Jan Svenungsson

Talk


May 18, 2024 – "We cannot die"

A long time ago I had a band called Svart, together with Caiza Almen. The band existed for about one and a half year, but this was 1980-81 and I remember it as having been much longer. We made a couple of records and they can be seen here (a hidden page...). We even had a song called "X" (no Musk association) on a live compilation, called HEARTWORK LIVE KLUBB 2000. It was recorded in Lund at the end of 1980.

Heartwork was an indie record company run by Henrik Venant. He also had a band, (together with three Peters: Ivarrs, Strauss och Puders) called TT-Reuter and they were fantastic. On a whole other level than us and all the other post punk players trying out things in those years. They were tight. They had structures and melodies and songs and they could really really play. In retrospect, it is strange that they did not go further than they did. I will never forget when Henrik gave me a friendly word of advice after a gig: that there is something called dynamics. Until then I hadn't bothered, really. The band was already at the end of its rope, but I took his advice to heart, for my subsequent activities.

More than a year ago I was contacted on Messenger by a Karl G Jönsson in Lund who was planning a book about all of Heartwork's activities, with a special focus on Henrik and TT-Reuter. As Svart had appeared on that live album we were also of interest. The only problem was, I hardly ever look at Messenger, so I never saw his message. Until I did, two months ago, and then I answered. Amazingly, he was still there and told me the book was going to be published very soon and it was too late for any additions regarding Svart. But then I remembered I had once photographed TT-Reuter at a gig in Stockholm and I knew there were some good shots on that film. I asked whether he'd like to see them. He did, I sent him the whole film, no time to scan it, and now two of my photos are in this impressive hard cover book of 300 pages, one of them on the back cover. And Svart has a picture in the book as well and a short text... "four teenagers from Uppsala".

It feels special and strange. My short time in music (which began after I had discovered art and decided to be an artist (at the age of 15) – and had finished by the time I was 20) had a strong impact on me. Whenever it happens that we (Svart) is mentioned in histories of that area, it is strangely touching.

The title of the book, "Vi kan inte dö" (We cannot die) is a chant in one of TT-Reuter's songs. Sadly, two of the Peters have proven the opposite is true.

May 4, 2024 – "Two books, one quote"
In June transcript Verlag will publish the book I have been working on since June 29 last year when I had a sudden flash of inspiration and started to bombard my own email account with dictated ideas and notes, while out and about. It's full title will be "Art Intelligence – How Generative AI Relates to Human Art-Making". transcript is an international publisher of academic books and they will both sell an edition on paper, as well as making the book available for free download. I think it's an interesting experiment. As so many times before, Theresa Hattinger is responsible for the design, and it looks really very good, I must say!

Second book reference, on a completely different tangent. I'm reading Simon Kuper's 2022 book "Chums – How a Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took Over the UK" and it is breathtaking. Kuper, who studied at Oxford himself, describes and analyses how it could be that a tight gang of upper class university chums (with names such as Cameron, Johnson, etc) could crash the UK's political culture and possibly the country's future without really meaning to and certainly without understanding what they were doing. The story pivots on the Brexit campaign. While the book is both funny and easy to read it is also depressing and tragic. You never know (even if you have observed the goings on from a distance) what it will reveal next. This is a quote which made me stop in my tracks. Kuper has made a detour describing the famous Soviet Union spy ring at "the other university" Cambridge from the 1930's to 1964 (Kim Philby & co). He then notes:

Admittedly, the comparison between the Cambridge and Oxford sets isn't entirely fair: though both betrayed Britain's interests in the service of Moscow, the Brexiteers did it by mistake.

April 3, 2024 – "Hypocenter"

I write this eleven days later. When you travel from place to place, from experience to experience, reporting on each and every one in real time is not my model. No social media travelogue for me. Yet certain points in time and place are recorded here, where they will stay fixed in their place as long as I control this space and hopefully longer. We spent two days in Hiroshima. I had never been there before and I was always hoping to have the opportunity one day. Now that I have had it I know I will never forget it. The city was in full cherry bloom and people were behaving accordingly. Still, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was incredibly crowded and you walked slowly from tableau to tableau, picture to picture, from surviving clothes to artifacts which all told a complex story of how life was ended in a flash, for about 100.000 people that day, August 6, 1945. And how it was destroyed for many more over the following years. This is all well known and I don't need to repeat it. Yet while I was in the museum I had this one very un-original thought in my head: I wish every world leader come here and study this in detail. For a long time. Without photo-ops and reporters.

As I write, Sunday afternoon, April 14, this seems even more necessary, as we are all waiting to see what will be Israel's response to Iran's unprecedented direct attack with drones and missiles earlier today. Which was a response to Israel's strike on Iran's consulate in Damascus on the same day we experienced the ultimate peacefulness and beauty of Saihoji's garden.

Crazy has no limits.

April 1, 2024 – "Moss"

I had wanted to visit a moss garden ever since I heard David Bowie's eponymous track on the Heroes album a long, long time ago. Today we did, at the Saihoji temple on the outskirts of Kyoto. It's nature, it's wild, it's organized, it's carefully taken care of and it was very silent.

March 31, 2024 – "Afternoon"

In Kyoto, Sunday afternoon. A guided tour (booked months ago) through Villa Katsura and its gardens. You may not enter the buildings, only look inside. On this picture a tea house, for the tea ceremony. Designed in the 17th century. The beauty.

March 31, 2024 – "Morning"

In Kyoto, Sunday morning. We visit Takashi Murakami's exhibition at the Kyoto City Museum of Art: "Mononoke Kyoto". It is a real experience. Murakami may be ultra-commercial but he also has real depth and ambition. Beauty and horror battling it out.

March 30, 2024 – "Rokka"
Kyoto in the afternoon. On a long walk from A to B we visit a winebar. It's very small and still empty. Classical music radio is playing. The announcer speaks Swedish. It's P2, from the state radio channel, thanks to the internet. The friendly proprietor speaks some Swedish. He spent a summer in Växjö long time ago, because of the glassworks. As a child I spent three years there. The bar is called Rokka.

March 26, 2024 – "Grave"

In Tokyo on a rainy Tuesday: visiting Katsushika Hokusai's grave.

March 23, 2024 – "Lost and Found"
On the way to Tokyo I forgot my computer on the plane, when transferring in Beijing. And got it back.

March 22, 2024 – "Copy"
I received the finished text from the copy editor Scott Evans and we discussed a few points.

March 20, 2024 – "Contract"
I signed the contract for the publication of my new book "Art Intelligence" with the international academic publishing house transcript Verlag.

February 17, 2024 – "Alexey"
Yesterday Alexey Navalny was killed by the Russian state. If directly or indirectly makes no difference. In the New Yorker today his friend Masha Gessen writes about his life and death. Just before the end she writes this:

A month later, Navalny flew back to Moscow. His friends had tried to talk him out of it. He wouldn’t hear of staying in exile and becoming politically irrelevant. He imagined himself as Russia’s Nelson Mandela: he would outlive Putin’s reign and become President. Perhaps he believed that the men he was fighting were capable of embarrassment and wouldn’t dare to kill him after he’d proved that they had tried to. He and I had argued, over the years, about the fundamental nature of Putin and his regime: he said that they were “crooks and thieves”; I said that they were murderers and terrorists. After he came out of his coma, I asked him if he had finally been convinced that they were murderers. No, he said. They kill to protect their wealth. Fundamentally, they are just greedy.

He thought too highly of them. They are, in fact, murderers.


February 15, 2024 – "Text"
I'm alone in a house in the country. I have a very wide table at which to work. In front of me is a wall of windows facing north. The weather is gray and damp, though no snow. The house is warm. I am deep in the final editing of the book I have been working on since June. About AI, art and artists. It's complicated. Nobody really knows... me neither. That's why I write. Writing is a process of gaining knowledge. I love the final editing phase: you have the parts, you work on the details and you want them all to sing together. In rhythm. You are still discovering.

When so many scary things are going on outside, what one can do is doing what is meaningful as well as possible. Every word counts. Take care of them and make something good. It's a privilege.

February 5, 2024 – "Two Books"
I'm working on two books which I hope will be published latest in summer. One with text only (almost), which will be titled "Art Intelligence". And one with pictures but no text, except for the title page and impressum. It's title will be "2024".

January 1, 2024 – "2025"
What will the world look like on January 1, 2025?