One of the most sensational ways to experience Stockholm is to pass the station Slussen with the subway train. In the solid darkness of the station buried in the hillside of Söder a stairway of light flickers for a second wedging its way up to an exit of yellow tile. It dissolves, the moment the train rushes out of the tunnel over the city with bright lights falling in from all directions. When your eyes have adjusted, you are looking at one of the most important locations in Sweden. What I did not know, was that one day these moments would be the start of my artistic practice.
My images and films are in pursuit for the elusive essence of the urban environment. By the use of digital photography, I collect a documentary material that I dissect and reconstruct into large images that stand between documentary and fiction. The method enables me to put emphasis on new relationships between architecture, social environment and the humans within it. My fascination lies in the complexity of the cityscape and the importance of understanding it. I believe it to be one of the most telling environments of our time.
The work City Heart, 2010 is a large urban landscape made from hundreds of photos from the worn down architecture of Slussen in Stockholm. I’ve been able to present the work in a number of different ways. First I did a monumental version that I showed on the wall at the Hasselblad Center and the museum of Architecture in Stockholm. It measures 9 meters in length and encompasses snow and summer flowers, autumn leaves and many parts of this complex structure that since several years are subject to a controversy of how we are building our cities and who controls the design and the overall city plans. The work is shot with different cameras ranging from a digital Hasselblad to a cellphone camera. But it is also made in a digital zoom version that enables a closer look at the image www.urbanantomy.se and in a film version that is installed at the Stockholm City museum. The summer of 2013 I show a digital version on Ipad in my solo show at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in the heart of New York City. The different formats and type of media have made it possible to reach different audiences. The online version was picked up by architecture blogs and national newspapers in Sweden, enabling the work to tap in to the discussions about how to rebuild the site and in a broader context – how we build the environments we live in and what it tells about our priorities and urgencies.
Another important part of my artistic practice is to hold lectures in Universities and give public artist talks about what I do and how I work with the city environment and what I see in the images. Every time I make a presentation, I show my work in a new way to an audience that perhaps wouldn’t step in to the white cube of an art gallery.
“Slussen” in central Stockholm, a concrete gray road machine stranded halfway between the medieval town center and the hills of Södermalm, in a construction that reaches between sea, sky and underground. The best ways to describe it is to use its opposites - it is a passage but also a barrier, a border, but also a bridge and a waterway and a barrage, panoramic and claustrophobic, a square, a mall, a traffic circle, a meeting place, but also a place to part from.
It was built in the 1930s, in accordance with the functionalistic aesthetics with the use of clean walls without any decorations favoring immaterial purity and abstraction. But soon the plaster peeled, the concrete cracked into a pattern colored by the emissions from cars and the wear and tear that brought back its own patina on the surfaces. The distinct feature that once existed on the site, the clearly outlined walkways, roads and commercial routes in the underground passages have been detached, decoupled and gradually re-negotiated. Decay is an obsession in our culture. Mountains of rubbish, shacks and disaster movies are relentless, not to mention the many photographers who devote themselves in making books or websites with an inventory of abandoned sites, obsolete industrial and depopulated communities. In an age of mass consumption - where the throw away mentality prevail, there is a backlash, which highlights the sustainability and the quality.
Most precious to us is if we can find the traces of lived lives. Like a used leather jacket with a Beautiful wear, from an exclusive second-hand shop, or grandfather's kitchen sofa, or a virgin retro kitchen with prefabricated patina can all be seen as an expression of this.
It is often said that architecture's primary approach is within our bodies. When we enter the ruins, look at the cracks and decay, we are reminded not only of civilizations downfall but also that we ourselves are not monuments that will live through the ages unaltered and preserved. It is an architectural expression of how the solid, the rational and functional yields for dissolution, disintegration and emptiness. Slussen is a picture of this - to be resurrected in new form once every century.
In a complex and fragmented world it is no longer the monumental buildings, the opera houses, skyscrapers and other landmarks that become the architectural expressions of our concerns. Instead it tends to be a place like Slussen, a gap in the city, a viewpoint and a center. It’s a center that is not created solely by an architect or a certain mindset, but a mass of confusing circumstances that ultimately will take its own form. It has become a place that forces us to adjust our perspective and look at our world with new eyes.