Camilla Larsson on Tell a Friend

Tell a friend about 28 artists

With Tell a Friend, Bonniers Konsthall is seizing upon our time’s most obvious characteristic: the net’s opportunities for exchanging information, networking and sharing. This can be discussed in both positive and negative terms. But the essential question can be formulated thus: how can we navigate in an existence that is increasingly fragmentised? Or inversely: in this split, can we see an opportunity for redefining power, roles and the right to define? Is it advantageous to network?

Thirty artists, curators, designers, choreographers, theoreticians, writers – who in different ways have been involved in the activities at the art gallery since its start in September 2006 – were asked to let us know about their favourite artists. The enquiry led to the group of artists who are now involved in Tell a Friend. As the curator I abandoned my ideas of which artists should exhibit and opened it up for other people’s opinions. Then I made an interpretation, a choice of their choice, that is being presented in the exhibition as links in a larger, uniting chain. It was important to pose the question to those we worked with and who have formed the gallery with their presence. It gave me an opportunity to reconnect to conversations that had already begun, that started during the first year we opened, and led them further around what we at the art gallery should show and how we should work. In this way we could highlight and update the network of which Bonniers Konsthall is a part.

What has been gained is this: the principle of selection has been opened up for a temporary, non-hierarchical network where the participants set the agenda. The method emphasises and supports an activity in change and motion, where the linking and connecting elements open up contact areas between individuals, practices and traditions. This makes it possible for unexpected meetings to occur between both artistic creativity and between you as a viewer and the exhibited artworks. And energy is set in motion that reaches far out beyond the walls of the gallery. As the enquiry was formulated, the leading principle for the subject of Tell a Friend was that it should be a fun selection – who do you think is contributing something to artistic life today?

The way of going about this has also made me consider how one actually mediates with recommendations of this type and in which way I, as curator, have become interested in an artistic expression. In our age, which can be said to be controlled by an economy of attention, characterised by a ‘the person who shouts loudest’ rhetoric, and the question is brought to a head about the role of art and the artist’s ability to work in an age that encompasses more and more voices and expressions. A question worth reappraising and which is basically about the viewing and desire to discover and let oneself be possessed by something not yet defined or known.

Bonniers Konsthall’s ambition is to reflect the young Swedish art world. How this is done changes from year to year, but it is always important to conduct a dialogue about how art should be viewed. It is in this way in which Tell a Friend should be read. It can be about anything from open art exhibitions that invite in amateurs and professionals to exhibit alongside each other, to more refined methods of selection: for example, the Lyon Biennial of 2007, where artists, critics and curators were all invited to embrace and describe the entire first decade of the 21st century. Just to mention one of many examples.

Tell a Friend presents 28 artists. They are either trained in Sweden or work here, and together they provide us with an inkling of what is going on today. They all work within different areas such as pictorial art, architecture, stage design, music and design. They combine different artistic expressions in an impressive way – a natural part of the expanded artist’s role that young people take today – and that the exhibition is presenting. If I were to sketch out some themes in the exhibition, then I think I can see a great interest in theatrical expression in the form of dialogue, decor, costumes and lighting effects. Simultaneously as much as large-scale gestures, the magnificent and enhanced are recognised, so are they also happy to crush an illusion. Many people try to understand existence where art is a possibility of catching and embracing the impossible, that which cannot be expressed. Language and science are examined. Fantasy and the power of imagination are recognised and, like a contemporary Shakespeare, one places oneself in the world as though on a stage.

The exhibition and my hanging of it is presented with support from the guide and description of the works on the following pages. I have chosen to follow a work and allow it to lead me onto the next one in a chain of aesthetic expressions. I have worked associatively and allowed the works’ formal quality and their contents or methodical similarities guide you onwards. There are two sets of opening times in order to show the many aspects of the exhibition. One is a daytime programme and will extend over six weeks, while the other is five Wednesday evenings showing music, film and performance. A chance for meetings and sharing experiences.

Camilla Larsson, Curator Bonniers Konsthall