Jan Svenungsson


February 3, 2021 – "Kyoto"
Teruo Ishihara Teruo Ishihara
I have a dear friend in Kyoto. His name is Teruo Ishihara and we met by chance in Paris on June 12, 1982, while Teruo and his wife Junko (it was their honeymoon) came to see Juliet Man Ray in the studio at Rue Ferou. I was there. I had already known Juliet for four years by then, and would visit her in Paris regularly. That this came to be is a story I have told many times, including in the texts which Teruo has now translated to Japanese, and which appear in these two books, the first of which he published in November last year and the second two weeks ago.

I have long been aware that reading Man Ray's autobiography at a young age, then becoming friends with Juliet (and with Roland Penrose, who introduced me to her) were absolutely decisive factors in making me become who I am. For Teruo (who is nine years older than I am) it was both similar and different. He too became transfixed by Man Ray, already in 1970, and has since come to dedicate his life to this passion, primarily as a collector and as a creator of the most utterly beautiful books. There are more than twenty now, all made in small editions and sold and distributed to a circle of bibliophiles and Manrayophiles who know their worth.

After our first meeting in 1982 it took until 1998 until we had contact again. That year I made a small exhibition called My Man Rays, in an art centre outside Stockholm. The exhibition was announced on the internet, and at home in Kyoto Teruo found the announcement and immediately contacted the art centre in order to get the catalogue for his collection. It felt like magic. Since then we have been in contact again and we have met once, one evening in Kyoto in September 2014 (I was there for only two days, with students. I so much want to return). Now Teruo has created these two books on which we collaborated. I am proud and profoundly touched. Teruo is not an artist himself. Nevertheless, he has let his life be guided by his dedication to what one artist did with his life.

In Japanese, you can read Teruos's own story about the books here.

February 2, 2021 – "Survival"
Putin's Palace, Alexei Navalny
Two days ago I watched the youtube film about a ridiculous palace allegedly built for the pleasure of the Russian president. It's called "Putin's Palace" and everyone reading this will already have heard about it, and about the incredible bravery of it's (main) creator Alexei Navalny, his team – and the tens of thousands of followers who have been protesting in the streets all over Russia, just like they continue to do in Belarus. For anyone who, like me – at this moment, is living in a safe (we hope) democracy: imagine the courage to brave security forces bent on using as much violence as they like, just to express your peaceful view and protesting an extraordinarily brave man's unjust incarceration.

You should watch the film as well, all two hours of it. Youtube provides subtitles to this masterful exposure of Vladimir Putin's corruption and ridiculousness. It's utterly dense with documents and information, but is made with a very up-to-date sense of dynamics and using marginal humor at the same time. Yesterday, I continued by watching Navalny's equally crushing exposure of the cleptocracy of the former president Dmitry Medvedev. The same person who told the news agency Interfax, also yesterday, that Russia is "legally and technologically" ready to disconnect from the global internet if needed.

Let's see.

January 20, 2021 – "Hours"
Wednesday morning and I'm counting the hours until the new president of the USA will be sworn in. It's not that I'm overly optmistic about his chances to do all the things he wants to do and should be doing. But still, it could have been worse. I looked at what I wrote here on January 19, 2017, and found this sentence: "I just dearly hope that I am wrong in being nervous about what's going on, and that things will turn out more or less normal, after all." I wasn't and they didn't.

January 10, 2021 – "Nuclear"
It's quite an escalation, in the current US situation of rampant post-modernism, to read about Nancy Pelosi contacting the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asking him to "keep an unstable President from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike." To which General Milley had to answer that if the president's order is legal (such as asking for a strike on Iran), it would have to be carried out. Not doing it, would constitute a military coup.

In a column in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet writer Lena Andersson has this to say (in my translation):

Different issues have different character and should be analyzed accordingly. In some matters, emotions are crucial. If it feels like you have won a presidential election, it says nothing about the outcome. But if a president felt it was breaking his soul to lose and sought therapeutic help for it, then emotions would be central.

The collapse of sensible society with solid institutions and peaceful transfer of power, that we witnessed during the week in Washington DC can be seen as the culmination of a long ideological battle in order to give primacy to feeling.

The view of knowledge that four years ago allowed the Trump camp to claim that his installation had the most participants in history - because it felt that way and anyway, everything is just stories from different perspectives - was the one that also guided his followers when on Wednesday, rightfully as they saw it, they stormed in over the beautiful old floors of the Capitol, occupied by themselves and their cellphone cameras.

The last half century's ideas of subjective truths have led to a large-scale intellectual regression; a kind of humanity's return to the stage of development where the child does not fully understand what it means that others exist and think; the stage where the child does not yet know how pronouns work; that they are a link between the person and his placement in the general, in the structure.


January 1, 2021 – "One"
It's the first day of the new year. For a while now, I have been saying to everybody that it will surely be better than 2020. I guess we all do.

At umpteen tables yesterday, the question will have been raised what was good about 2020? Many will have answered "that Trump lost". I did. When I think about it, I realize that without the pandemic – he would have won.

An art-related answer I gave refered to my part of the Stoa project. My column is a dancing, drunk, loose, sloppy... form. Together with Pascal Marturella I was able to build a 3D translation in brick of what these words express. Thinking about it makes me happy. To me, this was a pure art making experience. And it will last!

I am curious what 2021 will bring.