Sweden: Archive of Visions and Actions

Contemporary Art from Sweden

By Imago Mundi

Catalogue of the Imago Mundi Collection:Archive of Visions and Actions (2015) by Contemporary Art from SwedenImago Mundi


What happens if you ask more than two hundred artists to take the same miniature scale – a ten by twelve-centimeter linen canvas on a wooden stretcher – as their common starting point? The small format may sound impossible at first. For me as the curator, and an artist, it seemed like a challenge to find both well-established and less well-known Swedish artists who would create an artwork for something which seems at first sight like a mad experiment. What would the artists do with this proposal to change scale from larger works – or from video, performance or conceptual works – to a small canvas? Here I will give some examples of the visions and actions that took place during the autumn of 2014 and the spring of 2015. All these artworks will be part of the Imago Mundi world archive.

Beth Laurin - State Of Mind II, Beth Laurin, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Beth Laurin - State Of Mind II (2015)

Daniel Segerberg reduced a canvas and stretcher to a large, fluffy pile with a knife. The process of Johan Strandahl’s procedure was almost the opposite: he made his own stretcher and canvas by cutting down a tree, handweaving a cotton cloth and making new staples. Meta Isæus-Berlin struggled with the small format and made three successive works on the same canvas, so that her dream of an underwater nursery school was covered by two subsequent works. Cecilia Germain made a study of the predominantly imported substances used in common Swedish scents. In Scent knows no borders she presents all the ingredients together in the form of oil, in a little bottle.

Matthias Van Arkel - Mini-Cube, Matthias Van Arkel, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Matthias Van Arkel - Mini-Cube (2015)

Many things are fascinating about the Imago Mundi world archive, an archive consisting of books like this one from almost a hundred different countries. The project challenges the European and American perspective on contemporary art, thanks to the participation of a huge number of artists from other parts of the world. Secondly, it includes artists not widely exhibited, creating space for them in the books, exhibitions and in the voluminous website. Thirdly, it builds bridges between continents, cultures, and artistic languages.

Fa+ (Ingrid Falk & Gustavo Aguerre) - Schengen Tours Updated, Fa+ (Ingrid Falk & Gustavo Aguerre), 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Fa+ (Ingrid Falk & Gustavo Aguerre) - Schengen Tours Updated (2015)

The Swedish archive consists of 214 works, and together they form an image of Swedish art today. During the process of choosing artists I realized how incredibly rich and multifaceted the artistic production in Sweden is, and that the result of my work could have been very different. In my selection I want to celebrate the Swedish art scene in its great variety, experimental expression, and intense relation to the present. My hope is that the archive may surprise a broad audience as well as art connoisseurs and artists.

Mandana Moghaddam - Utan Titel, Mandana Moghaddam, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Mandana Moghaddam - Utan Titel (2015)

The participants vary hugely in terms of age, geography, themes, media, materials, and methods. Olle Bonniér was born in 1925 but made a name for himself as early as the 1940s, while Inez Jönsson and Johan Österholm are still students in art academies. Most of the artists live in Sweden. But they live in every part of the country: in the countryside and in cities, from Kiruna in the north to Malmö in the south. Some live abroad, and others divide their time between Sweden and other countries. A few, like Julia Adzuki, are living in Sweden only temporarily.

Valeria Montti Colque - Vulcano, Valeria Montti Colque, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Valeria Montti Colque - Vulcano (2015)

Many prominent artistic duos have taken part. This is especially important because it counters the simplistic image of the lone artist. I also want to underline the participation of artists who have improved the situation of other artists, for example by engaging in artist-run galleries, which fulfil a vital function as showcases of alternative and experimental work.

Katarina Pirak Sikku - Kallak 12 August 2013, Katarina Pirak Sikku, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Katarina Pirak Sikku - Kallak 12 August 2013 (2015)

The Swedish archive enters into a dialogue with the notion of art and with earlier archives of Imago Mundi, which consist mostly of paintings. As a natural consequence of today’s broad notion of art many participants, irrespective of the small format, move between the visual arts and other disciplines and artistic forms: choreography, poetry, music, architecture, fashion, design, comic books, illustrations for children’s literature, pedagogy, activism, and social planning. They express themselves through a broad spectrum of media and traditions including painting, sculpture, textile art, graffiti, tattooing, performance, video art, film, glass design, light and installation art. More than ever, artists seek out the borderlands between different forms of expression. Here, contemporary art opens the door to new perspectives on artistic creativity. It gauges the Zeitgeist.

Lars Arrhenius - The World Is Upside Down, Lars Arrhenius, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Lars Arrhenius - The World Is Upside Down (2015)

For the artists, the challenge has been this: how not to let the format of the miniature impoverish them; how to allow it to sharpen their focus. Ann Edholm and Kristina Jansson, both known for their large, powerful paintings, undertook impressive journeys during the course of their work. Coincidentally Jansson had a stamp-sized image in her hand when I called, and had just decided to work in the miniature format for the first time in her career. Again coincidentally, sculptor Thale Vangen was at the time unable to work with her heavy mechanical animal sculptures and the small scale suited her perfectly.

Anna Lidberg - Gallery 1:10 (1:30), Anna Lidberg, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Anna Lidberg - Gallery 1:10 (1:30) (2015)

Many have used the challenge to make pieces which can be seen as emblematic of their artistic practice. To give two examples: graffiti artist Carolina Falkholt often produces monumental murals in which she uses poetry and music among her painting methods. For the archive she made a drawing of the bones of the middle ear. Ingalena Klenell has been known to create gigantic glass forests, which in several larger projects have raised questions about mankind’s existential conditions. Inspired by the loss of her mother, she responded to my request for a miniature by constructing a kiss, the image of the intimate encounter. Many of the other works also relate to time, and use photography, video, textiles or painting. They suspend time in order to fix a particular moment or memory. This tendency is especially relevant in this collection. The archive as time capsule.

Victor Marx - Bird Mansion, Victor Marx, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Victor Marx - Bird Mansion (2015)

Some artists have shrewdly used both sides of the canvas. They include Per Wizén, Mandana Moghaddam, Vanna Bowles, Katja Pettersson, Dror Feiler, Eva Kerek, John Rasimus, and Alessandra Di Pisa/Robert Stasinski. Artistic liberty has been accorded great importance, and if any artwork in the end grew outside the limits of the format, it was allowed to extend the measurements by a few centimetres. In terms of the biographies in the book, the artists have been allowed a very significant influence on the way their work is presented. For the most part canvas and stretcher came back like artworks brought to life by some kind of alchemical process. Sometimes the canvas was returned after it had been integrated into a new context, as with Elin Wikström’s performance with added canvases in front of a gallery audience, and Kalle Brolin and Kristina Müntzing’s placing of a prototype camera obscura on the monument Arbetets ära (The Glory of Labour) in Malmö.

Knutte Wester - The Bastard, Knutte Wester, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Knutte Wester - The Bastard (2015)

In Imago Mundi more than 10,000 artists from all over the world are presented under the same conditions. Naturally this has led many of the Swedish participants to think about what ‘belonging’ to a particular culture or using a particular idiom might mean. Vague Research Studios approached the international context by making a kind of battery-driven circuit board, in an attempt to address the fact that a fourth of the world’s population live without electricity and in completely different artistic conditions. Others have focused on the economic and structural circumstances surrounding Imago Mundi. Alvaro Campo tried to grasp the meaning of the fact that all the works in the archive are gifts and will never be sold. He looked into the laws detailing the circumstances under which an artwork can be said to have lost its economic value, and let his own contribution be the first work, the first reference, in a series of upcoming performances in which works are to be destroyed. Janna Holmstedt and Magnus Ottertun made humorous points about the resemblance of the world archive to the plant collection of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus.

Felix Gmelin - Ceramic Flag, Felix Gmelin, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Felix Gmelin - Ceramic Flag (2015)

The Swedish archive raises politically charged questions about nationality – about, for example, Sweden’s insensitive treatment of minorities. Katarina Pirak Sikku, Anders Sunna and Liselotte Wajstedt problematise the issue of relations between the indigenous Sami population and the Swedish state by looking, for instance, at the permanent consequences of the mining industry on the landscape of northern Sweden. Monika Gora/Gunilla Bandolin, Ulrika Jansson, Andrea Hvistendahl, EvaMarie Lindahl, and Caroline Mårtensson shed light on the subordinate position of animals and of nature in general in a rationalised society. Unwanted insects stick to the flypaper taken from a greenhouse in Mårtensson’s piece, while in Hvistendahl’s, a baby is caught in a network of strings on a collaged map representing a globalised world. This piece points to a discussion about the future of a mankind caught in a self-made ecological catastrophe.

Peter Johansson / Barbro Westling - Türspion, Peter Johansson / Barbro Westling, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Peter Johansson / Barbro Westling - Türspion (2015)

Some works express anger or sorrow about humanity’s darkest sides and its most abject behavior, and encourage resistance. Magnus Wallin’s blood sculpture Low and Ella Tillema’s painting You Can Go To Hell address humanity as a whole. How far have we really got in the struggle for equality between the sexes? This is one of the questions in Monica Melin’s Almost Coming and Ruskig’s Surly woman. Equal Power. Many artists reflect on the overwhelming effects of consumerism. When Linda Shamma realised that her personal relationships had been exhausted and consumed rather than being permanent, she decided to eat the canvas and let it be part of her body. The obvious health risks of this performance were part of an attempt to make manifest the dangers of such destructive relationships. There are many rules in Sweden, but none about how large a bird box may be. Victor Marx built a model of his activist street-art project, in which he invited homeless EU migrants to live in an oversize bird house. Cecilia Parsberg’s investigations concern EU migrants who have arrived in Sweden across open borders and are asking for money – and what it means to give it to them. Her piece shows on one side the image of a white canvas, and on the other a frottage of a Euro coin. She shows the connections between the giving inherent in all creating, and a simple transaction which concerns the very means of survival. Both kinds of giving and receiving unite people. Felix Gmelin finds that art has to be useful, and in the current economic and social crises of Europe there is, for the first time, political motivation for real change. Valeria Montti Colque’s work makes visible a positive contemporary force for change, and reminds us that identity is many-sided, experienced in plural forms, and can be endlessly renewed.

Leif Elggren - Royal Restlessness, Leif Elggren, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Leif Elggren - Royal Restlessness (2015)

These are just a few examples of the variations and the many movements in the Swedish archive. Imago Mundi as a whole is a unique – and gigantic – interaction between different artistic worlds. Here, artists participate in a larger context by being integrated into a global project, beyond their own crowd, local region or familiar systems of categorisation.

Vanna Bowles - Inherent Wood, Vanna Bowles, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Vanna Bowles - Inherent Wood (2015)

First of all, I would like to offer profound thanks to all the artists who have contributed work, who have challenged themselves, and who have given so much to Imago Mundi. Your generosity has made working on this project a great joy.

Fredric Gunve - Gothenburg Gothic Story, Fredric Gunve, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Fredric Gunve - Gothenburg Gothic Story (2015)

I would also like to thank the following people: co-editor Jacob Kimvall whose knowledge, insight, and persistence have been of inestimable value for the work with the archive; co-editor and translator Sven Carlsson; Gabriella Berggren, Karl Lydén, and Johanna Willenfelt for their translations. Dan Jönsson for his sharply perceptive essay; Måns Holst- Ekström, Anna Best, and Thomas Lunderquist for their help; the gallerists, critics, curators, and museum directors who have given feedback in this project and assisted with texts. I would like to give special thanks to Luciano Benetton, for his confidence in me while I lead the Swedish archive.

Per Wizén - Horse Around, Per Wizén, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Per Wizén - Horse Around (2015)

The uniqueness of this project lies in the power of the collective and the magnitude in the sum of the parts. Imago Mundi seeks to initiate a global process that generates connections between artists, contexts, language and meaning. Each artwork is a glimpse of a whole body of work, which belongs to each artist; each artwork here contributes its light to a galaxy.

Curator, artist

Runo Lagomarsino - This Is No Time For Saluting Flags, Runo Lagomarsino, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Runo Lagomarsino - This Is No Time For Saluting Flags (2015)


Credits: Story

—Paula von Seth

—Valentina Granzotto

Editorial coordination
—Enrico Bossan

—Luciano Benetton
—Paula von Seth
—Dan Jonsson

—Jacob Kimvall

Editing and translation
—Sven Carlsson

—Gabriella Berggren
—Emma Cole
—Hugh Curtis
—Sara Favilla
—Karl Lydén
—Pietro Valdatta
—Johanna Willenfelt

—Marco Zanin

Book design
—Marcello Piccinini

—Marco Pavan

—Ann Edholm Kaddish, A Travel Icon

We would like to acknowledge the assistance with the biographies of the following people:
—Patrick Amsellem
—Måns Holst-Ekström
—Macarena Dusant
—Eva-Lotta Flach
—Britt Arnstedt
—Fredrik Ekman
—Katarina Wadstein MacLeod

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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