Local spotlight: Artist-run gems
"I have to admit that I was very surprised by the quasi non-existence of an underground art scene here in Stockholm.", said an emerging curator recently in an interview we did. It is indeed true that artist-run initiatives for instance don't come in abundance here. However, it's not so much that they don't exist as much as the distance between them and the general art audience often being greater than should due partially to inadequate press and media coverage. We speak to three inspiring artist-run platforms in Stockholm that all emerged in the recent years; Flat Octopus, Galleri NOS and DotDotDot about their goals and programs. Illustrations by Sackarias Stenius.
Illustration Sackarias Stenius
Interview with Juanma González, Paulina Granat, Alice Máselníková and Franziska Sperling.
Flat Octopus are Edit Fándly, Juanma González, Paulina Granat, Amr Hamid, Alice Máselníková, Franziska Sperling, Erik Wijkström.
C-P: Your name is both funny and descriptive saying something about your “domicile/locale” and about the operational structure at once. On that note; what is the background story of Flat Octopus?
A.M: I have long been pondering the idea of starting an artist-run initiative, having been actively engaged in the self-organized art scene for several years through a variety of projects, and also coming from both the angle of working as an artist and curator. Gradually a vision of a young international collective with members of different backgrounds and approaches to art formed, something I thought was sorely missing in Stockholm. I wrote a very long and very passionate email to a handful of people whom I thought were splendid and whom I really wanted to work with. And some of them said yes! I sometimes reread that email chain when low on energy.
The idea of apartment exhibitions was both pragmatic and experimental. Since nearly all of us come from abroad, it proved difficult to find a permanent and affordable venue, but then we thought – hey, you know what? We all have an apartment, why not use it for hosting exhibitions? Letting someone, not to mention the public, enter your apartment in Sweden is not such a common thing, and I feel it is a rather challenging idea to present here. I love the culture of small underground exhibitions, concerts and events in flats and communal spaces that is so present for example in Russia and to some degree in Central Europe, and I think it brings something quite different and refreshing to an art scene.
Regarding the name, I did not want us to be one of those curator groups who take themselves perhaps just a bit too seriously, but rather wished for something more playful and outside of the bubble. The initial idea for our title was actually Cactus Octopus, which emerged out of the confounding depths of our first meeting. I still love it and hope that one day there will be a chance to introduce Cactus Octopus as our sharp and sleek baby project. But anyway, then a few weeks later I was sitting on a train from Denmark to Belgium, writing our first funding application, and Flat Octopus emerged in front of my eyes in a bright, bold and slightly cheesy pink font as clear as day. I got so excited by all the connotations of that title which fitted the whole vision of apartment exhibitions, and became so motivated on that train; I think it has been one of my most productive train journeys ever. Then I accidentally ended up in a dodgy train station in Dortmund at 2AM, but that is a whole other story.
P.G: I was encountering artist-run initiatives through Supermarket Art Fair for a couple of years and realized the many ways in which they could be organized. This sparked a lot of ideas and a wish to try it out for myself, so when Alice brought us all together it was the push I felt I needed. I remember the first meeting we had, sitting down on Alice’s apartment floor and writing words on smaller paper notes, shuffling them around to find combinations for titles that spoke to us – something like William Burroughs’ cut-up technique. The name did not emerge immediately, though we were all driven to the idea of an octopus from the start. When I heard the Flat Octopus suggestion, it felt a little silly to me at first, but then again I think there is room and a need for the silly in the arts.
Louise Sparre, Organism, leather and foam, 34 x 97 x 82 cm, 2018/2019. From the exhibition Interpersonal sphere. Photo: courtesy of Flat Octopus, 2019.
C-P: Given that you are a collective of people running Flat Octopus; is there a distribution of responsibilities or what does the internal modus operandi look like?
A.M: I would say that our curatorial strategy is quite standard for an artist-run initiative. Each of us proposes the artists they want to present and then curates their shows; some choose to co-curate and we are also planning several group shows that will be collectively curated. The rest of the members try to help out if they can. The administration, economy and the scheduling is mostly done by me, usually in the evenings when my slightly obsessive work style kicks in. We are lucky to have a professional technician in the group who is an indispensable help at every event, and we also divide other specific responsibilities like social media, website, proofreading or the newsletter between ourselves. All of us have completely different approaches to curating and I am really enjoying that kind of diversity both as a member of the group and spectator. The concept of "flat hierarchy" overarches our relationship within the group and our mutual respect, though in general as far as artist-run initiatives go I think there always is someone who has to drive or stimulate a collective or a project. This is not an issue as far as there is a shared vision and dedication, which is something we absolutely have. It is just how life is – things are never in complete balance.
P.G: In terms of curatorial process, we do not meddle in the decisions of the others in the group. We trust that each of us can make informed decisions when choosing their artist, and even if we are a collective we want to be able to pursue ideas that are unique for us as individuals. We rely on our differences to generate interesting and varied experiences for the artists, visitors and ourselves. It is fun to be able to meet artists you have yourself never heard about, through having one of your colleagues invite them. It is a very nice thing socially as well – we have gained a lot of new friends so far!
Otherwise I have always been drawn to the idea of creating shows together with others, so for the past few months Franziska and I have joined forces and formed a little duo, curating our shows jointly. This way we have the chance to be deeply involved in each other's processes of working, making use of our different backgrounds and special skills in a very productive and interesting way. We get to learn from one another directly as the project is unfolding, and it is so much more fun than doing things on your own all the time.
Jaana Sundström, Kruthålen igenom mors garderob fyllde skogen med lavendel och kortison, photo print on fabric, latex, thread, 2019. From the exhibition Den här gången ska jag (be)hålla mig för mig själv. Photo: courtesy of Flat Octopus, 2019.
F.S: I agree with Paulina above, it is so much fun to just do what we want to do, of course within the limits of our resources. It is inspiring to see what the other Flat Octopus members come up with; all the wonderful and varied ideas and projects that have emerged. What I like is that there is also room to learn from each other's experience and skills, which we can add on to our own future projects.
C-P: The artist-run scene in Stockholm sometimes barely feels like a scene and more so like singular initiatives trying to mend and bridge a gap that definitely does exist. What are your own thoughts?
P.G: For me, there is "a scene" as far as the artist-run initiatives go, but it is pretty much secluded from the other art scenes in the city. Among the artist-runs, you often see people going to everyone else’s shows and events – there is a social and collegial support there. However, I was recently in Malmö and was amazed at the interconnectedness between so many artists, institutions and organizers there, and the access to more studios and spaces for exhibitions was very different to Stockholm. Having personally only brief experiences of other art scenes outside of Stockholm prior to this, I realize more and more how limited we are here, even though there is so much going on and so many resources being pooled here. It is hard to make yourself heard or seen through everything going on. Doing something on a smaller scale does not really show up on the radar with so many huge institutions around.
J.G: I think there is something to each city’s art scenes, even if none of them are perfect. As I see it, we are filling in for something that is very much missing here; something a bit outside of the Swedish comfort zone. I believe that art is an important element in keeping the cultural life of a city healthy, and through our activity, we give space to artists and curators who do not have the possibility to show their work in Stockholm. In this alternative way of working, we are contributing to creating a broader and more diverse picture of the art scene in the city.
F.S: Before working with Flat Octopus I have been regularly going to exhibitions at artist-run spaces and to other art events, and there I would meet more or less the same people, the very same art circle. But since I started working with Flat Octopus and my own projects, doing more research about young artists, it showed me that there is so much more to explore and present. This is one of the fun parts of working with Flat Octopus, to meet new people and become aware of especially young artists and art students; something I hardly had access to before.
Heidi Edström (ingentinget), from the exhibition What a waste at Detroit Stockholm.Pphoto: Amr Hamid, 2021.
C-P: What have been some of your main challenges to date of establishing and getting Flat Octopus out to an audience?
A.M: I actually thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of bringing Flat Octopus to life, even the less thrilling administrative parts (especially if I forget the trial of opening our joint bank account that seemed never-ending and took me about four months of mental suffering). But otherwise it has been a great learning experience for all of us, I dare say.
The past year complicated our concept of apartment exhibitions as we did not want to pursue it given the difficult and sensitive situation during the pandemic. Instead we have been focusing more on exchanges with other artist-run initiatives and studio visits, which I personally find rewarding and a good way to get to know new artists in depth.
Pragmatically speaking, it simply takes time to establish oneself as a new initiative in a rather traditionally-minded art scene, so I am more thinking of it as a step-by-step undertaking with a tempo of its own, which we enhance through our dynamic programme and bright pink presence. We have a broad network of contacts through everyone’s different background and profession, which has helped a lot in the first stages. Besides, we do not have any megalomaniac plan to take over the world within five years; the stimuli behind initiating the collective was to do something we believe in, make the local art scene more open and accessible, promote artists who are just starting or have difficulties to push through in Stockholm, have fun together...and, at some point, get t-shirts with a huge fuchsia Flat Octopus logo, of course.
P.G: Not having a permanent venue that we can work from and make people aware of in the long run makes us vulnerable to invisibility in ways that initiatives with their own spaces maybe do not experience in the same way. When people cannot "come back" to you, sometimes it is hard to build a sustainable connection with them, but I feel like we are bridging this issue by being very social with our visitors. We also have to rely on our visitors being open and able to go outside of the city centre when we have our exhibitions in apartments for example. This is often harder than one would like. In general, people seem very used to consuming their art in the city and then going home to the suburbs – it is as if we often do not realize that most artists (at least whom I know) actually live in those city parts. It seems weird to me that more art is not happening where the artists are situated.
F.S: We also sometimes struggle to work around all of the members’ time schedules, finding a slot to regularly meet, everyone working other jobs. Getting help from each other, be it with installation, designing the Octopost, proofreading of exhibition texts or making the newsletters has to be carefully coordinated with respect to each other's jobs and private lives.
Matilda Lövgren, Mesh and Rope, wire mesh, rope, 2018. From the exhibition Tracing points of contact. Photo: courtesy of Flat Octopus, 2020.
C-P: Given that Flat Octopus is intended as nomadic, operating from flats, there must be some fun stories to share about some of the places you’ve inhabited for your exhibitions?
F.S: My first Flat Octopus exhibition in my flat was in the southern suburbs of Stockholm and I guess since we were rather new, very few people came during our regular opening hours followed by the opening night. The artist was staying over at my place and we enjoyed the time very much to discuss her work even more in detail, now that it was around us. This was then interesting to take up during the artist talk the day after. But to give a more real image of how we spent our time together was to watch movies a whole afternoon, interrupted by an occasional visitor.
P.G: In terms of fun situations connected to the apartment model, I remember during the opening of our first exhibition, I was talking to a woman in the kitchen and she was holding a piece of paper. She asked me if there was a garbage bin somewhere and then went all red and laughed when I pointed to the cabinet underneath the sink. It was like the feeling of being at an art opening made her not realize that she was in fact standing in someone’s kitchen, which usually entails having a garbage bin under the sink. Also, one of our shows had to have a quite detailed map of the artworks, since many of the works were almost indistinguishable from the colorful and semi-eccentric interior. People were staring at various objects, trying to figure out if they were works of art or random curiosities one might have in one’s home.
C-P: What are some past exhibitions that appear particularly memorable to you – and why?
AM: For me this will always be the very first exhibition of Flat Octopus that I curated in August 2019 with the Danish artist Louise Sparre. The exhibition was in my apartment, where I was then living for only a couple of months, so in a way it felt like yet another, though more stimulating, stage of the moving process. This exhibition was actually accompanied by rather dramatic and tragic events, which is also why I do not think I will ever shake it off my mind. From the more recent events, I thoroughly enjoy working with the Exhibition Case; each exhibition is so different and it is such a fast-paced tempo of coordinating and curating the shows which suits me very well. We already displayed quite a few artists since opening the glass case several months ago: Heidi Edström, Alva Noreen, Nicola Godman and Josefin Gäfvert, Yemisi Wilson, and currently Stuart Mayes until the end of May.
P.G: I was very happy to be able to do one of our shows, a double exhibition actually, with artist Matilda Lövgren in Uppsala where I lived during the first year of Flat Octopus. People came all the way from Stockholm to see it! And we had a musician, Klangriket, performing in connection to the exhibition, something I am very interested in exploring further. It was magical.
J.G: Overall, we have a short but already intense history. For over two years now, we, a group of seven people who come from different countries have been working to offer an alternative to the art scene in Stockholm. Since the beginning I felt that it was the start of something really great. And we are writing the history of Flat Octopus. Looking back, I feel very proud of the activities that we have done.
AnnaLeena Prykäri, view from the exhibition Harness at SBG18 as a part of Superlocal 2020. Photo: Paul Jacquemard, 2020.
C-P: Another branch of your program which you just mentioned is the Exhibition Case which places emphasis on one single artwork at a time. Tell me about this fixture of Flat Octopus.
A.M: We started the Exhibition Case at the end of the last year as a collaboration with the multidisciplinary art studio Crash Boom Bang. The glass display case is placed in their office at Grindsgatan 27 in Södermalm, where I am also sitting, which makes the managing of the exhibitions much easier. Each exhibition lasts three weeks, so that we can have one show every month. The artists are selected based on a simple and ongoing open call, therefore the applications can be made at any time.
I would not actually say that the aim of the Exhibition Case is necessarily to emphasize one artwork – the open call is, well, very open, so the artists can propose a whole mini exhibition, if they so desire, as far as the proposal fits within the dimensions of the case. The emphasis is rather on the singularity of the concept and very specific physical limitations of the offered space. Of course it is not such a groundbreaking idea to have a display case or a window exhibition, but I am fond of the simplicity and the variety it adds to our programme. There are also some new ideas brewing on how to expand, since there is still one more exhibition case stored in my basement, waiting for its moment of fame and fortune.
C-P: What lies ahead for you and what can be expected from your remaining program in 2021?
J.G: In terms of the most imminent future, at the end of May the artist and researcher Jacek Smolicki will do a sound walk workshop at Platform Stockholm. We also got support from the Spanish Embassy for hosting a performance by the Spanish artist Marta Pinilla in collaboration with the Spanish dancer Mireia Piñolwith at Naturhistoriska Museet in June. The performance will be filmed and shown in the programme Ventana Abierta of the Spanish Art Agency.
A.M: In addition to what Juanma mentioned, we have quite a lot scheduled for this year. In June we will present the emerging Irish artist Sian Costello at Detroit Stockholm. We have a collaboration with Candyland in November with focus on the older generation of artists, and another exhibition with Galleri NOS presenting the Swedish artist Tobias Bradford. Really exciting news is that we received a grant from Färgfabriken which includes taking part in Färgfabriken Open Studio, meaning that we will be based in their project space for one month in September–October and open to the public. We are so thrilled about this opportunity and thankful for their generosity.
F.S: Since the end of the Färgfabriken grant and residency overlaps with Supermarket 2021, where we are participating as an associate gallery, our Supermarket satellite hub will actually be at Färgfabriken. I think this will be a splendid event and a great collaboration, and I am very much looking forward to it. Hope to see you there!
Illustration Sackarias Stenius
Galleri NOS are Filippa Nilsson Kallhed, Ingrid Jansson, Kristoffer Palmgren, Leonela Lilja, Anton Lind, Lisa Lundgren and Jakob Westberg.
C-P: I love how Galleri NOS is run by artists who met while studying at the Umeå Art Academy. Umeå sometimes I feel gets a bit overlooked given its geographic position in the country. I also love how you put a residential area of Stockholm that has always seemed nondescript to me on to the map; Tallkrogen. Run me through who you are and the background of how Galleri Nos came about?
NOS: In 2016, some of us; Jakob Westberg, Ludvig Helin, Leonela Lilja, Karin Sahlin and Josef Alexanderson were all just newly graduated from Umeå Art Academy, the Royal Institute of Art (Stockholm) and Konstfack (Stockholm). Together we were looking for a collective studio space to fill the void after art school. We found the former dog care center Nos mot nos located in a basement in Tallkrogen and knew then that this was it! The space was painted in bright red, green and purple with black paw print everywhere. It consisted of two huge rooms with boxes for the dogs. We spent seven months on building six separate studios and a project/gallery space. We created the gallery because we wanted to give the opportunity to other emerging artists in the same situation as us to exhibit and present a space where to meet new colleagues and friends. We then completed the group with the addition of Ingrid Jansson. Short after the first exhibition Josef and Karin decided to try their luck in Gothenburg and left their studios to Kristoffer Palmgren and Filippa Nilsson-Kallhed. A year ago Ludvig also left us for Gothenburg and Lisa Lundgren took his place. The NOS crew today consists of Filippa Nilsson Kallhed, Ingrid Jansson, Kristoffer Palmgren, Leonela Lilja, Anton Lind, Lisa Lundgren and Jakob Westberg.
Logrock, Aski Dahl and Melanie Wiksell, 2019. Photo: Galleri NOS.
C-P: You have a gallery dog too on site, right?
NOS: Yes, nowadays we also have our own gallery dog, Findus, who is our mascot and first and foremost our guard dog!
C-P: The artist-run scene of Stockholm is so limited, and you are doing such a good job of trying to change that. Looking back at your run with Galleri NOS to date, what are some of the core challenges that arise on your end?
NOS: Yes, we agree. That was one of the reasons in the first place that made us decide that our work space also could be used as a gallery! Our biggest challenge – like probably for most of the artist-runned places – is the funding. In periods we have been lucky to get financial support from Stockholm Stad (The city of Stockholm). Thanks to that, we have been able to reward the artists that participate in the exhibitions a fee. We think that is very important! Unfortunately, many artists do a lot of work for free. Other challenges are obviously the current pandemic that have made it hard for us to arrange exhibitions. Also to find the time to work with our programme is a challenge. We are seven artists in the NOS collective and we all have our own practices which of course take time.
Mirror mirror, part of Superlocal (exhibited artists; Vida Lavén, Mira Dolk Flodin, Lisa Vipola, Charlotte Hedberg & Hedda Hultman), Vida Lavén with her work Oxie, 2020. Photo: Kenneth Pills
C-P: Given that you are a collective of artists running Galleri NOS; is there a distribution of responsibilities between you in the group?
NOS: Yes ,we have actually split the responsibilities of the exhibitions between groups to make the workload easier. We started out by having much more exhibitions but decided to have around four each year instead, but with more artists in each show. This way each person only has to arrange one exhibition each year. Since we are seven people who know each other well we have managed to distribute the work evenly and also in relation to each person's life situation.
C-P: I love how in past exhibitions you’ve both hosted other artist-run platforms and have also been hosted by such, as exhibiting artists yourselves. I’m thinking of the exhibitions you’ve done in mutual exchange with Alta in Malmö and a more recent one being hosted by Detroit in Stockholm. What can be said about those exhibitions in hindsight?
NOS: The main achievement from our point of view with the collaborations, we think has been to get insights and inputs on how other artist-run spaces run their platforms. Also getting to know the people behind them on a more personal level. Detroit has been around for a long time and also works as a platform for themselves where they have their own studios and host their own shows. Alta feels very all-around, coming up with creative ideas, such as a newspaper or an art auction etc. When visiting and working at the two places it was also a new thing for all of us to exhibit in the same show. Our works are quite different from each other's and there it is not an obvious link between our individual artistic practices. The first show we did in Malmö was maybe a bit more crazy in that way that we put in a lot of art pieces and messed around with all the stuff that we brought down. Based on the rationale; “the more the merrier”. The show we put together at Detroit was a bit more planned around the space itself. We could actually go there, feel the environment, take exact measurements and we plan it more in detail before putting it together. Having said all that, the more wild experience was later cooked down to a more balanced stew. They were both great in different ways.
NOS<3Detroit, Nos crew exhibiting at Detroit, Stockholm 2020
C-P: What are some all-time fond memories from organizing your exhibition program?
NOS: It's always really fun to meet up with other artists and colleagues who you may not know yet. And of course fun to work together within the NOS crew. When we made the Dog Days exhibition we built a dog bar outside our gallery and that was a success. And the neighbors stopped by and were happy that something was happening in their hoods.
co_pe_vid_it exhibition on Galleri NOS's Instagram, 2020, work by Klas Eriksson, att angöra en hänggädda
C-P: Galleri NOS appears to be on a hiatus as of late due the pandemic as you were noting before. What’s next in store for you and what can be expected from you in 2021?
NOS: A lot has happened to us in our own art careers lately. And since the pandemic has affected our ability to arrange things, we have taken some time to focus on our individual work. But we have started a conversation with Flat Octopus who will host an exhibition on our premises this summer. We are also planning a larger outdoors exhibition which we will tell more about further ahead. And Gothenburg will also be part of our future plans. Stay tuned.
Illustration Sackarias Stenius
DotDotDot are Amy Worrall, Petter Rhodiner and Lisa Juntunen Roos
C-P: Amy, Lisa and Petter, what can you share about your respective practice as artists and your background in art?
L.J.R: My background is in textile craft, my schooling is quite traditional and I have a Journeyman Certificate in the handloom profession instead of a BA. In other words, I’m a weaver.
But I have a wider interest in textile techniques in general and think maybe a good way to describe my practice is that I explore traditional crafts in a way to understand history and thereby also the contemporary society and craft scene I live and work in. I weave about weaving, craft about crafting. I have one foot in the vernacular craft society and one in the contemporary art scene and my practice is a long series of attempts to bridge these essentially different worlds.
P.R: I am traditionally schooled potter but have gone towards interdisciplinary craft artist over the past couple of years. I still have a strong connection to ceramics and the history and traditions that envelop the field but I always find myself working in different materials and with different techniques for each project. I look for playful ways to tackle serious subjects, I like to make fun and beautiful objects that often attempt to spark reflection. But most of all I just like to make things, be it a clothes hanger, a fountain or a two-headed Canadian goose trophy
Lisa Juntunen Roos, Amy Worrall and Petter Rhodiner. Photo: Cassie Abraham
A.W: I studied graphic design for my BA in London, but wasn’t really interested in the computeriness of it all. Then when I moved to Stockholm for my masters in ceramics I realized I wasn’t really interested in the craftiness of it all. So whilst at the moment I work with ceramics I’m in no way fixed to the material or the techniques that come with it as I’m not a craftsperson. I am interested in making art that characterizes the concept of (my) personal image in a world of Facetuned social media & critical press coverage. Creating quasi self-portraits of joy, mania & awkwardness. My work & the world I create are both the ideal & reality, reflecting the way we are forced to navigate our image at a time when the personal is also public.
C-P: What prompted you to get together to launch DotDotDot as a platform in close time around and after art school? For us, as you know, you are that platform that significantly bridges a gap that exists in the art scene, representing an overlap between craft and contemporary art that is visible at art schools but not as much at galleries and institutions.
L.J.R: When we started I was still in my first year of the masters at Konstfack and Petter and Amy had just had their exams. We were a bit bored. There was a feeling of having so many ideas and so much energy to invest in something but absolutely no platform. A probably very naïve frustration that "no one" seemed to be interested in what we had to say was the fuel that started DotDotDot.
We use the word platform instead of gallery since our aim is not to be gallerists. We join some of the exhibitions ourselves and we want the productions we create to be more than just a display of work. We invite artists to interpret something that the exhibition in some way speaks about. We work with narratives and thematic scenography simply because it's fun and it is important to us that whatever we create is fun and interesting for ourselves as well as the invited artists and the visitors. We hope that DDD can give a more playful approach to a sometimes too serious field.
SEXY FOOD, works by Emilia Sundqvist and Lisa Juntunen Roos, installation view, 2019. Photo: DotDotDot
P.R: The reason why we started it so soon out of the gates from Konstfack was that there was a genuine lack of space available. It all started when we wanted to put on an exhibition and after inviting all the artists and the ball was rolling we realized we had no space to set it up in. After a lot of cursing over the lack of available space we just came to the conclusion that if we wanted a stage we had to build it ourselves.
A.W: It just sort of happened, like all good things. We were missing the camaraderie of art school even though we’d be gone for about a day. We’d been talking about putting on an exhibition with our friends as a sort of fantasy every time we ended up having beers together, which we actually followed through on and then it just spiraled, I think as there was no one else really doing the same thing we quickly realized we had more to say than just one exhibition.
C-P: Your platform is marked by such strong identity, from visual and graphic representation for your exhibition projects, down to your name. I love this name. It feels tongue-in-cheek and humorous. Let’s get a word in on how you arrived at it as your name?
L.J.R: It was a placeholder for some time until we realized that ”…” was exactly what we were searching for. We wanted a name that talked about the before, after and the in-between, which is very much where we work from. We focus on the group of artists that are at the end of their education and/or beginning of a professional career. We represent that group ourselves and can therefore see and understand the issues and challenges in that.
P.R: I don’t actually remember whose idea it was. But as soon as it was spoken we just all agreed. For me it's just that expression of expectation, kind of like those three little dots when someone is typing in a chat. Something is coming. Someone is about to speak up.
A.W: It was a placeholder, I kept writing ‘…’ as we didn’t have a name, we were very very close to calling ourselves "sluss" (which in hindsight I hate) and then thank god Lisa was like; Let's just call ourselves dotdotdot, it’s right there in front of us! It's perfect – there are 3 of us and it completely sums up our goals in a stupid way, it appeals to our slightly idiotic sense of humour… and it gives people some idea of who/what they are dealing with.
SEXY FOOD, Sunna Hansdòttir, Nanny Rådenman, Amy Worrall, Petter Rhodiner and Jacob Stenman, installation view, 2019. Photo: DotDotDot
C-P: Seeing that you are three at the helm, is there a distribution of the roles in running DotDotDot or what is your modus operandi like?
L.J.R: The roles we have today have developed from what works best. Depending on the specific production/project we divide the work suitably.. As the control freak I am, I usually take care of the boring administrative work and economics etc, Amy is our writer and often takes care of smaller graphic work and Petter plans most of the building constructions and technical solutions for the scenography. But mostly we work together. Our goal is to have one weekly meeting but we talk almost every day. It's tricky to find routines that make the work sustainable and not too time consuming but we are getting better at it.
Since we want DDD to exist together with our own artistic practices the amount of time we put into DDD is always in relation to what goes on on the side. Our own practices go first and the goal is never that DDD will be our full-time job for longer than the intensive periods before a new opening.
P.R: There is no formal division of labour I think, but we all have things we are better at than the other two and so those kinds of things normally fall on that person. I am more interested in handiwork so I’ve become the builder of the group. I take care of technical and the more physical building of our shows, but we are always all part of every process I think.
A.W: Yeah, it would be impossible to do it if we didn’t. We do have loosely assigned roles, and we delegate tasks based on that, but there is always crossovers. I think what’s most important is giving each other the time away from DDD that we need, as this isn’t our full time job we all have other stuff going on. And one of the joys of being an artist is everything tends to happen at the same time, so it’s often that one of us has a huge personal workload. So then the other two step up and vice versa. We are also pretty good at recognizing when one of us is overwhelmed (one of the perks of working with friends is giving up on being polite to each other) so we can just jump in and get the work done for each other.
SEXY FOOD, fore: works by Anna Nordström and Paul-Robin Sjöström, back: Fredda Berg, Erika Kristofersson Bredberg and Jacob Stenman, installation view, 2019. Photo: DotDotDot
C-P: Looking back at your run with DotDotDot so far to date, what have been some of the greatest challenges for it as an artist-helmed initiative? I always imagine Stockholm to be slow to catch on whenever a new platform emerges. The core community catches on fast but then there’s this frustrating disconnect sometimes in relation to a broader audience which partially comes down to how limited press coverage sometimes is.
L.J.R: Firstly, finding spaces. But also I start to see another challenge, where as we grow as a platform have maybe bigger expectations on us when it comes to our productions and the work we do. I need to remind myself now and then that we're not running DDD full time which means there are limits to what we are capable of.
We want to be this ”open platform” for our field but it's easier said than done. I was not prepared and I'm not very comfortable in the power position it actually is to run a platform like this. I find it problematic in how we inevitably take part in curating what’s visible and not and I wish we could exhibit several more artists every year and go deeper into portraying their practices and so on because there are so many artists that definitely deserve and need that attention but then again, we don’t want to be a new gallery. DDD wants to be a space for something more, something else.
And also, it’s not only on us to bring the field forward. Many new artist-run initiatives pop up all the time which make me so happy! I want us, the artists, to run the scene and not the gallerists and institutions. They should adapt to us and not the other way around.
P.R: The biggest challenge I see is still that of available space. And of course funding. As an artist-led platform with no big capital at our back we are kind of drifting in the wind when it comes to locations. Now that we have some funding from Stockholm Stad (The city of Stockholm) and Kulturrådet (Swedish Arts Council) we finally have a bit more security but we still don’t know where the next show will be, we just know it will be somewhere.
A.W: The biggest issue at the start was finding a space that wasn’t a tiny room. Being the "underdogs" has always worked to our advantage as we just took what we could get and adapted to whatever space we were given. At the same time I can speak for all of us when I say that we would not want to go back to that. And with better and more established spaces we’ve found a broader audience. We’ve also shifted our focus to be a bit more about the audience; what works for them? what do people connect with? But that’s also come from trial and error, so it’s just the luxury of having time to figure it out and not be afraid of making mistakes. For me not being from Sweden, I was frustrated at how hard it was at the beginning to get anywhere, and all the bureaucracy still makes me angry so for me individually, it’s the greatest challenge.
Hang In There, interior design Revaz Berdzenishvili, installation view, 2021. Photo: Maja Schein
C-P: Run me through some of your favourite past moments relating to exhibitions carried out so far.
L.J.R: Of course, Sexy Food is and will always be our precious baby, our first thematic exhibition where we proved to ourselves as well as the field that we could do what we set out to do! There were so many ups and especially downs in the process of that production that when the exhibition was finally up and opened it felt like we were invincible and the response was huge. It made it easy to take on next challenge.
P.R: One of the more memorable moments for me too was the opening of Sexy Food which was in October 2019. Not only did we have 500 people show up on that first day but in his inaugural speech Anders Ljungberg urged craft historians and critics to pay attention as a new generation made itself heard. I know that this is tooting our own horn, just a lil’ bit, but in that moment it just felt like we had accomplished something meaningful.
A.W: Mine is when we quickly learned not to celebrate success prematurely. Petter and I made a fountain together for Sexy Food, which was ambitious to say the least as neither of us had any prior knowledge of functioning fountains. We spent a whole day, of what should have been the install of the whole exhibition, putting it together, filled it with water, turned it on and it worked. We were extremely pleased with ourselves. Then of course it started leaking; it was just so obviously going to happen. Not the greatest moment at the time, but the memory of Lisa saving the day by rushing in with a selection of buckets and glues is one of my faves. It worked in the end, leak free.
Hang In There, interior design Revaz Berdzenishvili, installation view, 2021. Photo: Maja Schein
C-P: I absolutely loved the concept of your most recent exhibition Hang In There. I thought that was so brilliant, creative and generous towards the public. Fun as well with all these artists departing from the notion of the hanger as a mundane everyday object, while also nodding to the present times with the pandemic.
C-P: What lies ahead for DotDotDot in 2021?
DDD: Annoyingly with the pandemic situation as it is, it’s pretty bloody hard to plan anything, and we’ve had some exciting stuff postponed several times. However we are going to dip our toes in the water of conceptual art and have plans for something that’s a bit of a departure for us, which we’re really excited about plus the concept of it really makes us laugh which is all we want from DDD.
All we can say is that we are currently working on something very cutting-edge for Stockholm Craft Week and that big things lay ahead.