”If the light should take us”

The Arrival of Fenrir, 2010, image: Daughters of Valhalla

Taking a train to Gävle, walking in the streets and parks of a city known for its public art and sculptural initiatives, this group show co-curated by Joakim Forsgren, Carl Bergström and Maja-Lena Johansson displayed works of the more established Viktor Rosdahl alongside those of the less-known Petr Davydtchenko and the collaborative duo Kjersti Vetterstad and Monica Winther as the Daughters of Valhalla. Upon entering the preliminary space, two over-sized winter coats lined with animal fur hang next to a chained accessory screaming the word MAYHEM welded from metal. One first encounters Davydtchenko’s work alone, consisting of two videos, one photograph and two sculptural floor pieces that remind one of the visceral underpinnings aligning these artists. What is either a barn or a country house is in flames; one sees its vulnerable frame relentlessly disintegrating in the dark in Exploring the Fire, 2010.

In a smaller video Run Paint Run, Run, 2010, the background wall is splattered with black paint like some haphazard street art, identical to the paint which Davydtchenko pours on his pale chest in the video before walking barefoot over hardened snow and awkwardly, almost painfully, dragging the same MAYHEM sign one initially encounters. The sign’s mechanical chain contrasts Davydtchenko’s youthful flesh and arm-length black leather gloves; the camera is unstable, shaking and sounds of clanging metal ring. The Christ-like crucifixion reference is apparent; the artist’s act dismantles conventional spirituality, turning the quest inward towards the lone individual—in this case: the artist. On the floor exist two sculptures near one another—one made of now rotting, once writhing tree limbs fused together with leather strips; the other, wooden blocks pieced together with protruding, rusted nails. Both introduce the division between restraint and violence. In The Hanged Man, 2010, two wires elevate the artist’s image sequestered near a sepulcher during a cold, dark season. The artist’s mouth is open, head hanging limp—one may associate Davydtchenko with a fatalistic martyr of sacrificial entity. “Your body is the church where Nature asks to be reverenced,” once declared Marquis de Sade.

Entering the largest room, Rosdahl’s aura overwhelms as one moves from framed pieces such as Brothers Gonna Work It Out, 2010, and The Need to See You Dead (R.I.P. Jussi Hirvilammi), 2008. The latter is panoramic and elongated; a flock of geese flies overhead as embedded, ghostlike heads pulsate from the mysterious terrain where monstrous factory smoke eats through the air towards the viewer alongside an untouchable Russian palace in the background. One could spend hours cataloguing Rosdahl’s minutiae. Smaller works such as Dark Throne, 2010, thrive on found plastic-as-canvas pulled taut; tall trees are backlit by a plump, full moon, and a bleeding mountain is visible. Rosdahl’s works are in motion, possessed by swirling tornado-like fountains, and men and women work in unison cranking difficult mechanisms out of context yet combining energies.

In Giants of Yore, 2010, the Daughters of Valhalla slowly push their way through an expansive winter snow acting out a prophecy inspired by “Völuspá,” a.k.a. a significant Norse poem in the collection Eddan. These pale-faced, black-eyed giants ravage meat from bones, construct tools from scratch, and clumsily march towards their destiny as part of larger narrative unraveling the cosmos. The video is inter-spliced with poetic source text, and these creatures sport the now familiarized winter coats alongside crooked walking sticks. The traditional text is used by the creative duo as an entry point for creating an improvised spectacle, partially inspired by Guy Debord’s Situationist movement. In contrast to Rosdahl’s tenebrous presence, Vetterstad and Winther are surrounded by white light reflected from a snowy milieu.

“If the Light Should Take Us” initiates an advanced inquiry into black, pagan, religious and political iconography; displayed works pry open obscurantist ponderings such as why Scandinavia is frequently marked as a cultural breeding ground for such aesthetics; ranging coordinates on the light-dark and pleasure-pain continuum surface via this malleable array of artists engrossed in their self-designed practice. Ancient themes are respected yet visual codes are reconfigured, coercing any Scandinavian artistic stereotype to both collapse and renew itself. Black-metal inspired exhibitions such as this one are no longer interested in repetition in-and-of-itself but more so the transformative power of influence when recognized. To see the review in context, click here.

Johannes Heldén, “The Exploding Book”

Johannes Heldén
Johannes Heldén, Clouds, 2017.

As one enters the space temporarily designated for Swedish artist and poet Johannes Heldén’s The Exploding Book at Konstakademin’s in Stockholm, one detects that Heldén is receptive to nuance; each creative gesture confirms his dedication to both text and image, expressed with equitable consideration. More »

Malin Gabriella Nordin, “Floating from Within”

Malin Gabriella Nordin, Veil of Dreams, 2017. Image: Gallery Steinsland Berliner.

Stockholm-based artist Malin Gabriella Nordin is one of many Swedish women artists who resort to the basics – or perhaps the old ways, meaning they’re not particularly interested in the digital. More »

“Survival Kit 9”

Andris Eglītis, Laboratory of Poetic Research, 2017. Image: Jacquelyn Davis.

The 9th edition of Survival Kit is orchestrated by a small team of Baltic and Scandinavian curators: Jonatan Habib Engqvist, Solvita Krese and Inga Lāce. All possess a background in organizing independently and within the confines of institutions, which may be their strong point—their fluidity. More »

The 9th Momentum Biennial

Jenna Sutela, Sporulating Paragraph, 2017. Image: Momentum 9.

Momentum 9, taking place in the industrial town of Moss, Norway, is being curated by Ulrika Flink, Ilari Laamanen, Jacob Lillemose, Gunhild Moe, and Jón B.K. Ransu, who together represent the Scandinavian region. With this biennial’s focus on ‘alienation’, the curators joined forces to determine how alien processes and entities are infused in our lives through technological, ecological and social transformations. More »

Klas Eriksson, “Vet din mamma var du e?”

Klas Eriksson
Klas Eriksson, Evidence of Patchwork, 2017. Image: Göteborgs Konsthall.

Swedish artist Klas Eriksson has developed a practice rooted in examining subcultures via works in public spaces and spontaneous performances. With an interest in how power flows and how crowds function, the artist attempts to unpack sociopolitical dynamics using playful tactics. More »

Lovisa Ringborg, “Night Remains”

Lovisa Ringborg
Lovisa Ringborg, Fountain, 2017. Image: Cecilia Hillström Gallery.

In Lovisa Ringborg’s second exhibition at this gallery, the artist upholds the argument that displaying a set of harmonious works can be more potent than a plethora of free-floating entities. More »

Przemek Pyszczek, “1989”

Przemek Pyszczek
Przemek Pyszczek, Public Relief No 6, 2016. Image: Gallery Belenius.

Polish-born, Canadian-raised, Berlin-based artist Przemek Pyszczek displays new works which are primarily sculptural and mixed media, with stints into collage. More »

Ulf Rollof, “Kleptomaniac”

Ulf Rollof
Ulf Rollof, Hungry Stranded, 2016. Image: CFHILL.

Sequestered above the restaurant Nosh & Chow in Stockholm (designed by Barcelona-based Lázaro Rosa-Violán), renowned Swedish artist Ulf Rollof’s current solo exhibition is the last installment in a trilogy that began in Mexico City. More »


Magdalena Dziurlikowska, Corona Radiata, 2016. Image: Gotlands Konstmuseum.

Differentiating between public and private spheres can be challenging. This group exhibition focuses on how one might successfully share a subjective experience when most individuals are conditioned to distance themselves from others. More »