Posts Tagged 'Sweden'

Made In Sweden

Trial and Error, Stockholm –– On a recent journey we visited two well-known Asian landmarks: The Chinese Dragon Gate and the Royal Thai Pavilion, both located in remote places in Sweden.

Dragon Gate
The Chinese businessman Jingchun Li discovered a run down road tavern in Älvkarleby north of Stockholm in 2004. Because of the good energy of the area, he bought land and began to build a Dragon Gate – a gate to happiness and wealth according to Chinese tradition.
This Dragon Gate will be a center for Swedish-Chinese financial relations and Mr. Li has invested 15 billion € in the project. The center includes a restaurant, a 300 square meters kung fu school, 200 terra cotta warriors, a hotel with 56 rooms individually designed inspired by the 56 provinces in China and much more.

All the building material, machines, workers, masseurs and others have been shipped from China. This has met some troubles, since Sweden is a very regulated country. One example is that in China, doors open inwards to welcome people, but in Sweden they should open outwards, in case of a fire. But despite clashes like this, the center will finally open this fall. And in the future, Mr. Li wants to import live pandas and build the largest Buddha in the world.


The Thai Pavilion

In 1868 King Chulalongkorn ascended the throne in Siam. He was, and still is, very loved since he introduced modern laws, including abolishing slavery. According to one story, a Swedish sailor in Bangkok saved one of his children, despite the threat of a death sentence for anyone who touched a member of the Royal family. Grateful for this deed, the king wanted to visit the sailor’s village in Ragunda. Another story is that he simply accepted an invitation by the Swedish king Oskar II. Anyway, he came to Sweden in 1868 and chose to travel north to study the forest industry. People everywhere honored King Chulalongkorn and his vast company, the roads was decorated and in Utanede, in Ragunda Municipality a road was named after him.

In 1992, a traveling Thai folk dancing group visited Utanede. The road named after their former king fascinated them, and things were set in motion. In 1994 a committee for Swedish and Thai interests was formed and in 1997 they began to build the only Royal Pavilion outside Thailand. The ground was blessed by monks from Thailand and ten billion € made the pavilion possible.

When we visited, carps swam in the pond, Thai people came to pray, orchids was grown from Swedish birch trees in the green house, pop versions of traditional Thai music filled the air, a light summer rain trickled down and we loved it. Much thanks to the energetic guided tour led by the project manager Ulf Edström, who also told us about his bold future plans.

Asia grows, maybe not geographically but influentially and in Sweden local initiatives have outrun Stockholm in the competition for important international connections. In Ragunda the question is: Will the Swedish prime minister Reinfeldt cancel his vacation to welcome the Thai prime minister, who will visit July 19, to celebrate the Day of King Chulalongkorn?

Official website Thai Pavilion: www.swethai.com
Official website Dragon Gate: www.dragongate.se
An earlier post on China: povblog.wordpress.com/2007/05/29/the-art-space-race/

How to move a city

Martijn van Berkum, Rotterdam – – To whom it concerns: Icsid (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design) is organizing in partnership with the Swedish Industrial Design Foundation (SVID) and the community of Gellivare, the City move interdesign workshop dealing with the relocation and moving of people and societies.

The workshop will take place in the Northern part of Sweden and concerns the fact that heavy mining is threatening small cities to sink away. The workshop will deal with sustainability, urban planning issues, but also aims at exploring community practices. There’s an open call for architects, urban planners, artists, designers etc; application period closes the 31st of July.

Underneath a beautiful video of the moving of the Swedish mining town of Malmberget:

Alma Löw: Art in the woods

Trial and Error, Stockholm – Alma Löw is a private initiative, run by artist Marc Broos in the countryside in the western part of Sweden. It started ten years ago when Broos built 16 pavillions in the slopes by his home and began to invite artists.

Entrance to the pavillions

Without economical support from the region he still can’t offer the participants any compensation. But artists keep coming because of the ambition and energy level:  Annika von Hauswolf, Gilbert and George, Leif Elggren, Nathalie Djurberg , just to mention a few. And as an artist you get something that, at least not I am used to: You are not called to any meetings and you are not required to write or explain anything, because Broos only wants you to do one thing: Show us your art! 

Some of the 16 pavillions

This summer is the 10th anniversary and 30 artists have been invited. Artists Jörgen Svensson and Anna Persson have curated the 16 pavillions and Marc Broos the 10 rooms in the new art hall “Paleis Oranjestraat” (named after the street where he was born). 

Paleis Oranjestraat was built because, in an article, Marc Broos was called “King of his domain” and he thought that as King, he should have a palace. He bought a barn close by, rebuilt it into a maze of showrooms. There are also a seminar room, a workshop and, in the future, residencies for visiting artists.

Some interior views

If you travel in Sweden this summer to experience picturesque countryside and art, you don’t want to miss Alma Löw, which has got both. And if the weather happens to be bad, Marc Broos always provides the visitors with rubber boots.

Read more (in Swedish): VF NWT, DN, Konsten.net

Epitaph for Paul Cseplö

Po Hagström, Stockholm – About a village that didn’t recognize the value of art, and about the artist who painted anyway.

A dear friend of mine, artist Paul Cseplö, died May 12 after many years of leukemia.

When I was a child, Paul was the only artist in the small village where I grew up. He came to this northern part of Sweden with his family as a child, escaping the war in Hungary. Soon he began to paint this changing landscape and continued to do so for the rest of his life.

In our village art could be nice, but it was never considered valuable, and the artist himself was regarded as a queer fellow. Paul was told that posters were cheaper, so why buy paintings? This didn’t stop him though, he trusted in art as a force in itself and he knew what it could do. He proved to be right.
Despite people’s low esteem of art and strong opinions about his paintings, they still wanted his services. So when the old school was rebuilt to a hostel, Paul painted all the walls with scenes from nature – for free. And when they built a new dance floor, Paul painted its background. Not that he wouldn’t have appreciated something in return, and not necessarily monetary, but it always turned out to have been for free. And he kept painting for free for 30 years. Few places in this village are without the signature of Paul. Art is everywhere, in homes and the pizzeria, in offices and in boathouses, on trailers and in the old people’s home.
Did the village deserve this? I don’t think so. But Paul made a choice and he painted, and he made sure that art would be present everywhere.

According to Paul nothing really disappears, but this world still is a duller place now that he went off to wherever.

Our Neighbour Cyclop – A One-eyed Beauty

Trial and Error, Stockholm – In a deserted parking lot beneath a dumpsite in the Southern suburbs of Stockholm one does not expect to find much. But here a group of hard working enthusiasts have built a culture house called Cyklopen (The Cyclop).

In the part of Stockholm where we live, called South of the South, there aren’t many cultural institutions, except a couple of small libraries. So when a group of people offered to build a new cultural center the local politicians surprisingly said: ”No, we have enough culture here”.

Fortunately this was overruled at higher level and the culture house has now been built by those running the initiative, some of which architectur at the Stockholm University, and the result is this: Two containers upon each other on each side support a simple wood construction. Together with large windows and a drawbridge this is practical, low price and cool. Inside a big beautiful space opens up with stairs on both sides up to a second floor.

After the grand opening in September the house is now to be filled with activities, focusing on culture and politics. They discribe Cyklopen as ”an autonomous space, built on the principles of DIY and self organizing.”

Welcome our new neighbour Cyklopen!

Read more on their website/blog (in Eng and Swe) >>
And here is how it all started >>

Put the light out, erase a line

Trial and Error, Stockholm – The Stockholm Pride Festival 2007 has offered many things. The media, for example, still exclusivly focus on the flamboyant part of the gay community, all political parties (except for the christian conservatives) have competed in Pride exposure, and there has been a very good artist run exhibition.

Lord Peter Wright once wrote about the Swedes ”…they have an intonation which makes everything come out flat and boring; rather like Sweden, in fact.” This is one of the things the Swedish people is most afraid of – that we might be too square, and that other countries are funnier. With this in mind, it is not so strange that all the politicians has now been competing for exposure in the colorful Pride context. As long as it is cute and harmless, The Fab 5 glamour is very welcome in Sweden and that part of the non-heterosexual community has for a long time been the main focus in our media.


One recent reaction to this media focus is the book ”Bögjävlar” (approximately ”Gay bastards”), written by five gay men. ”The media has decided to portray the helpful gay as a service institution for the straight sociaty” one of the authors explains. The book and their blog aim to constitute a counter weight to that cliché.
”Bögjävlar” was published just before the Stockholm Pride Festival. The festival has traditionally been focused on gay rights and partying while contemporary art has been absent. But this year, an international contemporary art show has been initiated by two artists: Malin Arnell (curator) and Stefan Forss (working with the artist run gallery Studio 44). The exhibition was named ”PUT THE LIGHT OUT, ERASE A LINE” and, together with performances and a video screening, included twentyeight art works.

Malin Arnell choses not to call the show a queer exhibition, and writes in her statement ”in the exhibition /…/ we meet a number of artists that in different ways, momentarily, act entirely on their own terms”.

I especially want to mention two of the projects that I include with images:
Kajsa Dahlbergs project ”A Room of One’s Own / A Thousand Libraries” is a compilation of marginal notes made by readers in one thousand library copies of ”A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Wolf.
And Malin Arnell had a performance on the opening night, standing on a stool against the wall. Three members of the audience used four rolls of duct tape to fix her to that wall and then the stool was removed while Arnell was left hanging . The peice was named ”A better view”.

Read more about the exhibition at gallery Studio 44’s webpage >>

Director Ingmar Bergman and Sweden

Trial and Error, Stockholm – Ingmar Bergman died July 30, 2007, 89 years old (on the same day that director Michelangelo Antonioni passed away). I’d like to mention his influence on the image of Sweden, and the Swedish view on Bergman.


INGMAR BERGMAN AND THE IMAGE OF SWEDEN:
Bergman’s way of portraying his country in his films had a massive impact in the 1950s and 1960s. Around the world the people of Sweden was regarded as brooding, depressed and consumed by guilt. And Sweden itself was, according to the American Associated Press: ”the claustrophobic gloom of unending winter nights, its glowing summer evenings”.

Then, in the 1970s, Bergman involuntary changed the international view on Sweden again. It was in 1976 that the Swedish tax administration began a witch hunt on the director, who was brought from the theater by uniformed police. This was later recognized as the work of power hungry administrators and he was freed from all charges, but he was mentally broken. Around the world, the view of Sweden as a Soviet in miniature was cabled out.

This made not only Bergman aware that ”anyone in this country can be attacked and humiliated by a special kind of bureaucracy that is growing like a raving cancer”. At the same time, Swedish author Astrid Lindgren (writer of ”Pippi Longstocking”) was supposed to pay 102% in marginal taxes. Stories like these did not only change the view of Sweden, it also had its consequences within the country and the social democratic party lost the next election after 44 years in power.

THE SWEDISH VIEW ON INGMAR BERGMAN:
Sweden doesn’t have that many inernational celebrities, but we are very focused on formulating our country, inwards and outwards. Ingmar Bergman is therefore important to us in more ways than first meet the eye. Our icons are getting too old (like the botanist Carl von Linné and the mysticist Emanuel Swedenborg) or to well used (like the pop group ABBA or tennisplayer Björn Borg). What we want is someone to represent Sweden NOW, and rather not just anyone internationally important (like Hans Blix), but someone who put our country on the map. Or, to be frank, someone who indulge us by devoting time on the Swedes.

Ingmar Bergman did this. He has (reluctantly) become a natioal monument in Sweden, and now that he is dead we want to honor him. But how, where and by whom? The competition is on, and many voices are heard within a few days after his death.
How many Ingmar Bergman streets can we have in Stockholm, for example? If there is more than one there might be some confusion, so one enthusiastic politician reasoned ”one can change the name a little, call it ”Director Bergmans street” or something like that.” A lot of new books are being written, TV is finally showing his films again, and a few days after his death we learned that we will get a new stamp with Bergmans face on it. Further more, we already have one important Bergman monument since the massive Ingmar Bergman Archive has been inscribed in the UNESCO ”Memory of the World Register”.

I personally like Bergman a lot, I think there is nothing more natural than some form of memorial. But lets not get to whimsical – lets focus on what counts. Danish director Lars von Trier (”Dogville”) put his finger on it the other day:
”Bergman is by many charactarised as a genius. But there is only one way to celebrate the genius and that is by making his films accessible. He might be concidered as kind of a national monument in Sweden, but it is the films that is the monument. It is a scandal that they are not available for everyone to see!”
Lets start there, I say.

Some recommended reading: Ingmar Bergmans two fundamental books, ”The Magic Lantern” and ”Images: My life in film”; The official Ingmar Bergman website; Interview with Lars von Trier (Swe); The Daily Astorian on Bergman; and a Playboy-interview with Bergman from 1964


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Made in Sweden
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On a recent journey we visited two well-known Asian landmarks: The Chinese Dragon Gate and the Royal Thai Pavilion, both located in remote places in Sweden.
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