Jan Svenungsson

Becker, Kathrin. "Psycho-Mapping",

in: Index # 2, 1997

A map represents space, space in general, and space as an instrument of emotion (1)

Every map depicts a specific system constituted by the relationship of its elements to each other. This is understood as an analog system proportional to the spatial relationships the map renders. A map is thus a diagram providing a two-dimensional graphic representation of proportions. The act of translating space into the map's graphic field is related to occupation of space as territory. Thus, in the act of recording it cartographically, the mapmaker's ideological projections are mirrored onto the space. In this sense, a map is always also a mental map of its creator.(2) Jan Svenungsson's series of drawings exaggerates the mental map to the point of absurdity.

Svenungsson starts with a hand-drawn map of Scandinavia, a map which, with the exception of a few details, merely renders the countries' external outlines. He then copies the map by hand, first trying to make an exact copy of the first sheet, then copying the copy of the first sheet, then the copy of the second, and so on. This copying process occurs in two directions: he first makes a series in one direction, then, returning to the initial hand-drawn map, Svenungsson copies it again, then copies this other copy, and so on until he has a total of 66 sheets. The image of Scandinavia mutates from sheet to sheet, the ends of the two long sequences of sheets being completely different: one is a black expanse with a narrow white margin running around it, the other a somehow cheerful tangle offorms and lines surrounded by a fine line.(3)

This clearly destroys the analogic relationship between space and its rendering, transporting the semiotic system of the map into a system with different rules. These rules originate through Svenungsson's uninterrupted copying. To a certain degree, the map is here dissolved in a sequence fixing the individual "mental" states Svenungsson experienced in the production process. Through the simulation of obsession and unlimited devotion, this process plays with the idea of a Romantic artistic genius.(4)

Svenungsson's work is part of a contemporary artistic tendency in which the development of alternative ways of perceiving the world has become the focus of artistic production. This tendency is also related to the fundamental changes our perception of the world is undergoing as a result of the evolution of digital media and computer networks.(5)

In the process, this "new world order" is usually projected onto social space. Using (subversive) analog means, Svenungsson displaces this new order into psychic space. In these drawings, contemporary artistic discourse, simulations of obsessive, pathological states, and ideologically motivated ideas of the perception of the world circulate to produce an ironic-"psychotic" new world order.

Kathrin Becker
translation: Andrew Shields