The artists chosen for ”the Alternative Art Guide ” I have come across in my work with art exhibitions in Östergötland, Sweden. I have selected them, however, since they, in their lives as well as within their artistic practices, reject in different ways the categories local or global, and thereby allow us to think again about this dichotomy and its relevance or irrelevance in art today. They also represent quite different genres and forms of expression, yet speaks to an ongoing interest in the intersection of art and politics.
Kristina Muntzing is a Swedish artist that has during the last years shifted base between Gothenburg, Scania, Stockholm, Buenos Aires, and London. Her work has often dealt with issues of belonging, as for example her ”Bastard flags” or little figurines of ”New Swedes”. Recently she has created pieces in the series ”Mapping Panther Politics” that, in themselves, draw a line across time and geographies and thus refutes any simple notions of us and them, local or global or then and now. The upshot to this series was a group of young activists in a small poor urban area in the outskirts of Gothenburg – Biskopsgården – who had read and learned about The Black Panther Party and their community based mobilisation in the 1960’s and 1970’s USA. The young activists in Biskopsgården decided to open up a branch of this organisation. Kristina and her artistic collaborator, Kalle Brolin, got inspired by these young activists.
Kristinas poster-like collage are made up of thin paper ribbons weaved into images that mix slogans from black activism of the 1960´s with images of present day Swedish poor urban areas. The ribbons extend like uncut warp, or communication wires, from the images, underlining the time- and space transcending quality of political solidarity that she portray and/or perform. What at first looks like an artistic bridging of separate incidents of activism, is in fact a reworking of a mind boggling actual connection – in which, for example, Bobby Seales comes today to Biskopsgården to give May 1st address and young people in Gothenburgs’ suburbs are inspired by the words of Eldridge Cleaver. In this way Mûntzings’ work tells us something about how emancipatory political articulations are born in a specific setting and context, yet aspire towards something else, which also, as it turns out, can be, somewhere else. It transcends the distinction between the particular and the universal and reminds us that no meaningful political vision has been articulated in nowhere.
Saad Hajo is a Syrian born political cartoonist with a long experience of drawing for newspapers in France, Lebanon and Egypt and so forth. Today he lives in Norrköping, yet is still actively involved in the political cartoonist culture of the Arabic World as he on a weekly bases sends his work to the Lebanon paper As Safir and the web-paper 24 based in Abu Dhabi, for which he is also editor of the political cartoon section.
The satirical drawing, belongs to one of the oldest forms of art, and political commentary. It is often graspable without any particular language skill – hence universal, yet sparked by (g)local ignitions in politics. During the Arabic spring and the war in Syria, Saad has been sending out a constant stream of drawings commenting on the development.
Some of his art took a direct part in the Arabic Spring, as with a cartoon of the former Tunisian dictator Ben Ali. Made in Norrköping and published in a Lebanon newspaper, it was quickly transferred by activists to a large sheet and then carried by demonstrators in the streets of Tunis in january 2011. This was important for several reasons. Not least political. However, from a viewpoint of the current development of contemporary art it is a thoughtworthy irony that this old ”simple” daily art form manages (and has always) to do that which is such a strong desire in contemporary art today. Namely, to break out of the institutions, hit the street, partake in and inspire political energy, and, in doing all that, being also happily oblivious of the categories ”original” or ”copy.”
Aldís Ellertsdóttir Hoff
Aldís Ellertsdóttir Hoff comes from Iceland, but lives and works in Norrköping, Sweden. Her works are conceptual, idea-based, and challenging in their aestethically sketchy, yet, auestere expressions. She works with different forms and media: photo, film, installations and performance. Her form of interactivity, one might say, forces us to activate our minds. She does not however only trigger intellectual motions within, but also strenuous emotional reactions that demands to be resisted or reflected upon. She does this by addressing hidden or petrified everyday norms, gender stereotypes, or the normative concerns facing the immigrant that tries to navigate through the ”integration” process in to Sweden.
Her work often speaks to the notion of nakedness. ”Staging Dance”, a set of photographs with herself as model, displayes a kind of dressed up striptease that gently stirs sexual and social prejudice and imaginations. The model seems to be unhappily ”making love to the camera” while the camera/viewer cannot seem to love her back at all. The dressed up figure, with her ugly-cute garb that forbids, in spite of her efforts, any associations to glamour, reflects back a misogynist and class-flavoured aestethics. In the process of viewing the images the source of the prejudiced reading is increasingly unsecured.
In the film ”Irrational Economic Behaviour” she explores the meaning of skin, and a rather crazy idea of creating a suit out of human skin. Annoyingly unworkable, she hits several keys that speaks to the trend to demand of art to be more profitable and growth generating as well as to the latent fascism of a fashion industry merged with plastic surgery (which is in fact not at all irrational as a business idea). This film is also a projection board for ideas about identity. Just like skin. If we unthink it we all pretty much look the same under it. Skin is the organic interface to the world and others, reminding both of our individuality and its fragility.
Erik Berggren is one of the founders and curators of the Museum of Forgetting. He works otherwise at the University of Linköping, Sweden, on REMESO – The Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society – with teaching, editing and communication. At the Institute he has done research on right wing populism in Denmark and worked with various disseminating projects such as for example the film series Migra Movies in collaboration with the Museum of Work in Norrköping, Sweden. He works also since many years irregularly as a social and cultural critic on a freelance basis, writing in Swedish press. Erik has a BA in social science from Uppsala University, a diploma from Poppius School of Journalism in Stockholm, an MA in Social Science from the Graduate Faculty at the New School for Social Research, New York, USA.
The Museum of Forgetting
The Museum of Forgetting is a nomadic platform for art exhibitions, critical reflection and discussion based in Norrköping, Sweden. We have since 2007 addressed the Iraq war, America inside, Arabic cartoons and discussed the relationship between fact and fiction in art and politics. We start out from questions relating to the costs and rewards of social and cultural construction of memory and forgetting.
Over the years we have collaborated with international and Swedish artists such as Santiago Sierra (Spa), Björn Melhus (Ger), Karen Land Hansen (Den), Erik Pauser (Swe), Coco Fusco (USA), Dror Feiler (Swe), Saad Hajo (Syr/Swe), Kalle Brolin (Swe), Kristina Müntzing (Swe), Daniel Peltz (USA), Ewa Einhorn (Swe), Jeuno Kim,( Swe/South Korea), Johanna Billing (Swe), Sahar Burhan (Syr), Gonzalo Frasca (Uru), Maria Friberg (Swe) and many others.
The Museum of Forgetting is run by Erik Berggren and Kosta Economou