Heightened breath of fresh air, noted
A note on Johanna Gustafsson Fürst's exhibition Graft the Words, Whip My Tongue, Accelerator Jan 17 - Oct 11.
There is that moment walking down the stair hall at Accelerator with team C-print in tow, following curator Therese Kellner for a private tour of the second part of Johanna Gustafsson Fürst's exhibition (Graft the Words, Whip My Tongue) where I’m struck by that same feeling I get every time while in the hallway at Palais de Tokyo in Paris. That feeling of excitement over what I might come to see that I just can’t begin to contain. I realize that the air and grandeur of the venue that is Accelerator is championing and paralleling this for me today as we begin what is an hour’s long visit. It’s probably been heard about by now that the exhibition partially came about following a residency in the town of Lainio and the artist's reflections about the depletion of minority language. But how much do you actually “need” to know about the contextual framing of an exhibition which at face value is based on abstract sculptures and installations that on a whim stands perfectly well on their own visual right? Johanna Gustafsson Fürst’s exhibition interestingly brings this matter to a head, in so far, yes – her material and sculptural command is so delectable that you will be bowled over no matter the ideas that the exhibition and underlying process inform. But yes again, this is a much more thorough exhibition than just that, where the abstract representations are coded with so much significance about language as a complexed and hegemonic notion.
As such I get the impression that a lot has already been said about the disciplinary agency and gentrification of language in the critical reception of this exhibition (this is duly among the critically best received exhibitions locally this year, as far as I’ve been able to tell), but it was interesting to hear a bit about the background into how Johanna was considered for what inevitably would have been a huge momentum for any local artist, seated in an inaugural year of programming after both Tino Seghal and Cyprien Gaillard. I enjoyed both exhibitions but Johanna Gustafsson Fürst will have been - I think - what will have shaped the public identity and perception of Accelerator the most to date which must speak greatly to her credit but also the generosity and opportunities she has been afforded by the venue. A two-part exhibition which more than just a formal gesture or approach mirrors a push towards the collective and transformative practice of the artist. This is after all an art venue operating on and under the premise(s) of Stockholm University (although I’m curious also of the connection to Magasin III which I feel has not been particularly addressed) and intended to be a platform for an overlap between research and art, and given then the academically linguistic forte of the university, this choice of exhibition makes for a perfect fit. And it’s good consequently to make note of the layers of dialogue with thinkers that will make part of the operations here.
That brings me as well to the publication Stridsskrift edited by Sara Abdollahi, which I believe has been allocated parts of the exhibition and production funds on the artist’s request, to bring voices into the exhibition with experiences not shared by her first-hand. This publication also sees its due elevation as an integral part of the exhibition when serving as one key element in the (in relation to the first leg of the exhibition) transformative and spatial work 'Biblioteket' (The library) consisting of 21 sculptures, wooden benches and the publication itself. Just like a library is intended for solace and literary indulgence, so is this display. If Johanna Gustafsson Fürst’s exhibition is a reminder of several fundamental things and their proper underlying machinations, one would through “Biblioteket” be how public space too, more than merely inclusive, is coded and subject to selection and categorization impacting an actual turnout.
This is great on so many levels, I think accordingly this will be an exhibition which will leave a permanent mark in one’s memory for a few years and be remembered as a bit of a game-changer. There are superb exhibitions once in a while and then are the even rarer game-changers which just expand the scope and raise the bar a bit of what can be expected. And that doesn’t happen so often in Stockholm. Barely even remember any exhibitions at a venue like Sven-Harrys since 2013 and Stargazer which Mamma Andersson curated. While I last really loved Akram Zaatari’s exhibition at Moderna Museet I can’t remember what felt game-changing there in recent years? Bonniers Konsthall and Magasin III had their fair share, respectively, but I’m glad to see Accelerator is already well on track for a great trajectory in such considerable short time of run.
Photo: Christian Saltas
All images courtesy of Accelerator