Joakim Forsgren has spent a number of years looking to understand the mindset and motivations of right-wing nationalist movements in Sweden. His art seeks to unpack the historical symbols and figureheads appropriated in ideological ways by these movements.
The work The Resurrection of Carolus Rex has numerous components and continues to expand. It considers the figure of Carolus Rex (Charles XII), the infamous Swedish ‘warrior king’ appropriated as a nationalist icon. Research led the artist to some surprising anecdotes that bring a complexity to the figure of Carolus Rex: whilst lying sick in the city of Bender, in present day Moldovia, the king became obsessed with depictions of the landscape gardens of Constantinople sent back by emissaries. Mistaking the cypress trees for Norway spruce (Picea abies), the king had the idea for a similar plantation in Stockholm, a proposal that was immediately discarded by the royal architect. During the same era, the natural spruce forests in rural Sweden were continuously cut down to supply heat in iron mills. Today, most of the spruce forests, the symbol of Swedish nature, have been planted by man.
There are a number of items in the display, including tapestries, sound sculptures, and silhouettes of Carolus Rex, all made in Forsgren’s typical homespun garage aesthetic. Additionally, the works focus on the fatal bullet hole in the king’s head, as photographed when the body was exhumed in modern times.
A new component to this body of work is the table-like sound sculpture which incorporates spruce plants that vibrate from a droning tone. The artist conceived this idea during a performance with Leif Elggren, where Forsgren in an act of improvisation, placed spruce plants in Elggren’s motorised tincan crowns. For reasons other than artistic, Forsgren later discovered experimental research on how sound and light in certain frequencies can affect the function of human cells and even reverse symptoms of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. With generating sound, without strictly being for the ear, comes the possibility to take back one’s self determination.
The installation is presented at Göteborgs Konsthall.
Joakim Forsgren is based in Stockholm
Supported by EMS Elektronmusikstudion
Thanks to Isak Nordell/SVART, Mikael Goralski and Jan Håfström
The work is commissioned for Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art (GIBCA) 2017
The Resurrection of Carolus Rex, installation view WheredoIendandyoubegin – On Secularity, Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art 2017, Göteborgs Konsthall. Photo Hendrik Zeitler.