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Johan Svensson currently exhibiting in the Project Room
ųa Nacking: In the Project Room, Rooseum has the ambition to promote promising young artists. Currently, Johan Svensson is exhibiting an installation that borders between a fairy tale landscape and a horror vision. Could you tell us what the audience meet as they enter your presentation?
Johan Svensson: The audience is faced with a landscape of sugar, inhabited by insect-like sculptures. The insects are shaped like logotypes. They all carry a trademark, almost as if they were branded. In one half of the installation, a battlefield, where the participating parties are fighting each other, spreads out. There arenഷo contending parties, as in regular battles, instead they all fight each other, just like in real life. The other half is visually more minimalist. Perhaps more strategic. The militant bugs are either waiting to engage in the battle or are perhaps consumed and expelled to a junkyard. The landscape works as a kind of paradise for the insects, where the abundance is obvious. At the same time, the contending parties have to grab as much as possible, and this competitory situation transforms the paradise into something similar to the depictions of hell by Hieronymus Bosch. The sugar cube also relates to the white cube and fine art, where the sugar represents nature in a refined form.
Ŏ: Iࣵrious about what view you have, more generally, on the trademark industry. It is, of course, a current topic, partly due to the Canadian journalist Naomi Kleinࢥstseller No Logo.
JS: Naomi Klein has become an unavoidable reference today in our times. She has even visited Malm젢ut the fact is that I didn૮ow of her before then. I attended her lecture and she told, among other things, that the most popular tattoo in America, before 9/11, was the Nike-logo. That says something about how far into our lives we let the trademark industry. A tattoo is something very private, that you forever carve onto your body; the name of your loved one, or something similar to that. What you say with that kind of an act is thus ᰡrt from the status the brand represents ㉠love a shoe좲>
Ŏ: Is it fair to say that your works carry a political message?
JS: I don૮ow if any of my works carry a particular message, and I donnt to profile myself as a particular kind of artist. However I think that it is natural to sometimes ask yourself how reality is constructed; to have an interest for the mechanisms that control our lives. You have to be careful when talking about political art, and instead ask yourself what political art really is? For example, if you use political icons, say a picture of Marx, it has a tendency to be automatically perceived as political art. I think that some of my works have a political aspect, but it isn absolute one as much as an element among a few others.
Ŏ: In your work, you often refer to certain people, events or signs that are a part of our history and everyday life. How do you make your choices of specific personalities or topics? Why is it important to you to refer to these recognizable faces and symbols?
JS: I rarely think about doing something in particular in advance. It೯mething that evolves and is gradually given form.
Ŏ: What has been your starting point for the installation you堥xhibiting in the project room?
JS: This installation originates from a small drawing that I made about a year ago. The drawing depicts a small Nike-logo with six legs and antennae. I had no idea of what would become of it, but eventually I decided to do a sculptural interpretation of it. I did a bunch of Nike-ants and then a few McDonalds-things. After that, this thing with the sugar came along; insects in sugar are kind of gross and at the same time the sculptures are ﲥ鮳ect-like in this context. If you work with installations, you have to think in terms of space. The sugar landscape was conceived to give the insects an environment to be in, to create a world of their own, to give them a new context. Afterwards, I myself can see that there is a certain line in my work, but it isn೯mething I consciously strive for.
Ŏ: You often work with installations, sculptures or drawings. I understand that in some of your works there are references to literature. Could you give such an example?
JS: There are many examples. My foremost heroes have always been writers. Itso liberating to have some of your references outside the art sphere. The Russian novelists have meant a great deal for me as well as for my art. I very much like the drastic humor that lies there, and how the fantastic and the mundane can relate to each other. On a superficial level, it may resemble the so-called Magic Realism, but for me they are two completely different positions. I堭ade several works with direct references to Gogol, who perhaps is my very favorite.
Jonathan Swift is another author that I truly appreciate. In his perhaps most well-known work, Gulliver͊Travels, he shows how a work of art can function simultaneously on several different levels. I have, in fact, transformed my apartment into a museum for Lilliputs. The starting point is the main character Gulliver͊accounts of the very ordinary things that the Lilliputs do when they search him, after being captured and fettered to the ground.