Presented as a mini-exhibition entitled We’re Saying What You’re Thinking, after a film by artist Johan Tirén, these historic works, many of which are from the period of the 1990s—early 2000s, consider how artists have addressed a range of issues related to secularity over recent decades. Focusing on Sweden as well as the wider Nordic region, these artworks in their individual ways consider subjects such as governance, migration, gender roles, sexuality and empowerment. As video works, they also reflect on the role of video as a means for engaging in social and political questions, and spark a debate about the right to speak on behalf of others.
Jinnah Cricket Club
2004 Video, 23 mins.
Jinnah Cricket Club is a video Jesper Nordahl made in collaboration with a cricket team in Fittja, a suburb of Stockholm. The video is based on a series of interviews with team members, all of whom have come to Sweden from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. As a consequence of immigration, this British colonial sport is now a relatively widespread activity in Sweden. One wish expressed by several team members is to set up a Swedish national cricket team, so that they can represent their new country.
SPACECAMPAIGN Danish Election
2002 Video, 3:45 mins.
The actor, artist and activist Ellen Nyman has run a political project called SPACECAMPAIGN, that organizes actions, often with high media appeal, in order to challenge and introduce new, more inclusive images of society. On the 20th of November 2001, the evening of an election in Denmark, Nyman stood at the entrance of the Danish Parliament in the glare of the broadcasting media, wrapped in an Ikea tablecloth to resemble a stereotype of an Eritrean woman. Aiming to directly address the right-wing populist Danish People’s Party, who openly reject the idea of multicultural society, she sings the Danish National Anthem just as their party leader, Pia Kjaersgaard, walks past and into the building.
Courtesy Gothenburg Museum of Art
Lene Adler Petersen & Bjørn Nørgaard
The Female Christ II, The Expulsion from the Temple, 29 May 1969
1969, 8mm film transferred to video, 30 mins
At 15.30 on the 29th of May 1969, a Female Christ walks naked and unannounced through the large hall of the Copenhagen Stock Exchange whilst carrying a large cross. In this public, yet male-dominated space, we witness the startling contrast between the lone naked woman (Lene Adler Petersen) and the many formally-dressed businessmen. The action can be considered an investigation into social and cultural structures, of spiritual versus material values, and of gender roles and power. These actions organized by Adler Petersen and Bjørn Nørgaard became some of the most iconic images of modern art in Denmark. The action took place the day before pornography was legalised in Denmark, making it the first European country to do so.
Lene Adler Petersen, Bjørn Nørgaard & Henning Christiansen
Hesteofringen (Horse Sacrifice)
1970, 8mm film transferred to video, 17:35 mins
Horse Sacrifice was an action initiated by Bjørn Nørgaard in protest against the indifference towards the Vietnam War. The work received protests and was regarded as highly controver–sial. It took place on the 30th of January 1970 in a field at Kirke Hyllinge in the Hornsherred peninsula of Eastern Denmark. The action, which was considered Nørgaard’s artistic bre–akthrough, was organized and filmed in collaboration with Henning Christiansen and Lene Adler Petersen, and like many of his early works together with Adler Petersen, deals with religi-on and myth. We see a ritualistic slaughtering of the horse in a manner drawing on ancient Nordic myth and symbolism. Adler Petersen is singing, Christiansen is performing music and Nørgaard in the role of the shaman is dissecting the horse – an ancient symbol of both fertility and death. After the slaughter, the segments of the horse were put into 199 preservation jars.
Nørgaard later stated: “The fact that Horse Sacrifice was so shocking to people presumably resided in the fact that it introduced death into the reality of modern people—deliberately and brutally. And by the fact that if anything evokes pity when it involves human beings, it always evokes more pity when it involves animals. But we can only live if we recognize death.”
For Aesthetic Reasons
1999, Video, 28 mins
For Aesthetic Reasons documents the journey of Estonian art historian Andres Kurg, travelling by road from Estonia to Denmark, via Germany. At the Danish border, he states that he would like to move to Denmark because he likes Danish Modernism and design, and desires for example to live in a home designed by Arne Jacobsen containing items by Bang & Olufsen. Bemused by this unusual request, the border agents refer him to the police, who in turn refer him to the criminal police, who then refer him to the immigration office. Not surprisingly, this chain of referrals leads nowhere. In 1999, Estoniahad not yet joined the EU, and Estonians did not yet benefit from its freedom of movement. With a distinct ironic humour, it asks two serio-us questions: Why can’t people move around for nice reasons, and not only the bad? and, Is there an aesthetic dimension to migration?
The Return of the Buffalo
1970–2012, 16mm film transferred to video, 19 mins
The Return of the Buffalo is a film about Claes Sö-derquist’s experiences in 1970 of the occupation of Alcatraz Island by the Indians of All Tribes group, and his visit many years later. Demanding emancipation and equality for indigenous ‘first nation’ people in America, the occupiers had built a functioning society on the prison island, with family life, cultural centres and schools. In a voice-over, the school teacher Bob Bradley discusses the reasons for the occupation—political inequality, social problems and the difficult situ-ation for minorities in the United States.
1997, Video, 11 mins
Nr. 17 is a video by Jannicke Låker in which she meets an American man in the street and invites him back to her home, filming him the whole time. She talks to him in a forward and flirtatious manner, even asking him to pose, remove his shirt and dance for her. In a reversal of typical gender roles, she pushes the levels to which she can objectify him, and eventually forces him to leave due to his visible discomfort in continuing to do a she desires. The work was inspired by talk shows such as Jerry Springer, where regular people were exposed in humiliating ways.
En vanlig dag (An Ordinary Day)
1996, Video, 5:14 mins
An Ordinary Day is a video by Catti Brandelius in which she introduces the everyday life of her alter ego Miss Universe. Taking place in her own apartment, we witness the privileged life of a beauty queen, in which her servants feed, clean, dress and entertain their successful and beautiful master. The work can be seen as a feminist satire on the roles as well as role models for women in Western society that limit aspirations to those based on looks.
2008, Video, 6 mins
In her video Get Off, the artist Elin Magnusson undertakes a journey to take back what she believes has been taken from her—the right of sexuality on her own terms within the public sphere. We see her visit four locations in the city—the zoo, a church, a football match and a library. For the artist, her actions are considered as both a manifestation and a ceremony.
Guds söner (Leif Elggren & Kent Tankred)
Makten är din! (The Power is Yours!)
2003, Video, 7 mins
For the Sons of God, their video The Power is Yours! is a tool for transcendence. It aims to restore balance and equality of values and rites between all people in this life. The video seeks to short-circuit the hegemony of the Pope and the Catholic Church, but ultimately of organized religion of all kinds. A new system is established by the artists, which keeps us in contact with the creator of everything, where there is no organized power structure and no rules. This video it–self provides an open channel to that which has been withheld to everyone on earth—the right to self-determination, and to be one’s own god.
2001, Video, 2:27 mins
Emblem is an animation video addressing domestic violence—the physical and psychological violen–ce towards women within the private space of the home. The animation illustrates the rather monotonous life of two characters and the submission of the wife to her husband’s mysogynist and violent behaviour. In one scene, the woman is, for example, dressed in a bathing costume per–forming certain gymnastic movements, observed by the man. In others, the woman is seen with several bruises visible on her body. In the sound–track, we hear a dialogue between the man and the woman, monotonous and repetitious, giving the sense of being trapped on a treadmill.
Det är sexigt att betala skatt (It’s Sexy to Pay Tax)
2005, Video, 19:40 mins
It’s Sexy to Pay Tax is a video portrait of Maud, a woman who has worked for the Swedish Tax Agency for over 30 years. We gain insight into Maud’s working life, answering tax questions by telephone. Maud likes her job and is very proud to be good at it. She talks at length about the subject of tax, as well as how the Swedish people often tell on each other if they think someone is not paying their taxes. It leads her to talk about atattoo she had done that she shows particular pride in. She eventually exposes it—we see the logo of the Tax Agency tattooed on her bottom. “It’s sexy to pay tax,” is a renowned misquote from the Swedish minister Mona Sahlin in the mid-1990s.
We’re saying what you’re thinking
2005/2007, Video, 83:30 mins
We’re saying what you’re thinking is an investigation of the core concepts behind the ideology and history of Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish Democrats), an ultranationalist party primarily concerned with immigration and how this issue affects Sweden. The party had received wide sup–port in Skåne (the southern region of Sweden) during the September 2006 general election. In Sweden, as with many other European countries, far-right parties have managed to build a main–stream parliamentary platform. The video do–cuments an interview with Jonas Åkerlund, who at the time was the party’s press secretary.
Faran är över, tur att någon tror på Sverige (The Danger is Over, Lucky that Someone Believes in Sweden)
1995, Video: 1:48 mins.
The Danger is Over, Lucky that Someone Believes in Sweden provides a short documentation or field study from Stockholm in the 1990s, a period during which many people immigrated to Sweden from Eastern Europe after the collapse of the So–viet Union, or in the effort to flee the conflict in the Balkans. The film depicts these new arrivals taking care of people’s children, cleaning homes or performing music in the streets. In the video, the text we see behind the musician—“Faran är över, tur att någon tror på Sverige,” meaning “The danger is over, lucky that someone believes in Sweden”—is from a political poster during an election campaign, providing this scenario with an ironic twist.
Innat Etiopia (Mother Ethiopia)
2001, Video, 52 mins
In the video Innat Etiopia (Mother Ethiopia), 50 interviews were performed and filmed around the Arat Kilo district of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All the interviewees where asked the three questions most frequently asked to a stranger: – Where do you come from?– How long have you been here?– What do you think about this place?
Being residents, they often appear bemused but still responsive to such questions. The work provides a reversal of the typical gaze towards those considered outsiders, highlighting a certain ab–surdity in the assumptions and expectations we have towards those we perceive as foreign. Directed, filmed, edited and produced by Loulou Cherinet. Interviews by Tarik Taye. Supported by: The Cultural Foundation of the Swedish Postcode Lottery