Jan Svenungsson


December 31, 2022 – "Looking back"
What to say on the last day of this year? I came across an article by Anne Applebaum that speculates on how it could have been... so much worse. In a twisted way, I guess it is a reason for optimism.

December 27, 2022 – "Malignant"
For three days now, because of Christmas, the value of Tesla stock has remained unchanged. I'm keen to see it change again, and go lower. Not because of disliking this particular electric car, but because of its main owner, the until recently richest man in the world. Who defines "free speech absolutist" as having a personal and absolute right to define and decide what free speech should be. And so he bought the most important speech focused social network, of which he is a keen user (until now so popular, that said car company has been making do without an advertising budget). The lower the stock goes, the sooner this narcissist experiment will end.

Maybe... the recent self-caused misadventures of (malignant) narcissists at the highest levels of international politics and business (and combinations of the two) could inspire their followers to take another route... That would be such a blessing. People are dying, after all.

December 7, 2022 – "Text Book"
I just received a sweet email from a person looking for a copy of my 2007 "An Artist's Text Book". It always makes me happy, when I hear that this book continues to find new readers. Since 2019 it is out of print, but the Finnish University publisher instead has made the pdf available for free download. Now I discovered that my download link was dead! Shame on me. I could fix it though, and now everything is alright. Here's the correct one.

December 6, 2022 – "DakhaBrakha"

I once saw KRAFTWERK live at Tempodrome, which is only a 15 minute walk from where I live in Berlin. It was some 18-20 years ago, an eternity. I remember how excited I was, even though I had seen them once (or twice) before, the first time being at the beginning of the 90s. Back then their filmscreens were small. In Tempodrome it was one huge screen, with incredibly impressive visuals interacting with the music.

Since then I have seen many large backdrop screens with impressive visuals, yet what I saw – and heard – yesterday at Tempodrome was really on its own. DakhaBrakha. Four seated musicians, three women, one man, from Kyiv performing self-described "ethno-chaos", dressed in peculiar "folk" clothes and high fur hats. All of them singing: high-pitched female voices where the vibratos blend to a peculiar shrill sound; the man singing mainly in an extreme falsetto. All using their voice in very flexible ways. The first song is only drums and song, four drummers. One stays on drums and she is able to play incredible grooves on a set consisting of one floor-tom and one snare, a high-hat and a cymbal. The next woman keeps switching between keyboard, a miniature accordion, a flute, more drumming, maybe samples. After her a cellist, who mainly use the cello as a fingerpicked bass, when not a guitar (strumming!). The man using an accordion, finger drums, harmonica. It is mesmerizing. Constantly inventive.

I'm on the barrier (it is almost full house, but there was no struggle) and I repeatedly find myself having tears in my eyes. This never happens. Now it does, both because of the actual music – and because of the interaction between music and visuals. It is all about what is going on in Ukraine right now, but very cleverly produced so as to make a story arc, going from pure and ornamental fantasy images to graphic call-outs for musicians who have joined the military – and ruins. I have never seen anything like this before, never before propaganda so perfectly integrated in actual and self-sufficient art. It make me think of Picasso's Guernica. In both cases it is more than propaganda, it is artists who are suffering from knowing... and who manage to turn their knowledge convincing expressions. This was one of the most special concerts I have ever been to. Extremely moving and impressive.

November 13, 2022 – "Münsterland"

In September I learned that I will have to evacuate my studio in Berlin's Westhafen, latest at the end of January. I was not completely unaware of this possibility, yet I had done no preparations, hoping it wouldn't happen. I have been there 19 years. Imagine the amount of stuff: art, archives, materials, trash, which has to be sifted through and evaluated. To begin with, I will – again – install my studio in our large apartement. Which means also there the same process is necessary. Sorting, sorting, organizing, choosing, evaluating, saving and eliminating all this... stuff. When I am in Berlin, this is what I have been doing for a month now. It is hard, but it is valuable as well. What is worth saving and what is not? What sense does it all make? Who is the person responsible for all this?

Finding myself in this situation I think a lot about what I have done, and not only about the stuff I handle. This week I was thinking about the chimneys, looking at my photos in various boxes. One chimney which I haven't seen in reality for a very long time is number six, which was made for the "Skulptur-Biennale Münsterland" in 2001, together with a team of British bricklayers (living in Germany and Poland). The process was not without its problems, as one of them (who should have been the leader), had become obsessed with sending text messages from his phone to a girlfriend, and didn't care much about how he laid his bricks. Like always I was working as their assistant, and after a couple of meters I had to sideline him. The other two, Colin and Henry, continued in a completely different manner, making a superb job. The result was stunning.

And it still is! As I was thinking these thoughts, and endlessly sorting my stuff, I checked my email and last Friday there was one from a Matthias Ibeler, a photographer in nearby Emsdetten. He sent me two photos of my "amazing" chimney, which he often passes on his bike, and now he had used the opportunity to photograph it. It looks terrific! I felt so happy, both because I saw the pristine state of the work, but even more because of this friendly gesture from a person who I didn't know. He has allowed me to post one of his beautiful photos here. Thank you Matthias! You made my day.

Such feedback is so important. That some things you do – actually matter.

November 12, 2022 – "After tomorrow"
There may be some hope in America, after all. The Republican wave didn't happen. The insane party did not regain the Senate. They will probably still be able to wreak havoc in the House, but lots of dedicated anti-democratic operators were not elected and a certain former president is seething because he is no longer looking like a certain winner to his own crowd. Others have known it long already, that his attraction is based on inspiring other... losers... to think revenge is possible. And when it no longer is? What remains? Loser in chief?

If only his friend in Moscow could meet his destiny tomorrow already.

November 7, 2022 – "Tomorrow"
Tomorrow there are elections in America. It would be ironic if it wasn't so tragic, that while the Russian dictator is busy destroying what's left of his own society, in order to make criminal war on his neighbour, there are sizeable forces in America doing their best to destroy their society as well. Will these forces again be dominant, after tomorrow. Are they already?

November 5, 2022 – "Messages"
I spent three days in Vienna. I took a photo of the facade above the front door to the university building where my department is located, just above the entrance. Two messages are visible just above our windows. They have been there for at least a month. Recently there as been some debate about them. A Russian organisation ("Koordinationsrat der Organisationen russische Landsleute" (KSORS)) complained about the left banner, demanding it be removed, saying it is insulting to Russia and Russians and that the University must "die Angriffe auf Russen einzustellen und den Dialog und die Zusammenarbeit zu suchen" (stop attacks on Russians and seek dialogue and cooperation). The rector of the university, Gerald Bast, refused to acquiesce to these demands and the message stays. As far as I know, nothing has been heard from Iran, yet.

October 31, 2022 – "Terrorism"
I was going to write about something else, but then I thought about today's news from Ukraine. After a barrage of Russian missiles, 80 % of the population of Kyiv is without water. If this is not terrorism, what is? Russia is a terrorist state.

October 25, 2022 – "Pontus, Daniel & Serge"
This morning I finished Claes Britton's recent 830-page biography of Pontus Hulten: "Pontus Hulten – Den moderna konstens anförare" (Pontus Hulten – The champion/leader of modern art). The title is clunky, and at first I was not convinced by how much Britton writes about himself, including his own experiences from Moderna Museet as a child in the 60s. Yet I soon changed my mind about the book.

As an "alumnus" of Institut des Hautes Etudes en Arts Plastiques (1988-89), I had been interviewed for it. I'm no better than having begun my reading by looking for myself in the index, then checking my quotes (which I had not seen after our telephone interview). I was disturbed by a few words describing Daniel Buren and Serge Fauchereau. Had I been given the chance, I would have fixed that. I have very strong memories of listening to Daniel Buren's super French intellectual and systematic arguments – which always made sense, even if you may not have agreed with everything. He was always up for a discussion and an argument: his discourse did not serve to close down opponents, but to influence them. He wasn't arrogant. Serge on the other hand, was more trans-atlantic in his culture; equally versed in his French ways as Daniel was, but also deeply influenced by his experiences from the US. Less monolithic, if that makes sense. Both of them were very generous, in my experience. Years later I corresponded with Serge when I was working on Giorgio de Chirico's novel "Hebdomeros". There is this anonymous (but brilliant) translation published in New York in 1964, which I suspected was indeed the work of John Ashbery, who was still alive at that point – and a friend of Serge's. He now communicated with Ashbery on my behalf – and my theory was confirmed!

Back to the book. It is, actually, a brilliant read and a very convincing portrait of Pontus as a person, with all his qualities, his charm and his weaknesses – and it is a extremely well researched panorama of the world he inhabited. Britton has made enormous efforts, interviewing an incredible amount of people relevant to all parts of Pontus life, which – also – makes the book an illuminating narrative of a central part of the development of trans-atlantic art between, say, 1950 and 2000. Pontus was a playful lover of all things art and play, who became a player with a unique influence over the central narrative of "modern art" through his work leading both Moderna Museet in the sixties and Centre Pompidou in the seventies, as well as other institutions later. It is telling however, that towards the end of his life he showed so many signs of disappointment with the way this playful game of art, which he had engaged in, had become ruled by commercial interests and dealers. Yet, it is impossible to not see that this is also, in part, a legacy of the innovative work made by Pontus, in his many museums.

All of this comes through in the book, which ends with a necessary and well balanced, but also deeply critical, analysis of Pontus' dealings with Andy Warhol Brillo boxes from the mid 90s. The story he told was that their production had been authorized by Warhol at the time of his legendary exhibition in Stockholm 1968. Yet most of the boxes he now sold, if not all, had been produced in Malmö in 1990 (three years after Warhol's death), as scenography for an exhibition by IHEAP (see above) in Leningrad that year. What happened after remains to some degree mysterious, but it involves a lot of money flowing in Pontus' direction, which is a fact hard to ignore. It is fascinating too, to think about how this was made possible by the postwar development in art, where high minded intellectual playfulness (and very French it was in spirit: Bonjour M. Duchamp) is transformed by American commercialism, first as a critical stance (Warhol, Pop in general), but soon transformed into a business strategy like any other (Warhol, Pop in general and everything thereafter).

Because of this particular development, in which Pontus Hulten played an important – if this time largely unintentional role – today's fights about authorship in visual art, may have nothing at all to do with who made the actual object, or how it was actually made, but only about who has said what, and when. Depending on the outcome of such a discussion, millions of dollars can be made. Some think this great, others do not.

Claes Britton's book on Pontus Hulten opens up so many more discussions, beyond the life of its subject. I certainly hope it will be translated to other languages and have an international life!

September 25, 2022 – "3:53:14"
In Berlin's Marathon today I ran my second best time in the last nine years. The conditions were perfect: cloudy, mild and no wind. Eliud Kipchoge used the situation to break (his own) world record. The new time 2:01:09. It's unbelievably fast, he ran 20,9 km/h over 42 km. Try to run 20,9 km/h over 420 meters. Or just 42 meters. Successful? And he is 37 years old.

September 22, 2022 – "Blood"

I'm on an early morning train from Vienna back to Berlin. I spent the last two days at a conference with the university's "senate", discussing problems and possibilities for us in the coming months and years. The approaching winter will be difficult, we all know that. The question is to what degree?

Yesterday, Vladimir Putin announced a "partial mobilization" and threathened, again, to use nuclear weapons in defence of Russia. Yes, we all know Russia has been invaded by the evil forces of NATO.

Right now I'm preparing a wide-ranging lecture about my manifold work. I'm updating one from last year (which feels like having taken place a long time ago): adding some new work, changing some of the older. Working a lecture on my own work (always in powerpoint, always with a written script integrated with hundreds of images) is always an opportunity for self reflection and discovery. Whatever work you have done, will never have a meaning which is fixed once and for all. Just now I felt the necessity to add to my lecture the lithograph I made in 2018 which bears the title "Blut" (Blood). It's based on the painting "Test 123", but right now I think it transcends it.

September 14, 2022 – "FAZ article photographed"

Just as I had published the commentary below, I received an email from a supporter in Frankfurt who included a jpg of the article. It looks great on the page, with two symmetrical tower-like columns framing the title "Künstler wirft Städel Zerstörung vor" (Artist accuses Städel of destruction).

September 14, 2022 – "FAZ article"
I wrote earlier (June 27 and July 27) about my efforts to stop the wilful destruction of my sculpture "Erster Schornstein II" (First Chimney II) in the Städel Museum garden, in Frankfurt. My efforts failed. The museum's director Philipp Demandt was successful in his ambition to destroy a permanent art work in the museum's collection, for which the "Städelverein" (the friends association) had paid 65.000 euro in 2013. In our correspondence preceding the destruction, Demandt insisted on using the word "de-installation". I informed him that theoretically it would be possible to de-install the work, saving every brick and the very prominent steel construction inside the tower for a potential later "re-installation". It would be very very costly of course.

When the destruction took place all material was thrown pell-mell in building scrap containers and taken away.

At the time I had tried hard to convince a couple of journalists to take up my case, which was not focussed on my personal loss, but on the moral question of what happens to museums when they are no longer "safe spaces" for the art they collect. I failed.

Two days ago, however , as I was returning from Documenta, I had an email from a journalist at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, FAZ. She wanted to interview me immediately, and we were indeed able to talk only a few hours later. It turned out Eva-Maria Magel had been contacted by a disappointed Frankfurt local and she had already done important research, exposing the contradictions of the museum's position. You can read the resulting article here. I feel very grateful to Ms Magel for the way she is presenting this sad story. The way the museum has argued its case is just shameful. Here follows the English translation of one of my statements in the article:

"I find it regrettable, not only for me personally, but in principle, that a museum is willing to destroy works because of the taste of a director or because of other plans, he says. When they claim it (the sculpture) can simply be rebuilt, the museum director has taken over my decisions. But he is not the artist. As the director of the museum, he is responsible to preserve, to criticise and to collect. For me, this discussion is the most interesting. Because we live in an art context where art is looking for fans rather than informed audiences. But a museum that no longer cares about the difference between work and non-work is a museum that is dying, expressed Svenungsson, who has written to the museum and the association several times."

September 11, 2022 – "Mafolofolo"

I have just finished my third day at Ruangrupa's Documenta. I'm here together with a group of students and we leave tomorrow morning. Like always at such trips, we don't move in any organized form, instead following our own trajectories, meeting randomly every once in a while. I'm tired. There is a lot to see, really a lot. And it is different from what one is used to. I visited my first Documenta in 1987 and I have seen all of them since. What do I remember from the one in 87? Robert Longo's multiform pop culture sculptures. I was incredibly excited to see them and I already knew them from books and magazines. Today I think they are utterly without merit. Tastes change. (I was into Cindy Sherman at the time as well – that's how I came to Longo – and I haven't changed my mind about her.)

I can't say what I will remember from this Documenta (and in 35 years I will probably not be around anyway) apart from the overwhelming general effect of seeing so many collectives' workshop displays of very varying quality. There is hardly any work at all which invites individual contemplation, with the important exception of a number of very striking long format videos and a few installations where sound plays a central role. In an interesting text in Kunstforum's special Documenta issue Noemi Smolek asks the question whether "the modern concept of art was just a short episode?" (my translation). She defines modernity's understanding of a work of art as "an autonomous object created by an individual, the artist, for individual viewing/contemplation". Can it be, this was just a short period in history and we will now return to a collective, ritualistic understanding of art? she asks. If this Documenta is an argument in this direction is not perfectly clear, however, given how so much of what is exhibited is highly charged with pedagogical and political ambitions, turning a lot of it into didactic demonstrations and virtue-signalling (a harsh term which is probably more pertinent to how the work functions in the context of the exhibition, than to the ideas with which it was made).

I think my favourite work for now, is the installation "Mafolofolo: place of recovery" in the Hotel Hessenland. In a dark former ballroom a map with African place names is painted on the floor and some layered "islands" are built in wood, offering a form of seating. For twenty minutes, beginning on the hour and half hour, a composition with voices, noises and singing is played over a state of the art multichannel sound system, which locates the sound sources dispersed in space, with a very high sense of realism (often I want to turn around and see who did what I just heard). I was there for the second time today, and listened with intense focus to the piece from the beginning to end. It is... astonishingly moving, with a singing finale of the highest possible emotional intensity.

What the talking voices were saying I didn't understand. I also didn't get much into the meaning of the maps. Afterwards I read a few texts about the work, including on the artists', a duo who work under the name MADEYOULOOK, own homepage – and these texts hardly mention the sound (which apparently collages recordings of South African traditional singing). Instead the talk and discussion is all about the content and the message.

I'm happy to take part of the progressive message. Still, what I experienced was of a different order and that is what made it – for me.

The other works I really liked have that in common: they are all made to carry important content. Yet something happened in the process of making, which made the Gestaltung transcend the message.

July 29, 2022 – "Rescue"

I'm in Sweden. Yesterday I was in Gothenburg and saw Rammstein play at Ullevi. It's the second arena show I have attended in my life (the first one was David Bowie in the 80s). One has to be at the very front. Here it was called "Feuerzone". Not without reason.

For the first encore the band appeared without warning on a secondary stage, a little island in the sea of people some 50 meters from the main stage. Here, before the main concert began, Duo Abélard had played a support set with pianoversions of Rammstein songs. Now the two pianists are playing again, "Engel", and all the band members sing, while on the main stage projection screen the lyrics appear, to help the audience sing along. It's a touching situation. Afterwards the band members travel by rubberboat on the audience's eager hands to reach safety on their stage again. The first arrival grabs a sign to give his mates a warm reception. It says WILLKOMMEN (welcome). It is beautiful, symbolic and timely. I think of Géricault's painting "The Raft of the Medusa". When all have arrived the last holder of the sign turns it around. There it is written: IN DER DUNKELHEIT (to the darkness).

July 27, 2022 – "Destroyed"
The Chimney in Frankfurt (see below) has indeed been destroyed. I haven't been there, but I have seen photos from a friend and from another friendly person who contacted me out of the blue to say what a disappointment it was. Indeed.

June 27, 2022 – "Destruction"

The war in Europe has been going on for four months, resulting in unbelievable destruction and loss of life, along with deliberate destruction of culture. Meanwhile I have learned that in early July the Städelmuseum in Frankfurt apparently will go ahead and destroy my sculpture "First Chimney II". It's hard to believe: a museum destryoing art it has once commissioned and paid a substantial sum of money for. I don't want it to be true.

May 9, 2022 – "Blood stains"
Last autumn I painted five new Test Paintings.

After I had finished # 144 in the summer of 2009, I thought I would never do this again. This feeling stayed with me until it was replaced by a need to break the spell and do more. What happened was I met with a long time artist friend and we decided that we finally must exchange work, which we had talked about already ten years earlier. One thought led to another and it suddenly appeared necessary that I offer her the choice from five new paintings, of a certain model. I was totally motivatedas I realized my idea and I am very pleased with the result. At the beginning of February we met again and made our swap. A couple of weeks later war broke out in Europe.

In private I have always called these works either Test Paintings – or bloodstain paintings. Painting representations of stains of blood was the original idea, which has motivated all the now 149 paintings.

Today I added the new paintings to the index, which is found here. In between I checked the news and thought that maybe I am still not finished painting bloodstains.

April 24, 2022 – "Maundy Thursday"

I spent the last week in the country side, in south Sweden. Working on a lecture. Cutting linoleum plates. Digging earth. The weather was so beautiful. It feels almost wrong to make this observation. Just before leaving Berlin, in the morning of Maundy Thursday (this word I had to look up), Hasenkamp arrived with all my work from Moscow. I was surprised when I took the call, a couple of days earlier. But here they were. As if nothing had happened.

March 27, 2022 – "Dreamland"
It is now thirty-two days since Russia invaded Ukraine and it is not over. In Vienna with five students, we are installing an exhibition in AG18 Gallery which will open on Tuesday. It is called "Dreamland". I chose this title back in October and in January I wrote a text which begins like this:

We are not the only animals who dream when we sleep. Yet, only we can share those dreams afterwards and only humans make art. Will that still be the case tomorrow?
Do you have sweet dreams? Do you have nightmares? I think we all hope for the former when we go to bed at night. Who wants to wake up in terror? It's different during the day. People watch horror movies and listen to Black Metal. Some hurt themselves. Artists embrace what is ugly and bewildering. Leaders make plans, which will never lead to paradise. Others give speeches full of hope: "I have a dream".
We need our dreams, in whatever shape or form they present themselves. To make art is to make them work for you and for us all, in the medium of your choice. Machines cannot dream. 
This exhibition is called DREAMLAND.   

When I sent out an invitation the other day I added the following sentence:

In times like these there are dreams we must hold on to, just as there are dreams which need to be repelled.

March 9, 2022 – "Fog of war"

The 14th day of Putin's brutal war against Ukraine will soon be over. I still can't really comprehend that it is happening. It has come so much closer than other wars, because of a number of factors. I know people who have families in it. I talk to them. I try to find words which make sense, but I fail, of course. It shrinks the distance. And it is close. It would take me a day to drive from Berlin, to be in it. It is the first time in my life, that I realize it could become my war too.

On the day of the invasion, Walter Smerling asked that the exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow be taken down immediately. It hasn't. My works which concern themselves with a changing European map apparently are still installed. I never wanted them to be appropriate in the way they are now. I think they will be lost. It doesn't matter. So much else is lost. Above all so many people, and their futures. This matters.

Update: This is peculiar. Ten minutes after I posted the above I received a new email from Walter Smerling, saying that the request to close the exhibition was granted today. And that the work will be sent back. 60 000 visitors in Moscow, have seen the exhibition. Does this matter?

February 27, 2022 – "Demonstrations"

Yesterday we marched. 20.000 were projected, about 100.000 showed up in Berlin. And Germany has completely changed its policies. What now counts is first: the bravery of the Ukrainian military and population who continue to defend their country against the aggressor, and second: the bravery of the Russians who are demonstrating and demanding an end to the attack on their neighbour. May they soon overwhelm the security forces who are sent to arrest them for their message of peace.

February 24, 2022 – "The End"
Early this morning Russia launched a full scale attack on Ukraine. In Saint Petersburg, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter's highly respected Russia correspondent Anna-Lena Laurén began her article with the following words (in DeepL translation):

The attack on Ukraine – a peaceful neighbour – means the end of the Putin regime. The Russian autocrat will not survive his catastrophically miscalculated decision in the long run. And history will not be kind.

February 22, 2022 – "Politburo"
The news from Ukraine are awful. At least Scholz has now stopped Nordstream 2. And here is a remarkable Twitter thread by Alexey Navalny, from his prison. How is this possible?

February 18, 2022 – "Berlin Kunsthalle"
In a long open letter published on e-flux two days ago and titled "Who Owns the Public", Jörg Heiser, Hito Steyerl and Clemens von Wedemeyer present a devastating critique of the dealings surrounding the so-called "Berlin Kunsthalle", which was opened with an exhibition of huge steel sculptures by Bernard Venet less than three weeks ago. The opening speech was given by Gerhard Schröder, a former German Bundeskanzler, who has since been employed to serve Russian interests. One day before he had accused Ukraine of saberrattling, towards Russia! The Kunsthalle occupies the same space in the Tempelhof Flughafen, where the exhibition Diversity United took place last summer. The organisation behind both projects is one and the same: the registered association (Verein) “Stiftung Kunst und Kultur e.V”, run by Walter Smerling. I will not go into the details of all that has gone wrong in this affair: I recommend everyone to read the letter, as well as the reporting (in German) by Niklas Maak in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. It's not pretty. One must ask: the Berlin politicans who negotiated the deal – what were they thinking?

At the same time in Moscow, Diversity United is still on view at the Tretyakov Gallery. Given the political nature of many of the works and the current awful machinations by the Russian autocrat against neighbouring Ukraine, this is hard to believe. If art can be political, it is because it can provide alternatives and show that thinking differently is possible. No works in Diversity United explicitly address the Ukraine conflict, as far as I remember, but that is not the point. The exhibition is not perfect but it is strong and it provides a diversity of perspectives, which – as far as I understand – are hard to come by in the Russian public sphere today.

When in 2019 I was invited to take part in Diversity United (which was scheduled to be shown in Berlin, Moscow and Paris), all my thoughts went towards what will be the right work(s) for Moscow. One alternative stood out: my Psycho-Mapping Europe works. I got an OK from the curator to show not only the first one from 1998 and the second from 2010, but also a new one which I would make for the exhibition. In all three works, Europe is gradually, but each time differently, changing into a chaotic state. A result which happens inexorably, yet against my efforts to keep the status quo during the making process... and which is frighteningly relevant right now. (That the third work was made during the first Covid lockdown in spring 2020, just adds to the poignancy.) I am excited to know that my Psycho-Mapping Europe works are displayed in Moscow at this very moment. Art wants to be seen. Art has to be seen. I would like to see the same installation shown also at the planned third station of the exhibition, for similar reasons. Also in France, there are processes going on which – may – lead to chaos.

From what I hear, it now seems unlikely that the third exhibition will happen. Apparently, there is more than one reason for this, but the boycott decisions by several participating artists, based on the "Berlin Kunsthalle" debacle is surely a factor. I myself have decided that I will not join a boycott triggered by wrongdoings which relate to another project. I accepted to make and exhibit work in Diversity United and I will not take this decision back now.

February 14, 2022 – "Possible"
I'm reading Yuval Noah Harari: "Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind". At this moment it feels like a privilege to take the long perspective. As far as it is possible.

February 10, 2022 – In the Studio"
Yesterday in Vienna, I attended the opening of the David Hockney retrospective at Kunstforum Bank Austria: "David Hockney Insights". That Hockney himself was not present is understandable, given his age and the present situation. The fact that I had a small part in the proceedings, with my text in the catalogue, made me feel special being present. I was on the inside and also without further duties: I had earned my place, but had no pressure to perform. I could watch the crowd. There certainly was one. In fact, if it hadn't been for everyone wearing masks (and having had to prove their vaccination status upon entering, yet the additional negative PCR test obligation had been dropped) it looked like in earlier days. So many people... a bit scary as well. The evening began with speeches before a seated audience in a nearby palace. Artist from the Wiener Staatsoper performed pieces from operas which Hockney had designed sets for. I was seeing music being performed live for the first time in how long? It dawned on me that this was the first live performance I had attended in exactly two years (minus two days). Also in Vienna, on February 11, 2020, I saw Babymetal with two friends, at the Gasometer. Little did we know.

The huge show has a great sense of rhythm. It's not at all chronological, it has a lot of prints and drawings and a good selection of paintings, including many from the early sixties. There are also some very large recent pieces using digital technology, which stand up surprisingly well. I'm thinking in particular of the wall-sized "photographic drawing" of the artist in his studio surrounded by his works in manipulated perspectives ("In the Studio, December 2017"). This kind of digital photo constructions have not convinced me when I have seen them reproduced. In reality, this one did. Fascinating.

One theme of my catalogue text is that when you engage with Hockney's work, more than anything it makes you want to make work yourself. Yes, I can talk about it or write, but more importantly it hands me tools and inspiration for believing in my own possibilities as an observer, a discoverer and a creator. This is no small thing. It's at the very centre of what art is for.

January 21, 2022 – "Discovery"
There is much going on... geo-political and political, but I won't comment. Instead I want to notice a tiny detail which made me happy when I discovered it.

At the end of last year – December 28 – I was in Sweden and made a blitz visit to Stockholm in order to do a couple of things. One was to see a show (where a work of mine from 1992 in included) at Liljevalchs Konsthall, celebrating its 100 years of existence.

It's always fun to see old work reappear. In this case a project which was originally made as a cover image for a telephone directory. In 1992 all Swedish phone books had covers made by artists. My work consisted of a montage face, made up of 3 photos: of myself and of my two brothers, Håkan and Olof. I had also made a number of drawings from this composite face, in order to see what hybrid identity would gradually emerge. At Liljevalchs now was the composite photo + a smaller number of the drawings, in a wall mounted vitrine. I made some photos with my Iphone and added them to this website a few weeks ago.

Then a funny thing happened. While being completely passive, I have a Facebook account. Some algorithm sends me emails informing me that friends have posted various stuff. When such messages appear, I routinely click and check what's up. This way I saw a photo the other day which was made in the room where my work was installed, although in this photo none of my work was visible. Instead I saw on the wall a painting I had ignored during my ego-centric visit to the show. It was clearly by Hilma af Klint. I then saw a poster as well, with another of her paintings. HOW could I have missed this??? For more than ten years now I have been super interested in her peculiar trajectory (and I was well aware of her already in the 1990s). And now, my work installed next to hers – and I don't see it!

January 6, 2022 – "Winter"
I won't mention any anniversary. Apart from that, I don't know where to start.

I read a thick biography of the singer Nico over the holidays. An unexpected Christmas present. I had not thought much about her for a very long time. The book is badly written, but it's full of information and I couldn't help being drawn in. Such a sad life – I guess – and such incredible stubbornness in doing an art that for most of the time very few people appreciated. I actually saw Nico play once, in 1984 I think it was. It left a vivid and morose memory. Long before I had bought four of her records. Now I just found the vinyls, which I can no longer play.

While running with my friend Michi in Grunewald once, he showed me her grave among the trees. I was most surprised. Christa Päffgen.