"Being situated in the heart of Östermalm is a key component of the overall Misschiefs philosophy: bringing the best womxn artists into the limelight of power. I’m not interested in being in the fringe of the system. What the system needs is more cultural diversity and gender equality at the heart of it. I see Misschiefs as an educational tool to put back the artists at the core of the show.", says Misschiefs founder Paola Bjäringer in our interview about her inspiring vision and mission.
Paola Bjäringer. Photo: Misschiefs' photographer Daniel Camerini
C-P: Run me through your background as a gallerist and curator prior to moving back to Stockholm.
P.B: I was born in Stockholm and grew up in Paris. After graduating with a master's degree in gender studies at the London school of Economics back in 2005, I met French star designer Matali Crasset as I was researching the political typology of women-made sex toys. This particular encounter changed the course of my career as we created together a « lovetoy » named Le 8eme Ciel which ultimately ended up in museum collections and took me on an unexpected voyage at the crossing of gender and contemporary design under the mentorship of Matali; an exceptional thinker who became a major source of influence in all my projects to come, as one of the few internationally renowned female industrial designers and a leading visionary voice for a new creative generation. In 2009, I opened Gallery Slott in Paris near Gare de l’Est specializing in contemporary collectible design at a time and in an area of town previously vacant of this new type of punk- like yet solid design content. After a few years learning the hands-on rules of establishing a brand identity and gallery space true to my beliefs as a contemporary design producer and curator, we chose with my partner and kids to move back to my city of birth, Stockholm, in 2016.
Photo: Daniel Camerini
C-P: When we first met you spoke about some of your observations about the gaps in the artistic and creatve landscape of Stockholm; some of which you aim now to bridge. What struck you the most about the ecosystem here?
P.B: In Sweden, culture is not as highly considered as in France where art is seen as a necessity rather than a luxury for a few. Historically speaking there is not this given sense of culture actively contributing to higher all people’s sense of purpose and existence. This invisible emotional connection to culture is critical in activating local and national initiatives both inside and outside of the cultural norms or institutions and therefore nourish the international radiance of a nation as cultural value to the outside world.
Sweden’s image and cultural reputation surfs on the rather outdated notion of the «folkhem » the home of the nation which became a nation of branding design for all, in the form for example of IKEA or H&M. That notion informs the supersizing of the «lagom» philosophy which still today equates Sweden with mass produced quality living for all. When I moved here I was struck by the huge gap between what is expected from Swedish culture as exemplary model and what in fact is visible on an everyday scale inside this society. I saw the same lamps produced by same old famous male designers, an impressive uniformity of form and spacial language both in the private and public realms in Sweden at large. Like a hole in time between the establishment of Sweden as a branded collective consciousness worldwide in its precursor leadership on many fronts as opposed to what it actually is to be a citizen here today. On the surface progressive, in essence quite stiff, white and male.
Emma Dominguez. Photo: Daniel Camerini
As a tourist looking in, there began my own reflection about Misschiefs and how to disrupt the system a little bit, yet contribute to reconnect the dots of Sweden as visionary and exemplary, especially when it comes to gender equality and cultural diversity, and the youth! I met countless designers and artists in their studios, enrolled in a course in Swedish history to educate myself and took in all i could - and still do - about all the marvelous Swedish womxn artists out there. From there I started selecting the creative ground force for Misschiefs which then grew into Misschiefs Takeover that now counts over 30 artists I have invited into the project. My aim is to show in a given physical space that contemporary art, design, craft and performance can together transcend institutional categorization to fit what the world needs most right now, more fluidity, more play and more solidarity. We need more spaces that activate the emotional part of our brains. The womxn artists I select all have a clear vision and message to make our lives more jubilant.
C-P: I love the name Misschiefs, and also love the visual identity of your platform. It all appears so thoroughly thought through. What does the name signify to you?
P.B: The word came to me one sleepless night as I was carrying my third newborn in a transe-like over- dedicated mummy moment. I had just lost my mother who was named Monica and kept on thinking about the letter M as signifier for so many powerful words like Mother, Maker, Mover... and that little strong witty girl named Pipi Långstrump! Suddenly I remembered a dear English friend who often calls her smart young girl « mischief » when she comes up with crazy smart new ideas as her witty child. Misschiefs was born as a name, standing for strong women and non-binary artists doing their work in their own way, not caring about the norm. They are focused, punk and here to stay on their own terms. Something I felt was needed in the Sweden I was experiencing as I moved here: a strong voice for all the brilliant womxn artists out there missing that more punk yet serious interdisciplinary art platform here and now in in this oh-so-potentially cool spot called Stockholm.
At Misschiefs: Annual Meeting of Freaks live streamed performances by Farvash, Grebnellaw, Butcher Queen, Rucolla Hängbjörk, Leffe Crumlove. Photo: Daniel Camerini
C-P: Misschiefs as you said, from the start represented a number of artists and creatives and have additionally continued to invite and exhibit artists outside of this roster in the mentioned expanded Misschiefs Takeover format. What have you looked for specifically in gathering the permanent Mischiefs crew and what can be said of some of them?
P.B: When Misschiefs first moved into this fantastic raw large 500m2 empty space on Linnégatan, it was obvious to me that the purpose of this new pop-up venue had to be artist-driven rather than solely and traditionally object/gallery-like based. I selected 10 women artists who were on the top of my list as the strongest punk voices in their own art discipline to create their individual art studios on site in the form of free working spaces, on-site art installations and prompt regular live performances. The permanent Misschiefs artists worked live on a daily basis with the doors open to the public everyday to observe them go about their daily art practice, engage with the artists and buy directly from them without commission. Misschiefs Takeover became a live open art studios gallery with real-life artists on display! I chose the artists according to a careful vision I had of a collective spirit that had to be kept at all times, both in terms of art quality standard and personal character suited to this unusual exersice and situation. When choosing a crew of artists I often imagine a typically French dinner gathering of improvised guests: how can the table become impeccable in its human spirit by choosing the right balance of invites?
A group of many Misschiefs gathered. Photo: Daniel Camerini
Farvash. Photo: Daniel Camerini
Misschiefs stands for womxn artists who dare in their art practice to go their own way, sometimes against or parallel to the established stream. I noticed early on the lack of diversity in the form of physical public spaces available and free to all to consume culture and art in a broader more inclusive way here in Stockholm. I want to push for more hands-on exciting contemporary art experiences, both in terms of who gets to speak in the room and how the art is being presented. Incorporating performance art and music has been central to activating our pop-up into a more interdisciplinary moveable space that speaks to and for a larger spectrum of contemporary artists. To mix womxn artists working live in their art studios, setting up solo exhibitions on a larger scale, feature live performances, both indoor and outdoor, and stream it all via our four permanent cameras for the world to see is an incredibly powerful experience for us all involved in the project. We are like a family of friends and professionals working around the clock to make Misschiefs exist. The brand identity and art direction is made by me and my french crew, the same as back in the days when we started Gallery Slott in Paris. Misschiefs is by essence family-oriented as the ground rule is to communicate a sense of raw togetherness hopefully cutting through the glossy title of art as luxury. We want to bring back art where it belongs; in the hands of the creators and the general public.
Francine Agbodjalou. Photo: Photo: Daniel Camerini
C-P: Space is a real matter for Misschiefs given the objective to operate temporarily on large sites and premises. It has to be said, Misschiefs on the current locale on Linnégatan, true to your apparent vision, has presented like a social Warhol Factory-situation. Impressive in the breadth of programming and events that have taken place. Where do you go from here?
P.B: My hope is that we get to stay as long as possible on Linnégatan 4 in this fabulous rare space that has so much to offer, both for the artists and the public. Being situated in the heart of Östermalm is a key component of the overall Misschiefs philosophy: bringing the best womxn artists into the limelight of power. I’m not interested in being in the fringe of the system. What the system needs is more cultural diversity and gender equality at the heart of it. I see Misschiefs as an educational tool to put back the artists at the core of the show. They are the essence of what the world needs right now; hope and impulse for a better future. Enabling all people to access for free in prime city location a large safe space that activates the best punk food for thought is not only interesting, it is vital as we all struggle to make sense of our lives in these special challenging times we experience.
Minna Palmqvist. Photo: Daniel Camerini
C-P: Lastly, what can you say about the art programme in 2021 chez Misschiefs?
P.B: Misschiefs has grown from originally a nomadic exhibition of outstanding collectible design-art into Misschiefs Takeover, a rescue operation for placing womxn artists at the heart of today’s challenge; how can we all make sense of what is happening? We need artists to show us in real-life, be it streaming on the internet or safely in a large physical space or both, that their individual and collective message is political in its essence. To reconnect the public with the real life of artists, to join the dots for more dialogue and progress! My job is to interpret the best I can what an artist thinks and feels, to transmit it through scenography and other exciting tools like social media directly to the public. To cut the bullshit as much as possible! I believe the art world is at a crossroad where the pandemic has forced us all who work with culture at large to rethink how to reach out to the public while serving the art makers despite the incredible limitations. A very healthy check-up of why and how art and culture are vital. The crisis is putting the finger on the content, how to present it, share it, how to honour artists today and more importantly in the future.
My hope for 2021 is that Misschiefs will get the financial backing to survive and continue its journey. We are in phase 2 at Linnégatan 4 inviting a new womxn artist every week to take over our forefront 300m2 space, visible from the street window. Designer Isa Andersson, multi-media artist Ailin Mirlashari, designer Lotta Lampa and Frida Fjellman are featured in this new year, as well as 8 womxn artists and designers in February during the Stockholm Design Week. A solo exhibition by the incredible Farvash who has been part of the Misschiefs crew since the start is also programmed soon. So stay tuned... lots of exciting surprises coming up!
Misschiefs Takeover artists are: