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Sleepless Nights

Sleepless Nights

From the 1980s in the Moderna Museet Collection February 28, 2023 - January 14, 2024 Curator: Anna Tellgren

Kristina Abelli Elander, Love Paradise (1984), Sleepless Nights, Moderna Museet

We’ve at times in the past felt displays of the collection at Moderna Museet in Stockholm to be on the dullish and complacement side of things and photography not always to be on par with the zeitgeist (the latter sentiment exists on record on the Internetz). The new exhibition Sleepless Nights curated by the museum's Anna Tellgren tuning back into the 80's, based on the museum collection is however a really exciting and strong exhibition that already from the offset begins on a high note (musical analogy; G7) and ends on just the same. The gorgeous and equivocal title alludes aptly both to bodily sensualism and alarming times. The perceived precarity of ”touch” that factored the HIV/AIDS epidemic inevitably brings a cyclical echo back to the recent pandemic. The exhibition dramaturgy is smart, beginning in a more perky and lusty heterosexual visual world with Kristina Abelli Elander’s 1984 Love Paradise; in its form calling to mind some hybrid situation between an arcade game and a dollhouse, while reeking of Hawaian Tropicana and seeing two lovers separated on two cliffs.

Cecilia Edefalk, En annan rörelse (1990), Sleepless Nights, Moderna Museet

From there, before changing tracks and moving towards queerer paths, it continues immediately with one of several iterations of Cecilia Edefalk’s celebrated Another Movement (1990) that sees two young wholesome bodies in ”transmission” of touch per one rubbing sunscreen on the other’s body. A note here on the aforementioned Kristina Abelli Elander; akin to, but more obscurer in notoriety than the widely recognized Marie-Louise Ekman, it appears a real stroke of genius to bring her to light from the collection more than just once. Between recent solo stints with Cornelia Sojdelius Gallery both at the gallery and a recent edition of Market Art Fair, it has been evident that her moment of sparky reignition should be now and the musuem has just the pull for that. Underrated and such a gem. When the exhibition ultimately closes in a room that is visually crisp but muted and austere in air, with a portrait by Marion Scemama of David Wojnarowicz’s lips sewn together in red thread (titled Silence = death; the moniker of the consciousness-raising NYC-based collective that formed during the AIDS crisis), the main take-away of the exhibition presents itself clear. Before then there’s in the midst painterly humour by Francis Picabia and Anna Tellgren has been known to be a style-conscious curator in terms of exhibition form; and as such the exhibition is complete with photo opps for everyone inside and around a pink-red-lined architectural spatial installation signed Daniel Buren. Happy also to see here on display the work of Tracey Moffat; one of the internationally most successful Australian artists ever, who while a peer of other luminary mise-en-scène lens-based artists like Jeff Wall and Philip-Lorca diCorcia, seemed to have lost her momentum by the 2010's before representing Australia in the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017 (Memory shoots back to typing the words; What happend to Tracey Moffat? in years that led up to it). Louise Lawler too is a thrill, who on a sidenote can currently be seen in an exhibition through the end of March at Larsen Warner Gallery.

Daniel Buren, Cabane éclatée no 9 (1985), Sleepless Nights, Moderna Museet

At times thought comes to the fresh vigor of Julia Stochek Foundation in Berlin and perhaps among the very strongest parts is a screening room and its video program. Dara Birnbaum’s 1982 delirious and relentless technicolour potpourri of 80s media aesthetic and Americana ideology, PM Magazine/Acid Rock, rings like some precursor to Le Tigre and Kathleen Hanna sort of pizzazz and I just can’t take my eyes off it. Things are factually changing at the museum and the bloodlines are getting rejuvenated and while the 80's framing might sound like a contradiction, this exhibition sits very well with that.

Ashik Zaman

Marion Scemama, Silence=Death (1989-2019), Moderna Museet


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