December 23, 2016 "Join Hands"
A month has passed. Good news: in Austria there was a wave of people who decided to vote against Norbert Hofer for president, giving the Green Party candidate Alexander van der Bellen a much more decisive win than in the contested first version of the election. That was a relief, really – I did not believe it would go this way, until it did. I work in an Austrian university: we had serious concerns about what developments an activist right-wing populist president might trigger, also directly relating to us. Another event in my world: two weeks ago I finally went to Wittenberg to check out the situation for an exhibition I have been invited to in 2017: "Luther und die Avantgarde". It will take place in a former prison: each artist gets a cell. Before going I had not even seen the artist list and just had a vague idea. Now I was shown around by the exhibition architect and realized that this was going to be a very special show indeed. The artist list is extraordinary. My next door cell neighbour will be a legendary Russian conceptualist...
Meanwhile, in the wider world, things are... looking somewhat bleak. Not just in Berlin, where we have now had our introduction to mass killing terrorism. I realize I change. I've lost my typical appetite for keeping up with all the latest news and comments around the clock, like I used to – until recently. Instead I have taken to Angry Birds... temporarily (I hope).
During this cold winter I have also turned to music from 1978 and 1979 which I so much overdosed on back then, that I thought I would never be able to return: songs from Siouxsie and the Banshees' two first albums. Steely, jagged, dark and disciplined, with words that once again make sense. Jigsaw Feeling, Switch, Suburban Relapse, Overground, Staircase (Mystery), Regal Zone, Playground Twist. I left Placebo Effect out, I'm not there yet.
I have found myself once again pondering the sad question: how could John McKay just disappear?
November 24, 2016 "Flattened"
I'm still wondering what to make of what I wrote two days ago, just before going to bed...
Right now I'm proof reading for our book, and I come across this fragment in Petter Eklund's text (he's looking at a collection of analog exhibition invites):
"...the passage of time is noticeable only in the postal marks and yellow nuance of the clippings. In the rear-view mirror of the Internet, the perspectives are flattened out. Exhibitions and projects emerge as if on a flat surface, in a perpetually active now. Svenungsson’s homepage is a ..."
This makes me realize my homepage – this homepage – has now been going for 20 years and a couple of months. And that it is now 40 years since I heard about Man Ray's autobiography, which I read at Christmas 1976.
A perpetually active now.
November 22, 2016 "Boundaries"
"Pushing the boundaries of artistic expression".
For some 150 years this has been the mission brief of every self-respecting artist. It's been about creating a contrast to the stasis of bourgeois society; creating alternatives to facts' and numbers' rule; replacing boring reality with dream and invention.
But what happens when the mission is hi-jacked and perverted and is put in society's place in a depraved and twisted form? What happens when facts are no longer shared, but chosen. When contradictions don't matter, because expression counts? What happens when society is changing much faster than its arts? When political power, in a democratic system, is won by inventing reality, instead of accepting and adressing it?
What role is now the artist's?
I certainly hope I'm over-dramatizing, yet I wonder whether we will be looking back at this moment and say: this was when it all started... and if we do, what will then have become our mission brief? "Pushing the boundaries of artistic expression" yet again, like if nothing had happened. Or something else? What could this be? Is there anything else?
November 12, 2016 "Maciej"
I'm in Paris, briefly, to celebrate my friend Anne Bertrand's 50 birthday, in an hour. I stay in a small hotel on Rue des Canettes, opposite of the restaurant Chez Alexandre which was Man Ray's favourite place and where I have been many times as well, together with Juliet Man Ray... a long long time ago. From the outside the restaurant looks the same, but it also looks very closed. I wonder whether closed for good and kept as an increasingly dusty relic... of another era?
One thing which makes travelling so different now, compared to when I used to eat at Chez Alexandre, is that even when you travel light, you carry everything with you. I left Berlin only with my tiny rucksack, but in it I had of course my laptop, and in my pocket of course I have my smartphone. I am as connected to everything in the world as I am when I sit at my desk at home and because of this I feel the constant urge to continue to work on stuff, independently of where I am. It has changed the conditions for experiencing life on the road irrevocably. And not only how we experience life, but how we organize it as well. Which leads me back to the sad, sad preoccupation of the day.
I just read an analysis of the present situation by Maciej Zaremba in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (here, in my hotel room in Rue des Canettes). It's in Swedish, of course, a pity for whoever doesn't read Swedish, because this text is really hard, and original, and offers surprising insights as well. Maybe it would even be an idea to try machine translation? Another of those tools which are about to completely change our lives... in order for... what gain?
November 11, 2016 "Masha"
Masha Gessen is not optimistic in her piece, titled "Autocrazy: Rules for Survival", she is defiant. I have mentioned her work on Putin before. It is clear her personal experiences of working as an investigative journalist under increasing repression and civic deconstruction in Russia, has made her extremely wary. Yet if you give up all belief in the present system before it has ultimately crashed, you will be feeding the beast. That said, I think her six rules should be considered by everybody.
November 9, 2016 "Day after"
Here we are.
I went early to sleep last night. Katrin is away. I had had a photoshop marathon the night before and had slept very little, making the early evening possible. I avoided to check the time on the phone when I woke up in the middle of the night, so as not to be subjected to any news flashes.
The alarm woke me, at 6:30. Finally I check the news. Oh, dear.
Still, I need to get up, prepare breakfast for Edvin, who is excited because he is going to do a math competition today. I don't speak about the news to him, not wanting to disturb his focus.
He leaves, I go to work on my book. It's in the most intense phase. I want everything to be just right and to be inspiring and to have value. I want to create value. I will try as hard as I can, in the areas where I have influence.
As for the rest of it, well, now nobody knows what will take place and what will be the consequences. Not even the main actor has the faintest idea, of that I am convinced – and it is scary.
It's a struggle, to remain optimistic. Yet it is necessary.
November 4, 2016 "Salle"
Four days to go and apocalyptic feelings abound.
I was listening to a long interview conducted over Skype with a man in Aleppo (father of two, his youngest having known nothing but war), who was asked "what did he eat today?". No answer. The question was repeated, again no answer. The question was once again repeated and eventually the man said "some rice and chickpeas".
Only rice and chickpeas remain. This father, and his children, and their mother, face imminent random death by bomb or starvation. For how long?
I can't take it in, I defend myself. Who does not?
Instead I read a long text, far from Syria, about the painter David Salle, who was once wildly successful and who is no longer. The text, published in 1994, is called "Forty one false starts" and is a brilliant demonstration of the fundamental randomness that lies at the core of art making.
To prove your value through work.
Is it possible?
October 25, 2016 "Reality"
It's a hectic time, regarding small as well as large. I'm working all I can, preparing masses of photos for the book on my work which is being prepared. Just the other week we received news of it being supported by a generous grant from the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation in San Francisco. That was very welcome, a real boost of confidence.
I have just been to London, for a show with students at the Royal College of Art. I travelled with two of them, Magdalena and Daniel, and we spent an amazing Friday after the opening going to galleries and finally Tate Modern, show after show from ten in the morning until eight in the evening. So many good exhibitions, in spectacular spaces, where ever so often there is a smartly dressed and well groomed man (I was going to write "valet") courteously opening the door for you as you approach. Service calibrated for the rich, extended to us commoners for a moment. Should I recommend one location, I say go to Victoria Miro's Wharf street space before November 5. Three things going on there, all brilliant.
I have been in a conference discussing the future prospects of our university, in light of what is happening around us: the changing employment situation (here already and getting much more pronounced) forced by technological developments and societal change (computerization, AI, globalization of course. I wrote a comment here, before) – as well as the attendant political revulsions. Emigration. The rise of the right. War. Risk of more wars.
I can't stop following the awfulness of the American presidential campaign. It's like being unable to take your eyes off a car crash displayed in slow motion. The debates... it's hard to behold, that the result of incredible human ingenuity (...computerization, AI, globalization of course...) is causing an important part of the electorate to abandon any reason and choosing to support a candidate who is proud to demonstrate not only his complete lack of basic civility and empathy, but furthermore his utter deficiency of competence and knowledge, pertaining to the wished for position – and touting this lack as an asset.
A parody of the third debate is here. It is so well made... so funny and scary... because so close to reality.
September 25, 2016 "04:03:26"
I have just finished my sixteenth Marathon (the twelfth in Berlin) and I feel really happy. My time was the second worst, better only than the last one, in New York 2014, when I suddenly couldn't feel my legs on the Queensboro bridge. Yet it is a success, because in June last year I suddenly realized I couldn't run at all. After consultation it became clear I had an inflammation in the Achilles tendon on the left leg. It took eight months before I could slowly start jogging again, all the time fearing the pain would increase instead of receding. The waiting period was no fun, constantly thinking "was that it?". My preparations this summer have thus been cautious and the time achieved is about what I expected. And it is without pain! I may have lost some speed but I've got my body back, and with it the realization of how fragile we are. It's a beautiful day in Berlin.
September 23, 2016 "Rebirth/Refuneral"
Last night I flew to Malmö and this morning I attended the press view of the exhibition "Samhällsmaskinen" (the Society Machine) at Malmö Art Museum, a hugely ambitious exhibition which mix contemporary art projects with some historical artefacts, all of it involved in telling a story of loss of identity as a result of the waning of the industrial age, in Swedish society. Lisa Rosendahl is the curator and she has created an impressive and complex whole, which I am happy to have a part in. My work is the video "Life and Death of a Chimney", which I did between 1994 and 1996. (Two shots: one hour of the First Chimney's "life" – and two minutes of it dying, both sequences shot in 1994. The final production, including the computer voice, was done in 1996). It was nice to see again, and to see that things can be brought out into the open again by somebody's initiative (in this case Lisa's), and make sense again. Yet so many things have changed, in the intervening years...
September 21, 2016 "Mission accomplished"
During work on my upcoming big show I realized I still did not have a perfectly realized photo of the Frankfurt chimney: "First Chimney II". Soon after it was finished, in 2013, I had travelled down, again, from Berlin and spent a day photographing it very carefully with my (analog) large format camera. Then the lab damaged all the negatives in development. It was so off putting and made me loose interest in a new attempt. But now I realized I had the time, and the weather was going to be great and therefore I took the Sprinter from Berlin Hbf on a Wednesday morning at six and was hard at work – with my analog large format camera – in perfect conditions, at the Städel only four hours later. And the sky was blue, the chimney looked new. One thing about these projects is that they have a great potential for ageing: the chimneys just look better and better as the years pass and the absurdity of their existence doesn't lessen. On the contrary! The photo here is a digital snapshot: the negatives have just been developed and haven't been scanned yet. Wait and see – and read the text, in the meantime.
September 18, 2016 "Chaos and Control modelled"
Last week Johanna Udden visited me in Berlin and we had an interesting time installing my exhibition at Uppsala Konstmuseum by the way of the 1:20 model which I had built of the space. I have the whole top floor: four large rooms. In preparation for our work I had spent days printing out 1:20 reproductions of lots of works from the projects which Johanna had indicated should be used. That had been very boring. To see Johanna play around with these little images was pure fun though. Sometimes I had other ideas, but in general we get along very well and I really enjoy NOT being responsible for everything myself. She has this idea, for example, to hang lots of Test paintings jumbled up in a kind of crazy accumulation. Until now I have always installed those paintings according to three rules: in chronological order; between the paintings the same distance throughout the show; one third above, two thirds below an invisible line of sight. Now we are going to do it in the exact opposite way. It's fun!
September 5, 2016 "Construction"
I received feedback on my post from August 23, and realized only then that I had repeated myself almost word by word in the following post (September 2) – without noticing. This led me to use the promise of non-permanence offered by writing on the internet: I just edited the post below, changing my thoughts on the "punctum" text, so as not be boring and repetitive. Falsification (as I didn't change the date), but improvement. As is being made clear again and again this season: truth is always a construction.
September 2, 2016 "Landscape"
I'm back in my Berlin studio after a holiday break which I spent mainly with writing, when I wasn't doing summer stuff. Apart from the work on our book, I have one finished text for an anthology called "Cindy's smile" (the text, not the anthology) which I'm really happy with. It's me looking at why the whole endeavour, that art thing, can be worthwhile. The person smiling has a last name beginning with a "S". The second text is still in progress, it's the one on "punctum", which I mentioned two weeks ago. I thought I more or less had it in the bag then, but now I'm not so sure. One question nags me: can it be OK to focus narrowly on aesthetic matters, right now? To write as if time didn't exist? And if it is not: how do you write the present into a text on narrow aesthetic matters, without it becoming completely contrived? I do feel the present moment is very special, and not in a good way. Yet my life and thinking also depends on my deep interest in things which are not tied to the present moment, good or bad.
Never mind. What I did want to note right now is that I have dug up lots of old, pre-art education paintings made by myself in my very intense, hectic years of thinking I can do it all on my own. I went through several phases of being very strongly influenced by different artists and movements, and produced so much work! It was me learning the craft and it definitely wasn't waisted time, even when the results were no good. Most of it is touching to see (for me) but would be embarrasing to show. Then there is a year or so, in the early 80s when I made several longer landscape painting trips to various parts of Sweden, standing in front of my easel (plein-air!) looking out over the fields/water/forests in front of me and trying to translate the experience into image. These paintings show their influences as well, but nevertheless, there are some which are actually saying something. Right now I was wondering to myself: should I – could I – include one such painting in my show at the museum in Uppsala next year...?
My normal standpoint would be: absolutely not, crazy.
Sometimes crazy is good.
August 23, 2016 "Bed"
There is a call, an email and somebody is asking whether I'd be interested in writing a text on a specific subject, or free, but for a defined context. Very often I say yes. Not knowing how I will proceed, but trusting that there will be a way. And that I will learn things as a result from taking the task on.
For the last several days I have spent every morning struggling with finding an angle for a text on Roland Barthes' punctum for an Austrian magazine: "Triëdere". It has been a very long time since I engaged with Barthes, but a long time ago I did (and I remember my irritation). It has been an adventure to return to a place I have once been, and see what sense I can make of these ideas today: mine and his. Writing the text is like looking for a particular but unknown object in a dark room. You hope to find it, yet do not know what it is. The search proceeds on the understanding that "I will know when I have it".
In terms of writing, the moment of knowing is when you have the first version of a credible arc from an interesting opening to a satisfying ending. I just came to this point: there is a beginning, I have the end, I have a way to get there. Now, finishing the text will be so much more of a pleasure than it has been until this point.
I just found my object under the bed.
August 16, 2016 "Eco"
From one thing to another, while relating firmly to the present: here's a 1995 essay by Umberto Eco, which I wish everyone would read. It's called "Ur-Fascism".
August 15, 2016 "Time Machine"
A few days ago I found myself about to drive south from Stockholm when I made three spontaneous observations, all at once:
A. I am not under time pressure.
B. I have my SLR camera with me.
C. It's a beautiful sunny day with intermittent cumulus clouds on a blue sky.
Conclusion: I must immediately go to Sjövikstorget and photograph my 2009 public art installation, called "En tidsmaskin på torget" (A Time Machine on the Square)! Maybe this time, finally, I can get it right!
And so I did. This initiative has now allowed me to post (finally!) an extensive documentation of this huge work, here on the site. Until now, with the exception of three construction photos, such a documentation has been sorely missing. A combination of factors were the reason for this lack: always when I found myself in the neighbourhood either the light was not right or there was no water in the slate pool, or both. The pool is part of the square's architecture, and into this I have "dropped" a 36 ton boulder. (The "drop" was to prove extraordinarily difficult, which is now also documented in a special photo series. I had to rent a pontoon crane for something like 4.000 Euro an hour).
I felt so happy doing my photos, because this work I find really important and it has a potential of longevity like no other of my works in the public realm. On the second largest boulder (30 tons) I have had engraved my choice of headlines from the four Stockholm newspapers coming out on the day (March 4, 2008) when that boulder was laid in its place (with the help of, only, a 80 ton mobile crane). As time goes by, most of these particular messages or topics from a certain day of a certain year will become ever more irrelevant and absurd, except perhaps a few, which may show themselves to have been farsighted and prophetic. Canaries in the coalmine.
August 5, 2016 "Guitar solo"
It's summer holidays. I don't make new work right now, I think about work already having been made. And I think about what I thought when I made it. Way back then. I'm busy writing short footnotes, or comments, to a new book with a focus on my non-chimney work from the last 35 years. That sounds like a crazy long time, which it is. A few really old things have been dug up from "under the bed" and will be reproduced, one even on a full page. The book (which is thought of as a follow-up to the 2008 "Building Chimneys" book; it will have the same format and is, again, being designed by the formidable Hans Cogne, just like the earlier book), is tentatively called "Between Languages" and will be published in Swedish and English by Kalejdoskop, in conjunction with my double exhibition in Uppsala early next year (retrospective at the museum, recent paintings at a second, smaller museum). Petter Eklund and Johanna Udden both have written essays about me, my work and development, and I get the unusual possibility to add points of view or even disagreements in the margins of the pages. Only, I will have to be very selective and keep it extremely short. It's a fascinating task. In-between, I listen to my current favourite band Savages and tout the guitar solo at the end of "Waiting for a Sign" as "the greatest guitar solo of all time". Which it may well be. Why not?
July 24, 2016 "National"
Two days ago the Republican candidate for the American presidency held his convention speech and said, among other things (a transcript is here), this:
When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country
and then, a little later
I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves.
Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.
this coming from a person who fact-checkers repeatedly prove is a serial liar – and who has no political experience whatsoever, beyond his scare-mongering campaign. It sounds like Europe in the early thirties and it is not a joke.
Nationalism is an ideology which induces people to feel superiority without demanding anything in return. No accomplishments count, beyond being born in a certain place. When this ideology is activized, that is: being put to use to exclude others, adherents are promised a win-win situation. Yet, I am sure we all stand to lose.
...I alone can fix it.
June 24, 2016 "Brexit"
We wake up to find that what shouldn't happen, has happened. The UK has voted for the illusion of a return to the island of its past, turning its back on the struggle for the present. Good luck with that.
I did not think it would happen, I did not think populism would win. It shows how dangerous it is, to underestimate populism and demagoguery.
Take note. Please take note.
June 10, 2016 "Campaign"
I can't stop following the US election campaign. This time it is really scary, for many reasons. Some of them would have been deemed completely absurd, if proposed only one year ago. Read Timothy Snyder in New York Review of Books, for example.
June 8, 2016 "Extraordinary Evidence"
This is well put:
In the end, what evangelists don’t recognize is that atheism is not a belief system like Christianity, from which one might defect after hearing some arguments or having a few sombre conversations. It is, instead, simply a rational decision not to accept the existence of God without evidence. As wise thinkers, including Laplace, Hume, Sagan, and Hitchens, have often said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It’s hard to imagine a more extraordinary claim than that some hidden intelligence created a universe of more than a hundred billion galaxies, each containing more than a hundred billion stars, and then waited more than 13.7 billion years until a planet in a remote corner of a single galaxy evolved an atmosphere sufficiently oxygenated to support life, only to then reveal his existence to an assortment of violent tribal groups before disappearing again.
from an article in the New Yorker: "The Fantasy of the Deathbed Conversion", by Lawrence M. Krauss.
May 24, 2016 "Close"
Yesterday Austria chose a new leftist president with only the tiniest margin to the far right populist. It was a positive surprise, after all. But what's next?
It only occured to me afterwards, that I am a foreigner holding a job in Austria. I have skin in the game, should the far right ever make the government.
May 22, 2016 "Vote"
Today is the decisive vote in Austria's presidential election. It can well be, that in a few hours a right wing xenophobe will be confirmed the winner over his challenger, formerly of the Green Party. Or not. I certainly wish NOT. Actions count. Symbols count. Voting counts. It's no game.
Not just in Austria. There are disasters in the making in a number of places. Bombarded by the ever increasing volume of comment, each one pitching for an angle, it can seem as if outcomes wouldn't matter. Only the quality of the fights. That isn't true. Outcomes matter. Intentions matter. They shape reality, over the long run.
May 9, 2016 "Gunter"
Since I started teaching in Vienna, I have made many friends and learnt many new things. On April 30 one very special friend sadly passed away, the artist Gunter Damisch, who was the professor at the Academy of Fine Arts for painting and printmaking. In a way, he was the "concurrence", in that the two of us were each heading a department responsible for printmaking (and more), at these two great Viennese art institutions: die Akademie und die Angewandte.
When I begun going to Vienna in 2011, I didn't know Gunter. After some time one student, Jeremias, insisted that we must meet and he made it sound almost like a diplomatic mission (very Viennese). So one night I went with Jeremias to an opening for an exhibition of Gunter's students, and therewe were introduced. I felt stiff and nervous, but the wonderful thing about it was that we actually became friends. He had that sort of generosity. He made it very uncomplicated. We didn't meet so often, but with a certain regularity and I grew very attached to him. In so many ways Gunter was a model, that one could only try to emulate. Today, I was made aware that the Academy has a page of condolences where one can write a message. Which I just did. I want to repeat the text here:
Als ich 2011 an der Angewandten zu unterrichten begann, kannte ich kaum einen Menschen in Wien. Auch nicht Gunter Damisch. Einer meiner Studenten hat bald darauf bestanden, das gerade wir einander kennenlernen müssen, und eines Tages ging ich zur Eröffnung einer Ausstellung von Gunters Klasse. Etwas schüchtern stand ich in Schlange und wartete auf die Möglichkeit, ihn zu begrüßen. Es gab so viele Menschen, die er kannte, so viele Freunde.
Von diesem Abend an wurde ich einer von ihnen, und es hat mir so viel bedeutet! Was für ein großzügiger Mensch er war! Ich bewunderte sehr, wie Gunter immer so warm, fürsorglich und neugierig auf Menschen war: Freunde und Familie, Studenten und Kollegen, "Konkurrenten". Wie er seinen Aufgaben als Lehrer und Professor verpflichtet geblieben ist, auch nach so vielen Jahren – und zugleich, wie er seine Arbeit immer vorangetrieben hat. Die riesigen Holzschnitte in der Albertina waren wirklich erstaunlich. Wie hat er die Zeit gefunden, und die Energie für das alles? Ich habe in ihm ein echtes Vorbild für uns alle gesehen.
Als wir uns im März das letzte Mal trafen, fragte ich ihn, ob er auch in dieser nun schwierigen Lage Bilder machen würde. "Nein", antwortete er, er arbeitet nicht aus Frust und Angst, sondern aus Freude und Lust. Und jetzt hatte er Pause gemacht. "Vielleicht wird sich deine Arbeit stark verändern, wenn du wieder anfängst", sagte ich. "Ja, warum nicht", sagte er mit einem Lächeln.
Ich vermisse dich sehr, Gunter. Wir vermissen dich alle!
April 28, 2016 "Disposable"
During the opening of the small show in Willesden yesterday, somebody asked me whether I had exhibited in London before. I had to realize that this was, indeed, the very first time. I just checked it. A humble start.
I had installed a twenty year old work which still feels fresh whenever I see it again. Always in the form of new printouts. This time reduced in size. Disposable. Not for sale. Just giving you an idea.
April 27, 2016 "Mayfair"
I have been drifting through Mayfair today, through galleries and some shops and an auction house or two. I was looking for something to see... I didn't really. It came to me that I really understand what is driving Bernie Sanders' supporters, in the American primary campaign. I was at leisure, I had money in my pocket and most of a day without commitments. It was luxury and indeed, I am in any reasonable perspective, a priviliged person. Yet I experienced something like a filter disturbing my vision. This incredible focus on wealth, on presentation of wealth, on presenting aspiration to wealth. When this filter becomes completely integrated also with the aspiration to art... where does it lead us?
April 18, 2016 "Willesden"
Next week I will be in London for a few days. I have been invited to show my Psycho-Mapping Scandinavia piece at a show curated by Alexandra Baraitser, in a space in Willesden, a couple of kilometres north-west from Abbey Road... I don't know how many times I have installed PMS since 1995, it never looks the same. This time I will have all the 66 images in a tight block on one wall. Full frontal.
April 15, 2016 "Cake making"
A couple of hours ago, a cake designed by me was served to 55 people, including the Swedish Minister of Culture Alice Bah, at a seminar organized by the Swedish Artists' Association "KRO", in Stockholm. It was one of my more unusal assignments, to design a cake, but it was actually rather interesting. For some years the KRO has commissioned artists' cakes for this event and as the first of these cakes became higly controversial (google "Makode" and "cake") it has been a media event ever since. I'm in Berlin, I wasn't there, but I'm told television was and that the cutting of my cake will be possible to watch tonight, in Sweden.
I was first asked if I could make a "chimney cake", to celebrate how my Uppsala sculpture had been made into a success, against resistance. As the technology of cake making isn't exactly suitable for vertical structures, the idea was proposed I could make the chimney lying down. While this is a vision I have explored in some drawings, I didn't think it would be very suitable for a symbolic media event: "the chimney finally toppled", no thanks.
I was then given free hands, and came up with a crossover between cake and psycho-mapping (almost), applied to Sweden. Only would I employ camouflage pattern, instead of the psycho-mapping copy procedure. I soon found out that there is a standard Swedish military camouflage pattern, called M90, and that this has four colours (dark greens, forest colours). I modified this pattern to employ six colours instead, and borrowed the "rainbow" colours from the HBTQ-flag. The cake was produced in the last couple of days by the highly professional Chokladfabriken in Stockholm (I met with them briefly while in Stockholm at the end of March). It was about one meter long and covered with marzipan camouflage on top, while being innocently white on the sides. Its inside was all dark with some crispy "bullets" hidden in the chocolate, in order to make it crunchy when you take a bite... For an interview I was thinking about what to say about its metaphorical content and made a note of the fact that camouflage in general has two main patrons: the military who wants to make things disappear from view and blend into the background and the fashion industry, whose main purpose is to make its clients stand out from their background and be visible.
I decided to call my new Swedish camouflage pattern: "M16".
April 11, 2016 "After the wall"
I occupy the same studio in Berlin's Westhafen, since over ten years. Up until very recently, it used to have two working rooms + a combined kitchen/storage, a small hallway and a bathroom. Now it is all new, because I have had the wall separating the two working rooms taken down. At the same time a drop ceiling was gotten rid of, which made the room 90 cm higher. It has been a really messy process, with all the dust from destroying a cinderblock wall and moving stuff around, covering it and then later cleaning and reorganizing everything. But what a difference it makes: I used to be working in a kind of run down apartment space. Now I'm in a loft. :)
February 29, 2016 "Fingernails"
Like so many others I'm transfixed by what's going on politically in the U.S. as well as in Europe. The outcome of the elections "over there" will be momentous and combined with developments over here... it could be a perfect storm scenario. What can I say? I just read two opinion pieces in the NY Times which say it better: here and here.
February 26, 2016 "M.C.E."
Last Saturday I attended the opening of an exhibition of M.C. Escher at the Max Ernst Museum in Brühl. M.C. Escher is not exactly the coolest of artists. As it happened, one thing led to another and there I was, surrounded by 110 of Escher's prints – and it was mindblowing! I was comptely enticed by seeing all this work in original. You look at Escher's work and it is either based on a visual construction so strange and clever you can't figure out how did he ever come on this idea? Or you look at it and ask yourself: how the f...k was he able to do this, in that technique??? His technical standard as a printmaker is unbelievable. The work would be unbearable if that would be the main reason for it. Yet here thought is confronting hand, or the other way around, and you don't know what came first. Choosing to present certain ideas in an extremely time consuming obsolete technique might have created the necessary space for the brain to run wild and come up with new ideas, which then again will be executed in similarly absurd way. But it's not only that he comes up with crazy ideas, it's even more that he dedicates himself, like a scientist, to finding a way in which this idea can be made into two-dimensional reality. Combine that with no display of emotion, whatsoever. So you have an artist where you can't follow the thought, because its beyond you – and you don't understand how he was able to practically make the work. An artist with no interest in emotions – who has made images which have traveled the world, being so well known that they somehow stop being seen as art. It's a strange and beautiful proposition.
February 8, 2016 "Gothenburg"
On Wednesday, February 10, I will be in Gothenburg in order to give a lecture on my work at HDK (School of Design and Crafts Gothenburg University). I have called it "En idés äventyr / The Adventures of an Idea" and the point is I haven't decided which language to use, English or Swedish. It will depend on the audience. If everyone present speak Swedish it will feel strange to use English... so I am prepared for both possibilities.
January 27, 2016 "Missing"
Last weekend I was in Uppsala and Stockholm for meetings about my big exhibition at Uppsala Konstmuseum in one year, and the book which will be made. Saturday night I spent with Petter Eklund, who will write the main text. I tried my best to explain all sorts of things about my work which he did or didn't already know and then at one point I wanted to show him my Korean Chimney in Google Earth. Only I couldn't. It wasn't there anymore. It was gone. R.I.P.
January 11, 2016 "Cygnet"
I step off an airplane this morning and see David Bowie is dead.
It's hard to take in. I can still remember when, as a child, I heard Mike Garson's piano playing on the new Aladdin Sane album and told my mother: "this must be genius". From that point on I followed everything Bowie did, until he lost the flame in 1984 (funny coincidence, actually, with that year). I liked "Earthling" though and saw him play live around that time in Berlin (Mike Garson on piano!) and he was great then.
I haven't heard the new album, but I am impressed by his need to prove himself to the very end.
It's sad. Tonight I listen to Cygnet Committee.
January 6, 2016 "Quasars"
I began the first studio week of the new year working on drawings and struggling with writing a text centred around a windtunnel for a book on a transdisciplinary project in Zürich. I have some grand ideas for this text, but they are still cloudlike and need to be reduced to essential nuggets that make their own story. It's not easy, but it is exciting. This time I use my own technical guidance from "An Artist's Text Book" to the letter.
Meanwhile, a New Year's Resolution should have been to spend less time on reading other people's texts in various news sources, but it wasn't. I know I can't help myself. There's so much interesting stuff out there. This morning I read a most wonderful piece on quasars and measuring.
January 3, 2016 "Stars"
I received today a whole series of photos from the first moments of 2016: it's birth being observed from Tegnerparken in Uppsala. They remind me of Vija Celmins, with an addition. I will start from here.