Jan Svenungsson


February 18, 2018 – "Wall"
Since three days I'm in Gothenburg, Sweden, where I am assisting bricklayer Dan Ahlgren in building a huge image as a wall of acoustic bricks, with inlays of mosaic and ceramics. It's a public art commission for the canteen of a new school building. It's the first time that I have the possiblity to work with bricks in a non-tower context. It has allowed me to learn about acoustic bricks (a condition for the commission); to find a brickworks (Janninhof, in Münster) which could glace their bricks in different colours; to be able to have mosaics produced for me for the first time (by comsomusivo in Berlin) and also to make ceramic/porcelain parts myself, in the university workshop in Vienna. Now Dan and I (we got to know each other at the Uppsala chimney site) are working long days to make the plans reality. So far, reality is looking real good. And we are having fun, listening to music a lot: Ghost, Johnny Cash, First Aid Kit, Shonen Knife and Babymetal.

February 14, 2018 – "Clear"
Today I listened to an interview with one of my intellectual heroes, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The way she talks... the way she strings words together, one after another, is so utterly sharp and clear and easy to follow – and with her particular combination of pride and humour – that I come away feeling there is hope, after all. Really smart people are easy to understand. They speak when they have something important to say. Chimamanda does. She is on a stage with David Remnick (who is rather smart as well), you can hear 19 minutes here.

Soon after, I was sent a link to an interview with a German filmmaker, Sebastian Schipper (who I didn't know before). It's about the #metoo debate, which in Germany and Austria hasn't got very far. Schipper is super clear, as well. Another pleasure.

January 17, 2018 – "Adulterated"
Last spring I was invited to write a text for an anthology on the future of Artistic Research, to be published by the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, where I taught 2007-2009. I'm not a fan of the mainstreaming of this discipline, yet I agreed. I always feel curious what will come out, when I accept a writing assignment. Some time later I received, along with the other writers, a set of seven questions written in IAE.

My attitude towards Artistic Research is critical, although I have been reluctantly involved with this scene for more than ten years now. Back in 2009, I published a text in Art&Research called "The Writing Artist" where I warned of the risk that, given a certain development, "the rest of the university will increasingly see artistic research as a joke". Well, there has been no "all clear" sent so far. Having said that, every once in a while there is interesting stuff coming up. But these efforts risk remaining hidden between other texts which seem not to having been read closely, even by the people who wrote them.

Thinking about what to write for the anthology, I thought about the self-confirming character of the questions. I decided to make one of them the focus of my text, in order to point out how important it is – especially now, in the era of Trump – to be careful with how you use language. I wrote my text "Alternative Knowledge" in a rather high-pitched way. I weighed every word, while analysing the question I had chosen.

In order to keep control of my text, written in English, I commissioned the brilliant Vienna copy editor Christopher Barber to correct the final draft. As anyone reading this self-edited "Talk" column will know, I don't write English without fault. Chris helped to polish my text to perfection. I emailed it to one of the editors, explaining that its language had already been fine-tuned by a professional. "Please don't change anything", I wrote.

Some weeks ago I received the book, titled "Futures of Artistic Research". I had so many other books going, it first landed in a pile. Today I felt like reading my own text, to see how it holds up. The first thing I notice, is that my name has been misspelt in a striking way. I then see a totally unmotivated word has been added to the first sentence, destroying it. A similar addition to the second sentence destroys it as well. Later in the text a sentence has been re-written by somebody adding a grammatical horror.

This done to a text on the necessity of being precise with language! It's awful. The problem is, I think, and have already stated, that very few people can be bothered to actually read texts of/on Artistic Research. Is it too much to ask of a book's editor, that they do?

Now, for those of you who may want to read my text in its unadulterated state, it is available here.

January 8, 2018 – "Start"
A few days into the new year, my father's funeral took place. That's where I have to start, this time.