Two Workshops and One World Premiere

art, recent work, time-out

November came and went… I got a few days in the studio, but most of the time was spent carrying out commissions in nearby city Södertälje and rural village Gnesta. First, I did this Dreams workshop at Södertälje konsthall – together with curator-educator Sarah Guarino Florén – where partaking teenagers shared daydreams and night dreams, making conceptual self portraits (a homage to contemporary artist Anna Sörenson!) and a huge, gold-laced dream catcher…

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Dream workshop with secondary school students at Södertälje konsthall; photo HHW.

…and then, I suddenly found myself being the organizer of a very unique event in Gnesta: the world premiere of True Intention, a short documentary film by Ronnit Hasson about branding artist Linda Nordfors and Art Agency Reflection Company. This came about because of my involvement with Långsjö teater – a regional theatre group in Gnesta, the village close to my homeplace where also Ronnit and Linda are based. My undertaking at the theatre is to develop the Artist-in-Residence and community work… and, well – this was a collaboration too appealing not to explore…

True Intention invites us to follow an art project with focus on sustainability; the artist reflects upon and re-interprets the brand of BillerudKorsnäs – a leading paper packaging and pulp company. Linda’s response comes out as the ingenious design of a series of objects such as fashion dresses, director’s chairs, a history cabinet and pine tree trunks – all made from various kinds of paper. The artefacts end up forming a pedagogical space at the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology… and the BillerudKorsnäs staff are left with new ideas about sustainability, innovation and corporate identity.

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The film documentary mirrors this fascinating hybrid process, mapping out a place where sustainable innovation, philosophy, enterprise and pedagogy fuses into art. But that’s just half the story; while realizing her project, Linda engages a number of local entrepreneurs, job seekers, trainees and craftspeople in Gnesta.

And so, it made a lot of sense to launch the premiere right here. We set the date to Sunday, November 20th… and, to really make a statement, we decided to have two screenings, each followed by a panel discussion; the first one on Cultivating Sustainability by Enterprise, and the second on Cultivating Sustainability by Art. From the day the idea arose, we had little more than three weeks to realize the project. And we did it!

Here’s a few photos from the double event – the first screening at local cinema Elektron, featuring Linda and Ronnit together with councillor Johan Rocklind (municipality of Gnesta), Daniel Lundqvist (NAV Sweden), Gustav Edman (Fabel Kommunikation) and Emilia Rekestad (REALS), moderated by cultural advisor Carina Nilsson (municipality of Gnesta); and the second one at Långsjö teater matching the artists with Magdi Beky Winnerstam (artistic director at Långsjö teater), Anna Emmelin (Albaeco), artist and curator Paula von Seth, and cultural advisor Carina Nilsson (here representing the municipality), with myself moderating…

All event photos by Artur Kowalski. And many, many thanks to everyone involved!

Cultivating Sustainability by Enterprise; panel discussion at cinema Elektron.

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Local contributors and participants in True Intention documentary – on stage at Elektron!

Cultivating Sustainability by Art; panel discussion at Långsjö Teater.

Good collaborations are truly nourishing. Which was my good luck, by the way… because on the very next day (hardly having slept), I plunged into another workshop at Södertälje konsthall. Once more, I had the pleasure to team up with Sarah Guarino Florén – gracefully improvising together, on the firm ground of embodied knowledge. This week, our coworkers were fifth-graders and the workshop theme was Words and Images. We put forward the task of re-inventing language – without letters! – and gathered inspiration from emojis, roadsigns, Chinese characters and Bliss symbols… and Rudyard Kipling’s story How the First Letter Was Written. The response was immediate; not one single kid sidestepped the challenge. Through the week, we read dozens and dozens of inventive messages about pets and Christmas wishes, vacation trips, parents fleeing from war zones, love for family and friends and a mother falling ill… Their creativity was impressive, but even more so was the sincereness; both in writing, and in reading each others’ scripts.

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Words and Images workshop – lunch break, tracks remaining; photo HHW.

In all of this, I did find some time for painting and a project of my own; but that’s quite another story…

Imago Mundi/Response to Invitation.

art, recent work

And here’s the story of my own process, and the resulting piece for the Imago Mundi collection:

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Imago Mundi canvas.

First, there was the invitation – materialized as a small object. Paula von Seth, curator for the Swedish archive of Imago Mundi, contacted me in late August 2014 and provided me with a framed canvas, 10 by 12 centimetres. The suggestion was to alter the object artistically, and then return it to stay with the collection. I kept the canvas wrapped in its plastic pouch and carried it with me for several weeks, ambivalent whether I should accept or not.

The invitation comprised a set of vows concerning presentation and promotion within the project, but offered no economic compensation for the artist’s work as such. I know several artists who would have declined the invitation for this reason only; in Sweden, it has been a long-time struggle to arrive at some basic agreements with public commissioners concerning the payment for artistic work. Considering the conditions,  I knew I wouldn’t use the canvas to make a painting.

By and by, the very ambiguity of the situation begins to catch my attention; it needs to be explored. Finally, I decide to open the plastic pouch. Groping for the canvas, I ask myself: what is this invite about, really? and what would possibly transcend the settings of this interchange? What kind of response, from my side, wouldn’t fit in? Provocations – personal insults, explicit political or sexual statements, “épater la bourgeoisie” – are firmly established patterns in the artworld; hence, none of that. On the other hand: would it be meaningful, or even feasible, to open a dialogue across the realities that separate an extremely wealthy man, such as Luciano Benetton, from myself – an undistinguished, low-income female artworker? Or, again – considering the lack of social and ecological balance in this world – am I in fact by the side of mr. Benetton, capitalizing on global inequalities?

I don’t know. I need to visualize… How can these frames be expanded?

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Imago Mundi book-scroll?

While trying to duck out of the frames, I remember the blue pants. The connection between the Benetton trademark and myself actually dates longer back than the Imago Mundi project – much longer. Back to 1985, to be exact; that was the year when I purchased those corduroy jeans for my firstborn, five-year-old son during a visit in Paris. We both delighted in the prince-like turquoise blue colour, and he kept wearing them for years to come. At last, when they were thoroughly worn-out and faded, I couldn’t dispose of them but carefully put them away in a drawer. Almost thirty years later, that’s where I find them. Carriers of memories and emotions – I bring them out to form a new picture.

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1985 Benetton jeans.

The idea of a book-scroll merges with the physicality of the textile. I begin to unstitch the bits and pieces of the garment. It takes quite some time; every stitch is firm and strong, not a single one has loosened (although  the fabric itself is almost see-through in certain patches). Somebody did a good work here… The original colour still remains inside the overlock seams. Removing one thread after another, I notice a label that says: MADE IN ITALY. Those were the days, now I guess they would have been manufactured in Bangladesh or Pakistan. I’m careful to save each piece of fabric, each thread. They keep the memory of somebody’s time. Somebody’s life.

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Unstitching, cutting, fitting together. Then, pause.

I spend some time rearranging the bits of fabric. In order to make them fit to the framed canvas, I need to sew them together anew, forming one long band. Time.

Time is what we have in common. Time is, actually, all we have.

The idea of a book-scroll calls for a text. The unmaking and transforming of that unknown somebody’s efforts back in the 1980’s… brings about another memory. Around the same time, in 1984, Volker Harlan – a priest in the Christengemeinschaft of Germany – recorded a dialogue with artist Joseph Beuys. It touched on many things, among them the themes of art and production, freedom and judgement. I remember a quote:

“So, first of all, we have art as the science of freedom, and as a consequence of this, we also have art as primary production or the original, underlying production for everything else.”

But this is an English translation; I’d like to have it in the original, German form. Can’t find it, though. Luckily, German-Uruguayan-American artist Luis Camnitzer is visiting the Royal Institute of Art these days, and I take advantage of this to bring up the issue. He kindly agrees to help me out with a translation. Of course, this is more like Chinese whispers; the resulting sentence will be Camnitzer’s words, not Beuys’s. As Luis Camnitzer himself fully approves the essence of the statement, I feel it’s still appropriate. But he worries about his German idiom being a very childish one, since he changed language at the age of three… Later, I get an opportunity to check it out with a friend, Anusche Noring – who is also a professional translator – and she corrects the sentence in some parts. The opening words are already embroidered onto the fabric, though, and will remain as if articulated by a three-year-old…

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One transformation follows another. I like the way this artefact is unfolding a space of its own, tacking together a compilation of purposes and materials.

Opening Day at Fondazione Cini

art, recent work, time-out

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Sitting on the quay at Isola San Giorgio Maggiore, dipping my feet in the water, waiting for the press conference to begin. This is the opening day

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for a permanent exhibition of more than 6000 artworks from all inhabited continents on the globe. It’s also a release event for the book presenting the Swedish part of the collection (in which I contribute). Look,

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there’s the Swedish curator Paula von Seth. We – the artists – gather around her trying to get a clue, while the photographers are clustering in front of the man in the blue jacket. Photo session finished, he invites us into the Fondazione Cini to present this project of his:

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the Luciano Benetton Collection Imago Mundi.
More to follow…