‘pure joy’ to describe this work. We bring various materials – home-built bells, feathers, thin silk, copper tubes, a tanned cowhide – which resonate with light and sound. We combine and move them around in seemingly random ways, and the resonance deepens. We have another week to go; next Friday, the public will be invited to take part. Julia’s daughter suggests a portal opening into a yellow place, and we realize that it’s already present… The cowhide, stretched over a metal frame, is a membrane and a portal transmitting light.

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(all photos: HHW.)

For Swedish readers, here’s some general information about the upcoming event:
Gnesta Konstrunda

LightJam at Långsjö teater

art, beauty, recent work

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Finally, we did it!

Playing with light and shadow has been a theme in my work since many years now… and while I was doing the Passage Room at Satan’s Democracy, long-time friend and colleague Lena Strand came up with the idea to bring our knowledge and spirits together in a jam session on light… Wow!

We both knew we just had to do it… only, it took a while until it actually happened. But finally, on the 3rd of January 2017, we met in Lokstallet, Gnesta – a 19th century railway roundhouse, now hosting a local theatre. I brought my 2 x 1,5 metres connectable wooden frames, together with some twelve meters of thin silk fabric. Lena brought an overhead projector, two diapositive slide projectors, a roll of stage lighting filters… and two of her former students, Maria and Daniella. What a surprise! They, in turn, had rope, glassware, paper, torchlights… and so, our LightJam could begin.

Through four days, we explored light in various modes, from the first winter morning sunrays penetrating the room horizontally, casting coloured shades to slowly wander over the walls, to patterns of transparent glass objects projected on screens, and our own shadows double-exposed in a maze of framed silk. Here’s the story in photos:

Day 1 and 2.
Lena and I are the first ones to show up. Lena prepares a paper with some lighting filters, and the pale winter sun graciously plays the role of the spotlight, shining in through the glassed entrance windows. Lena catches the coloured dots on a silk banner, I try to grasp them with my hands… When the sun passes around the corner, Maria arrives. For the first day, there’s only the three of us. The next day, Daniella is also with us. Daniella, Maria and I all meet here for the first time – actually, Lena is the only one to have met with all of us beforehand. So, it’s a process of getting to know each others, as well as the space and the materials. We interweave the handling of physical objects with sharing earlier experiences of process work and improvisation, and our proposals for now. Everything is very casual, and equally serious. We go out for lunch, then set up the dia projector and arrange a couple of transparent screens to play with shadows.

Day 3.
Clear sky again. In addition to yesterday’s colour dots projected into the theatre space, I want to try a two-direction setup; I cover some of the glass panes with lighting filters. When dusk falls, I will be able to use the theatre’s spotlights to project outwards, where untouched snow provides a large white screen. Glass items on the overhead projector produce stunning patterns. Dark, thinly woven fabric covers the long walls to improve acoustics; they also serve to doubling up and distorting the projections, amazing! Lena uses ropes to visualize a process of divergence and convergence… This is actually what we’re continuously practicing here; defining our starting points, then trying out ideas individually or in flexible constellations, then gathering for sharing and reflecting – and for long lunches! Then redefining, and starting over – converging, diverging, converging… Like breathing.
We start talking about how to present our work – tomorrow, we have announced an Open House event for a couple of hours. After a full day’s work, I’m vivified and content. For tomorrow, I’m packing some tools, a silk painting, and a set of diapositives from the 1970’s for the projector…

Day 4.
During the first hour, I’m alone in the room. The morning sun treats me an exuberant light show… Lena enters to see the finale.
The idea of diverging and converging becomes the organizing concept for our presentation; visitors will be led between the wall and the acoustic curtain to the very back of the room, guided by a light trail; a narrow corridor, but not claustrophobic thanks to the transparency of the fabric. From the end of the tunnel, they will find different paths back to the entrance/exit door, while experiencing and experimenting with the different set-ups: the overhead projector, where objects could be altered, exchanged and moved around to change the projected patterns; a semi-transparent film screen (a large piece of cheap paper, really), showing a video compilation from days 2 and 3; the labyrinth of coloured silk screens for shadowplay, leading up to the red and blue silk painting; the two dia projectors, whimsically showing superimposed pictures of traditional Canarian crafts and paintings by Cézanne and Picasso, mixed with lighting filter monochromes… free to play with. Daniella couldn’t be with us this last day, but we implemented her concept of hanging ropes in the shape of a tree trunk, to cast shadows. Torchlights proved very useful here!
We were happy to have a number of visitors – some of them skilled professionals in colour design and light techniques, others just curious in the most delightful way…

And the day after… Light Jam finished; taking things down, packing, withdrawing. The light will stay, increasing by minutes every day… for a while.