MODERN MUSEET MALMÖ
MALMÖ’S BURNING. AN EXHIBITION ABOUT REVOLT, DREAMS, AND PASSIONS, 1968-1988
Exhibition site: http://www.modernamuseet.se/malmo/en/exhibitions/malmo-is-burning/
Text by curators, Clemens Altgård and Ola Åstrand
The aim of the exhibition Malmö’s Burning is to feature—in a deeply personal way—images of a city that has just disappeared before our eyes. With a number of important selected works forming the hub of a revolving remix of an era, we want to rekindle memories and feelings from a time that can seem paradoxically both far behind us and startlingly close.
The exhibition Malmö’s Burning spans from the experimental and increasingly political 1960s to the 1980s, when new alternative cultures began to emerge just as the good years in terms of economic prosperity seemed to be over. Viewing that era from the perspective of today provides a new and alternative image of Malmö’s transformation through a remix of various cultural expressions, a blend of both visual art and other styles of the subcultures that have made lasting impressions on the city.
For Ninni Benediktson, the punk movement meant DIY—do it yourself. In our exhibition we’re showing pages from the fanzine Spunk she made with Anne Nummila Rosengren when they were both young teenagers. They did the reporting, illustrations, and sales themselves. Benediktson moved to London in the mid-1980s, but now lives in Malmö. So does Nummila Rosengren, who was the contact person for Spunk when it launched.
Christian Cavallin is an artist who grew up in Malmö but now lives in Stockholm. Cavallin’s art is characterized by a systematic exploration of new fields of experience. Music has been important to him. In the 1970s he discovered the new punk music that had begun to be played in small clubs in Britain. He went there repeatedly and documented both the musicians and their audiences. The overall title of his contribution to the exhibition is Perverted by Language: Photos from the 1970s Punk Era.
The artist and set designer Åke Dahlbom is also known by the name of Art Bomba. His political awareness was awakened in high school, where he devoured anarchist literature and philosophy. Dahlbom has been active as a set designer for Darling Desperados, a theater troupe that formed in Malmö in 1987. He has worked in other cities as well, including Berlin and Stockholm. His piece Funeralism: Impressions of A Vanished Future comprises several parts that together form a picture of interdisciplinary expression characterized by spontaneity and expressivity.
Stina Ebers works primarily with sculpture and experimental installations. She studied at the Forum School of Painting in Malmö and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. Ebers was a central figure in the wave of new art that was being shown in Malmö galleries during the 1980s. In 1986 she had a solo show at Galleri TV, which was at the time an important meeting place in the new cultural environment emerging in the city. She works with objects whose materials often contrast with one another, and her forms are like puzzles made from strict geometrical forms. Ebers’ work may be seen as minimalist expressions for contemporary existential problems. One of her distinctive characteristics is an extensive reduction of form, another her unwavering fidelity to the bearing idea.
Leif Eriksson moved to Malmö in 1966. He became one of Sweden’s foremost conceptual artists. He has also made a name for himself as a prominent publisher and collector of artist’s books. One of his most scandalous works also played a decisive role in determining the course of conceptual art in Sweden. In 1977, Eriksson took a lithograph by the Malmö artist Max Walter Svanberg and scrawled critical comments on top of it about how Svanberg was mass-producing reproductions and selling them as if they were originals. Eriksson turned it into a series of his own, and Svanberg sued him for copyright infringement. The Supreme Court found him not guilty, a decision that set a precedent for the future legal status of idea-based art. Until just a few years ago Eriksson was a well-known figure in the Malmö entertainment scene. In the 1980s and early 90s he figured in the fashion world and appeared in entertainment magazines. He can be seen, for example, in a couple of the Paulina Hårleman fashion photographs shown in this exhibition. Some of Eriksson’s works, such as the text-based Major Dylte’s Return, were developed over a long span of time.
Artist Allan Friis is known primarily for his political pictures. His interest in social issues intensified during the 1960s, when his pictures took on an increasingly pronounced social critical character. Friis has also written a number of books and debate articles about art, politics, the mass media, and education, and has even produced experimental films and plays for Swedish Television. The Aesthetics of Resistance is the overall title of his contribution to this exhibition, which includes examples of his documentation of life in the Rosengård neighborhood during the 1970s.
Pernilla Frykholm lived in Malmö during the period 1965–91, but now lives in Stockholm. She lived for a time in Jordan, where she met Maria Tomczak, another artist whose work is featured in Malmö’s Burning. Since the 1990s Frykholm has been working in the field of industrial and media communications, but she does textile art in her spare time. Her artistic expression is about the textile, the tactile, and the three-dimensional. As a youth in Malmö she was involved in the punk scene. Her piece Jason is a kind of coming to terms with the patriarchal 1970s, and at the same time an homage to Jason Diakité. Her Ode to Joy is instead an homage to the rapper Joy Mbatha. She calls them “two modern ‘punkers’ that challenge authority, do their own thing, are brave, and paint music with grand gestures.”
Abelardo Gonzalez is an artist and innovative architect whose fundamental outlook is rooted in an artistic working method and the liberation of the imagination. His projects include set designs for the theater, disco interiors, and single-family homes. Gonzalez studied architecture in his hometown of Córdoba, Argentina. After graduating he set off for Europe, and worked for a while in Turkey. He traveled around, and after meeting Swedish architects in Poland he settled in Sweden in 1978. He made an important contribution to Malmö as a designer with innovative interiors like the Club Trocadero, which featured mirrors and zebra hide and was a great hit when it opened in 1979. It became a queer meeting place where anyone was welcome. His new video piece for this exhibition offers a look back at that era.
Elisa Halvegård set off for Europe in her youth. The trips she took during the 1970s had a decisive impact on her career as an artist. She got to know new people and exhibited her work in many new countries. Halvegård has lived in Malmö since 1960. “I have learned to love Malmö,” she says, “especially now with Möllevångstorget and Kungsparken.” As with Annika Wide, we find Halvegård’s work to be rooted in the psychedelic and romantic wave that swept over the Western world with the hippie movement. She has contributed a selection of graphic prints from the early 1970s called No One Dies of Unrequited Love Anymore as well as Small Sculptures Made at Ellenbogen Ceramics, Late-60s through Early 70s.
In the early 1970s Malmö suffered from a serious shortage of performance venues, so a group of people who had connections to the alternative left and the music scene—a group that included Lasse Hejll—started the Folk Festival in 1971. Hejll has primarily become known for his art posters, but he has also worked as a photographer. Our exhibition features some of the more rarely shown satirical posters he made to protest against the cultural politics of the then municipal administration. It includes photos from the Folk Festival that so powerfully united people with a radical spirit during a time when there was a great distinction between fine art and popular culture. Posters and Folk Festival is the overall title for his contribution to the exhibition. It offers a clear reflection of the dreariness and lack of meaningful activities available to young people that led them to take initiatives that challenged the local power elites of the day.
Photographer and filmmaker Paulina Hårleman moved to Malmö in 1985, by which time it had become a post-industrial city. She carried with her experiences from Paris and from stays in cities such as Milan, London, and Munich. In Malmö she found a lively art scene with new magazines such as Nöjesguiden and Reflektion. She also built up a company there together with her life partner, Roger Hynne, which came to work with photography, journalism, film, music, and events. For Malmö’s Burning Hårleman has put together a slideshow she calls Adu, lugna ner daj tösabid (roughly, “Hey now, easy does it, little girl”), a comment someone directed at her in the local dialect as she wandered around Malmö taking photographs. Some viewers will probably recognize some of the people in the pictures. For example, the conceptual artist Leif Eriksson appears in a couple of them, as does Kristian Lundberg, who was a member of the group of poets known as the Malmö League.
As a poet and musician, Per Linde has long been fascinated by how computers can be used to create interactive films, for example, and new kinds of poetry. When the School of Arts and Communication was formed at Malmö University, Linde found the program he was looking for. He achieved a doctoral degree with a thesis entitled Metamorphing: The Transformative Power of Digital Media and Tangible Interaction. He was a member of the Malmö League poets’ group, and at the same time the rock band Kabinett Död. Linde’s text-based piece Malmö is from the early 1980s and has been set to music by a psychedelic rock band called Technicolor Poets that is active in Malmö today.
Lena Mattsson is first and foremost a video and performance artist, but she has also worked as a painter. Her work has been shown in many different public and private galleries and museums throughout Sweden and internationally as well. Her contribution here is a new video piece called When Hades Is in Bloom, which illuminates her youth in Malmö, focusing on the 1980s and the start of the 90s, a period of economic crisis. Mattsson collaborated on the film with, among others, the punk icon Stry Terrarie Kanarie; artist Carin Carlsson; and Clemens Altgård, one of this show’s curators, who was at the time a member of a group of poets known as Malmöligan (the Malmö League).
Jessica Nilsson defines herself as a rebel. As a young punker she longed to escape her dreary life in Malmö. And she did. She has lived in Stockholm and Oslo as well as Goa, India. Today she lives in Copenhagen. For the last decade she has been working with documentary film. Some of Nilsson’s pictures are staged scenes in which she herself plays a role, and these can be seen as expressions of the search for identity and existential freedom. For decades these pictures lay packed away in a black storage box at her mother’s house in Malmö. Now these self-portraits are finally being shown to the public, but Nilsson’s From an Old Punker to Their Little Mother includes other things as well, such as a new textual piece and sounds.
Isabel Rayo Planella managed to flee to Argentina following the military takeover in Chile in 1973 before eventually settling in Sweden. She became one of the best-known life drawing models in the country, and has also appeared in films as well as making personal artists’ books. With her spatial installation Souvenir, Rayo Planella demonstrates her creative powers for the first time in a public space. She doesn’t like to call herself an artist, though us, the exhibition’s curators are convinced what she makes is art. Her installation is a kind of staging of the home environment she created over the years by assembling a multitude of objects and images in an enormous, changeable bricolage.
Maria Tomczak says that she draws and paints to keep from going crazy. Her inspirations include comics, film, and politics. In her youth Tomczak was active in Malmö’s punk scene. She lived in Jordan for five years. Malmö may be small, but the world is small, too. In Jordan she met Pernilla Frykholm, another artist who is also contributing to Malmö’s Burning. Today Tomczak lives in Malmö and works as an executive in the telecom industry. She emphasizes that she maintains a strict separation between her professional career and her work as an artist. Her wall mural As I Want has an autobiographical character, but also says something universal about being young and wanting to revolt against the established order.
Artist Pepe Viñoles fled from Uruguay to Chile in 1972, and after the military junta seized power there in 1973 he emigrated to Sweden. For several years he worked mostly with making posters, often giving them a political message. He has pursued an impassioned struggle against social injustice, always with an extremely conscious aesthetic. Today Viñoles lives in Malmö, where he makes art that is both playful and a little secretive. Bits, fragments, and diverse pieces are combined to form fascinating wholes. He calls the piece he has contributed to our exhibition Remnants. The title is related to the fact that he has reused things he made many years ago, including posters, to form a kind of documentation of days gone by—remanentes, as they say in Spanish. The form is inspired by Latin American folk art traditions such as Mexico’s papel picado and Brazil’s literatura de cordel, in which artifacts are hung up like laundry on long clotheslines.
Annika Wide is an artist who used Malmö as a platform during the years 1972–97. As a child she lived for a time in Ethiopia. She now divides her time between Sweden and the Caribbean island of Dominica. During the 1970s and 80s her art focused on the language of dreams. Her contributions to Malmö’s Burning are examples of this, and Dreambed can be interpreted both as a symbol for the artist’s listening for internal messages and as a search for internal images.
Jacques Zadig is best known as a painter and printmaker. His art is characterized by political, humanitarian, and social activism. We are showing here his fantastic installation piece The Wall from 1976. The idea for the piece came to him in 1968—the artist’s vision of a kind of mainframe computer. The Wall is created using only analog technologies, including compressed air. One way of seeing this composite and impressive sculptural work is as an expression of contemporary conceptions about the emergence of a surveillance society. It is also a commentary on modern man’s complicated and problematic relationship with technology. In that regard the piece is just as germane today as it was in the 1970s.
Ola Åstrand is one of the curators in charge of Malmö’s Burning. He considers himself primarily a graphic artist. During the 1970s and 80s he contributed to fanzines and underground newspapers, and made album covers for bands from Malmö and Lund. He grew up in Malmö, studied art in Gothenburg, and today lives in Österlen. Åstrand has been devoted to the search for truth and to social criticism, but the point of departure for his work can be found in his own experiences and dreams. For this exhibition he has assembled The Ghetto, a composite work that both examines and comes to terms with his youth in Malmö.