“Scratching on things I couldn't disavow”
Is a series of conceptions originated from transcripts written in the stream of
consciousness. Dealing with a broader theme that has been filtered through
some of my conceptions regarding Swedish mentality, national romanticism
and traumas in connection to art. These transcripts were written in order to come closer
to the stream of thought recorded from discussions and then rearranged by
removing my counterpart, in the translation and finalization of this text.
Scratching on things I couldn't disavow
First of all! My view on art has nothing to do with any will to define what it is, you don't have to do anything and I have no thesis. Just spare me from: nordic romantic filters, melancholic filled emptiness, semi spiritual esoteric imagery, retro esthetic comfort, nature exoticism of any kind, comfort zones, resting places, professional suffering, sexy views and fetishes on material, objects, identity and professionalism. If there is no story to be told, I can love it but not understand it and frankly neither you or me “deserve it”.
Especially not us swedes when it comes to romanticism as we come from an esthetic history that hasn't dealt with and confronted fascism. This imagery is too dangerous for us and our people. We have no tools or mental weaponry to save us from it's power, and we are handicapped when it comes to confronting power structures and ideas of goodness. I don't think that it is a coincidence that Sweden has become some sort of a love child for different nations and for different reasons. For example the fetish of a romantic pure nature imposed by Germany and Japan, among others – could it be a longing for the innocence of romantic views on nature, settings and aesthetics? The South American leftist romance that feed on our socialistic background; the statements on world politics we made during the sixties and seventies, how we stood up to the US during the Vietnam war and our State visit to Cuba. Is it possible that our current strengthening cultural bond with America isn't only due to views on Liberal Economical Democracy but that we share the same schizophrenic process of losing the status of goodness. I have no clue when we are going to be able to fuck the pain away, losing our multifaceted virginity to break the chains of the tyranny of the possible instead of using everything we got to keep our chastity.
I am not pointing my finger because the same goes for me and no I am not a total cynic. I am a hopeless idealist that actually believe in the power of knowledge and that it can be applied in daily life choices connected to our material realities more than being a tool for placements of identity (mental and physical) that is talking to like minded, enlightened and homogeneous people in groups that share the same language and unspoken truths and ideological hegemony.
Some artist believe that there are two opposing poles in art. On the one hand those who are driven by theories, themes and concepts often with an intellectual approach or with an imperative to inform and instruct or some other cognitive strategy. And on the other hand the compulsive offenders, the painters and the visual molders. And that both these passionate – approaches to the cognitive and the sensual are constantly played out against each other in the question to what constitutes what “true” art really is. In my academy there have been a lot of polite tiptoeing around the subject and I can sense a will that this distinction should be one of the past. I have not seen any signs of this being true.
Of-course I can see these differences but personally not on an experienced or felt level. No, I can only see narratives. The identity culture I have grown up with enables me to detach myself in viewing and playing out the movie of life. For me there is no escape from the story – and maybe an artist that makes that choice, of working free from narratives is even more trapped in one, a narrative about themselves as a movie that randomly repeat the plays over and over. Where the distinction lays between who does this or not isn't in my interest to identify. Nor does my work really deal with these type of questions.
Can all artists practice be seen in this way, more or less – the self directed movie about itself that never ends, the ultimate narcissistic act of asking the same question about itself over and over again fine tuning its center point, more and more professionally narrowing its center? If this is art I find it more sad than telling a diversity of thousands upon thousands of tragic stories.
I need some type of vulnerability and with that I mean a crack not a shimmer or a conscious grip. A place where some unprofessional shameless emotion can escape the facade, a small thing that doesn't work, some fresh air that can at least remove a little musty stench from the protectionist placement of the professional identity and the silent truths of geographical ideas concentrating on what works or not in esthetic choices. We can see the story for what it is and discuss the reason for choices and views. Unfolding the traumas and romance that lies behind placements of conviction from different times and geography in art, living today. Freeing artists from all ages from self built or enforced fortresses so that they no longer have to protect inhuman mental and physical placement like that of the politician, shedding their armor to greet the material world naked, recovering the magic of the ambiguity that is life.
I have a hard time assimilating in art what I feel is about building an identity, a career, finding a placement, or that resides in the professional and successful more than the art itself, the thoughtscape, legacy and the reasons for it. This is how I feel about many professions and conformation to the conceptions of roles that silence the diversity of expression from different lived realities in fear of being slowly sublimely muted and pushed away by others fear and discomfort, fed by the trauma of goodness, the unknown and the risk of some slight stupidity etc. If we look at Sweden as a mental patient this would be one of the trademark personality disorders that is shared with the professional identity. But if the story is good or interesting enough I don't care if art is extremely introvert, extrovert, ugly, embarrassing, pathetic, beautiful, filled with exoticism or romantics etc. The reason is that it dispenses with agreements of silent truths which is the type of romanticism that I question in this text.
In these times of introvert critique where the grand narratives and common utopian ideas is making room for cults of self-realization, mortification and identity it seems that the postmodern idea of the democratic power of singularity and small narratives is far far from being realized. I don't feel there is a lack of political awareness and understanding. On the contrary we know much more than we can grasp about current situations, worldly conditions etc. When talking to the students that I teach and other youngsters they are so much more knowledgeable then when I was growing up. Of course there is naivety about good and evil as everywhere but nowhere close to how I was, trying to burn up a store at the age of thirteen in my fight against capitalism. No it's knowing it “all”, together with the victimization of goodness that we bring upon our selfs, get bombarded with from the outside, is haunting and traumatizing our national body. Viewing our current situation as a society built on comfort systems is not so hard to understand. Does this, together with our romantic ideas when it comes to esthetics and our trauma of goodness, promise a future filled with imaginary resting places in art or will we snap out of it?
The “shift” from critique of the society to a self imposed one, one of the individual is interesting to look at in connection with new concepts like the precariate. This contrasts with the free, young and international artist. Is there a common ground, One “voluntary” and one un-voluntary? And does the art critique in the academy also share similarities with the critique of the young self in rich countries like Sweden? Has everyone become an artist with the life project as their practice? Fine tuning ideas and esthetics and building the character of the self as a position or nest?
When safety nets in society are being dismantled for a big part of the global population and the politicians rely on the invisible hand to deal with our global crisis. When ideology in politics is about pointing out the personal reason for standpoints to seem human instead of a genuine effort to relate to the other and experienced realities, then what Sweden? What comes after moralism?
In Sweden, most of the young population still has the safety net of their piers with a stable economy, loss of anger and convictions of goodness. Here the young individual has time to be ruminant about world and local responsibility through the good choice in all aspects of life. Everything from buying the right justice branded, vintage and ecological products, fulfilling their guilt filled obligation to enjoy, they care more about the definitions of words(semantics) than actual socially engaged work, Giving help without asking questions about what the individual needs, debating in media without questioning medias role in relation to material reality etc. It's not strange that ideology has become like an imaginary machinery.
Our liberal Swedish politicians speak about the young creative class as the country's main product for export and at the same time the Swedish culture minister speaks about changing the word culture to entertainment, because culture has a negative ring to it. This sounds like a totally unworldly and ridiculous statement to make but is it so in relation to the media climate? In my view the reason for the statement is to separate politic agendas from culture and this goes hand in hand with the conception that humans deserves a place free from guilt and heavy questions. The demand for such a resting place free from responsibility, heavy thought and contemplation is of course a pipe dream among many others but absolutely needed for the people who turn against themselves in groups instead of grinding their traumas, romance and conceptions in all their pathos against the world, instead of using them for nesting, positioning and self regulation. This is my pipe dream!
The examples I give are a part of some conceptions I have about the Swedish mentality. If we look at the idea of national identity as a series of traumas, romantic views, etc built on past events in history and connect these with personal traumas and experiences there is a chance to understand the character. All of the points that I give can sound ridiculously self-evident, almost embarrassingly so, but if we look at our material and political realities it is far from it.
Looking at people from and with different backgrounds and their personal and national traumas we are far from all the same, maybe most of the worlds population share the same wants and needs but if the trauma and romance is not taken into account these common values are powerless. If we take the trauma of violence, war and oppression and how it is passed from one generation to the next in comparison to the Swedish trauma of goodness we can unfold a larger picture about the filters that veil our national body. Of course these simplifications are not easy to make, but in dealing with the swedish mentality I feel it is crucial.
We don’t want to acknowledge any differences between people, no “we are all the same”. This lie is not productive and it serves racism more than equality, because of it's obviousness. At the same time our politicians speak openly about acceptance when it comes to other cultures, does anyone actually want to be accepted? If the same word was used in an individual sense when it comes to gender, sexuality and race we immediately feel the bad taste of the word and then it feels horrendous. I accept you but that's about it.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
The confusion I feel about a phenomenon of a certain esthetic filter that I think veils Sweden in some way. I have seen it all around me throughout my whole life but never understood it on an emotional level. Sometimes it's like I am in a conspiracy movie where everyone around me has a connection to some mystic, melancholic, romantic and mute truth that has passed me by completely. And that this truth is something not to be discussed. It is a closed entity that non of it's adherents want to disclose in fear of contamination that could threaten it's natural place in the national body.
I am letting these untouchable phenomenons symbolize the quiet truth or hegemony, the universal phenomenon that constitutes all enlightened groups their affinity and authorized existence. The things we just know as a group that separates us from the rest, consciously or un-consciously. In art this can manifest itself as a priesthood religion or an unquestionable taste judged by professional views on esthetics, romance and manner. In this text, chant, speech or stream. I am trying to scratch on a feeling through conceptions about the swedish mentality. And maybe going as far as asking if it can be that many concepts of democratization and equality throughout history actually has been realized but not in the name of the common good. No, now these ideas feed the continuation of the neoliberal globalized economical structure. Can it be that the idea of the free creative and international individual once reserved for cultural workers, artist etc have become the lie of life that uphold social injustice for others in the name of individual freedom?