Thursday, September 5
Flew to Stockholm from Frankfurt yesterday. and am again staying in the Art Hotel, ten minutes walk from the centre of the city. Last time I was in Stockholm was in 1998 for the Drömmar och Moln show at the Kulturhuset. Then, the hotel, which is sponsored by a number of art institutions was just opening, and a new object of furniture would appear in the room every day of my stay - one day a carpet, the next a chair and so on. Now, it is fully established, and and the guest list (not to drop names, of course) currently includes Mona Hatoum and Martha Rosler, who are in residence under the I.A.S.P.I.S programme, New York video projection artist Tony Oursler and German photographer Thomas Demand.
The preview party of the show I am on, 'History Now' is tonight, and after breakfast Kim Einarsson, assistant to one of the curators, Magnus af Petersens, comes to collect me to take me to the exhibition venue, the Liljevalchs Konsthall. The Konsthall turns out to be much the same size as the South African National Gallery, even though it is only one of a number of large art spaces in Stockholm - a graceful, high ceilinged building donated to the city by a patron in the 1930's. The theme of the exhibition is to show "how photography portray's society's relationship to the past, and how the present, which is tomorrow's history, is described in different narratives". I am showing Can't forget, can't remember, the interactive CDRom projection piece around the TRC, and I have to say that set in this vast space, it has never appeared to better advantage. Regrettably there seem to be computer problems - the sequences are not flowing properly - but this is sorted out by dumping everything else on the system and putting in more memory.
The show looks really good. In the first gallery are the Irish Willie Doherty's photographs of the burnt out shell of a car by the side of a road, contrasted with another of an idyllic looking roadside verge of hedgerow and buttercups. Is that a tyre mark right at the edge of the verge? Or not? Doherty has a way of making even the most peaceful looking scene look ominous. But I will stop here and write a report on the exhibition for the November issue of ArtThrob. For now, it is time to enjoy the party. Ingmar Arnesson, known to South African artists as curator of Drömmar und Moln is here, as is artist Cecilia Parsberg, who was involved in the Joubert Park Project. At the back of the museum, doors open up onto a wide verandah and an outdoor cafeteria, and the drinks and conversation swirl until well into the night.
Friday, September 6
Today is the press conference, attended by a large and earnest looking group of journalists. Looking round, I can't help thinking that this group probably outnumbers the entire arts press corps of South Africa. In the company of Magnus and his co-curator Niclas �stlind, we walk from room to room as the two explain the themes and artists' intentions of the show. Lunch follows.
Saturday, September 7
Free day, as they say in the package tour brochures. Time to take in some other shows. The new Moderna Museet , opened only in the last decade, has been pronounced "a sick building" with serious mould problems, and has been closed for extensive de-moulding treatment. Temporarily, the Museet is housed next to the Central Station with two small shows up. Great bookshop. I pick up Blink, Phaidon's follow up to Cream, in which 10 of the world's hottest curators named 10 artists each. Blink does the same kind of survey for world photography. Let's see ... flip flip ... have any South Africans been included ... Simon Njami of Revue Noire has included Tracey Derrick and Santu Mofokeng as two of his selections. His text describes meeting Tracey in war torn Mozambique, and his amazement as alone, she hitched rides and climbed on UN planes to get to where the photographs were. Also included are photos from her magnificent Water of Life series, in which she photographed the watery baptismal ceremonies of African Zionists on the shoreline of the icy Cape Town Atlantic. They will remain classics.
From here, I take the subway to Tensta, a working class neighbourhood where British video artist Chris Cunningham is showing at the Konsthall. The Konsthall turns out to be actually part of the station, accessible by lift from the platform, with two spacious galleries, each with excellent projection and sound equipment. And this is at a suburban station. Cunningham has a special effects kground, the two main pieces on show here are a video of a Bjork song in which Bjork, most of her body replaced by mechanical inserts, makes love to her double. In the other, his most famous, Flex (2000) a naked couple in a neutral black space copulate violently and as violently attack each other only to begin the cycle again. Primal and riveting. The soft saccharine sounds of the Bjork song filtering through from the other exhibition space provides a oddly sentimental background to the harsh grunts and gut-wrenching slaps of the Flex protagonists. Even the Swedes have restricted access to this one.
The day ends with an excellent dinner hosted by Magnus and Niclas at the Gondolen restaurant, high above the water. All the artists on the show are here, and I am seated next to Miriam Backström, who is married to German photographer Carsten Holler. Halfway through the evening, their toddler falls asleep face forward into his pushchair. "Anyone got a camera?" asks Holler.