The 2020 Best Exhibitions List
C-print's annual best exhibitions list has been a fixture since our very first year and traditionally has been one based on extensive travels as well abroad to see and cover art. This year what with a pandemic effectively having put the breaks on moving around globally, the list places an increased emphasis on the local. As a note, we're starting the list off by citing Haris Epaminonda & Daniel Gustav Cramer's The Infinite Library at Fabra i Cotes: Centre d’art contemporaini de Barcalona as one of the exhibitions outside Sweden that we had the luck to catch early in the year and really loved seeing.
Laleh Kazemi Veisari, installation view, The Everyday Holds the Broken, Galleri Öst, Kungliga akademien för de fria konsterna, Stockholm. Photo: Carl Henrik Tillberg
10. Laleh Kazemi Veisari, The Everyday Holds the Broken, Galleri Öst, The Royal Academy of Art, Stockholm
Laleh Kazemi Veisari, a 2019 MFA-graduate from Konstfack, showcased a collection of works, both new and older, ranging from paintings and drawings to sculptural works consisting of found objects, as part of an exhibition tied with the Bernadotte studio and working grant that she received last year. Employing Walter Benjamin’s essay On the concept of History as an initial position, the exhibition took on the exploration of our apprehension and articulation of concepts of time, past, history and memory. As such, the works acted as a reference point urging the viewer to further question these themes in the inhabited space. The exhibition, in intent and form, appeared a great testament to Laleh Kazemi Veisari’s interdisciplinary capacity. In the midst, an arresting sculptural body of work consisting of five sculptures, each consisting of rusty metal rings either leaning onto each other or balancing on their own in space. At the far end of the room, the abstract triptych Panorama (vingar, tid, tanken) further brought visual depth into view. A notable part was also the works 9 Paintings. These consist of the fragments of Benjamin’s essay written on the backside of envelopes during the time he was in exile and which were left to Hanna Arendt. Minimal intervention seemed to have been applied to the assembly of these works, each testament to its own past, its own memories – broken memories, yet coming together as a whole, in full symbiosis. In brief, Laleh Kazemi Veisari stood apart early on in the year for us and set the bar for exhibitions to come very high, with this unmistakably refined and beautifually restrained presentation.
Ofelia Jarl Ortega, Scenario, MDT, Stockholm, Photo: Ofelia Jarl Ortega
9. Ofelia Jarl Ortega, Scenario, MDT, Stockholm
Making part of the third edition of the international dance and performance festival My Wild Flag at MDT, Stockholm-based dancer/choreographer Ofelia Jarl Ortega presented Scenario as the first out of two premieres at said venue this past fall. A “parallel research” to the more extensive Hegemony (which we were also lucky to later attend), Scenario was presented with the outdoors as stage, featuring a team of eleven performers, most first year BA students at Uniarts. The closer setting; a late summer’s evening on the grass on the island of Skeppsholmen, might have added to the overall experience, but the piece had us glued right off the bat. At some point; bodies moving, floating and interlocking to the sounds of Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, could even be described a little too richly perhaps as magical. And that will have to be telling of Ofelia Jarl Ortega as an artist who only had five days to present and rehearse the piece with the team. If things pan out according to plans, Ofelia is set to present her work StM early next year at MDT and you should be lining up to get tickets – they sell out fast, and rightfully so.
Lap-See Lam, installation view, Phantom Banquet, Galerie Nordenake, Stockholm
8. Lap-See Lam, Phantom Banquet, Galerie Nordehake, Stockholm
Lap-See Lam as many have come to know has already been well into her remarkable career before even graduating from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm this spring. Her much praised exhibition Phantom Banquet was shown (in a different iteration) at Performa ´19 in NYC, before we had the opportunity to experience it at Galerie Nordenhake in spring. The visitor was greeted by a seated figure made of red neon lights, accompanied by some slightly distorted 3D-printed furniture – appearing as a materialized extension of the narratory visual realm that we would enter once later putting on VR-glasses. Found at the intersection between video-work and interactive piece, Phantom Banquet invites the participant to travel through a Chinese restaurant; a dark and mystifying environment appearing both familiar and alien at once, populated only by a few skeleton-like figures. It is partly reminiscent of Lap’s See Lam’s breakout-work Mother's Tounge made in collaboration with Wingyee Wu, which now makes part of Moderna Museet’s permanent collection. With the trajectory of Chinese restaurants in Sweden as her subject of investigation, and the 3D-technology as her artistic tool, Lap-See Lam stresses a state of disrepair and abandonment, at times evoking the grainier aesthetics of 90s video games. Staying on this track of mastering VR strikes as a logical advancement of an artistry that to date has carried as much finesse in its technical muscularity as in the conspicuous narrative of the Cantonese diaspora in Sweden.
Michael Rakowitz, the work The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (Room G, Northwest Palace of Nimrud (2018–2019) on view in the exhibition at Tensta Konsthall. Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger.
7. Michael Rakowitz, The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (Room G), Tensta konsthall, Stockholm
Michael Rakowitz’s project The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist started in 2007 and attempts to document and recreate antique objects lost forever due to plunder or war. Earlier this year, Tensta konsthall was partially transformed into a 2800-year-old palace from the ancient city of Nimrud, in present-day Iraq. Michael Rakowitz made one of the rooms of the palace reappear, not in its original condition but as it looked in 2015 before being completely demolished by ISIS. Then, several of the large panels had already been removed by Western archaeologists who excavated the temple. The gaps from the lost panels were represented in the exhibition by marked lines and signs announcing the Western museums where they are currently located – one of them now found in the collection of the National Museum in Stockholm. When looking closer at the grandeur of the colorful reliefs, it dawned on you as a visitor that they were in fact made merely of newspapers and food packaging; specifically from such products that have been exported to the U.S. from the Middle-East. You rarely comes across exhibitions that are this beautiful in execution, speaking equally to your cerebral side. Cleverly, questions were raised about exile, the significance of cultural heritage, and the colonial project that is actually ”the museum” itself.
Hannes Ferm, Bloom, performer on view: Annie Hägg, BFA-degree exhibition, Konstfack, Stockholm. Photo: Ashik Zaman
6. Hannes Ferm, Bloom, BFA-degree exhibition, Konstfack, Stockholm
Scene: Cold Friday evening, seated among a smaller covid-19-appropriate audience for a BFA-degree exhibition at Galleri Konstfack, where for the most part it wouldn’t be possible to tell anyone else around apart. Expectations about Hannes Ferm BFA-degree exhibition which was announced as a performance somehow managed to fall completely out of synch with what ultimately played out on site: A contemporary and generational musical operette of sorts, structured around around a full-length music album of the artist. Euphoria struck already from an early note into the start of Bloom. Nota bene, we wouldn’t use euphoria that lightly knowing what sort of musical realm the expression is linked to since the last decade (not referring to drugs, but an annual popular cultural travesty that does not amuse us at all), but we don’t know how else to best describe how bowled over we got by this potent production. For a moment we were immersed in the same feeling first had listening to and seeing the Blaze’s Virile for the first time – if that was a total fantasy – this felt like getting to be present in a fantasy just like that for a brief while at a mere arm length’s distance. Three performers, none of whom surprisingly are Hannes himself, come to take turns belting the performance out; lingering, dancing, lip-synching and expressing gesturally the suggestive lyrics to the songs (projected on a back wall simultaneously).
The emotional intensity informed by the words, we at first quietly tell ourselves relate to moods, states and scenes that totally evaded us, or that we actively evaded ourselves in life. Like, never going to ecstatic raves or finding solace in anything reality-altering but that would fraudulent thinking, if trying to distance yourself from the action. Bloom is like inverting out into the physical the transient melancholia that struck anyone who was ever out of themselves in the intersection between love and pain. Most of us, at some point. One of the performers is Hannes’s frequent collaborator Annie Hägg. She just...radiated. Magnetic in the same way someone like PJ Harvey or Annie Lennox have been before. The performance reached its peak with her, giving off an air of urgency and gravity paralleling some of Anne Imhof’s work. As we exited that evening, we grabbed the artist first to tell him; ”Det här var superbra.” No really, this was fucking great. And for sure the best solo degree exhibition we saw yet this year. This is one time that Konstfack outdanced Mejan (The Royal Institute of Art), literally.
Éva Mag, installation view, There Is a Plan for This, Bonniers Konsthall. Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
5. Éva Mag, There Is a Plan for This, Bonniers Konsthall
By pre-booking Corona-safe time slots, visitors could conveniently see Éva Mag’s most extensive show to date at Bonniers Konsthall earlier this year. In the few years since graduating from the Royal Institute of the Art, Stockholm, (her MFA grad project was very telling of the bundle potential), Éva has become a fixture in Swedish contemporary art, time after time, proving that she’s a jack of all trades and ahead of her game. The exhibition at Bonniers Konsthall, titled ‘There is a plan for this’ saw her boldly transforming parts of the space into a storage ground for random objects her dad has amassed over the years in his backyard. Among many things and perhaps the most bizarre; a mortuary refrigerator with some of the plastic wrapping intact. This display of “hoarding” (presumably a word that would come to mind for many visitors, given its trending capacity) put you right into a position of trying to flesh out the underlying how’s-why’s-and when’s of someone with such apparent compulsive habits. What’s more is that Éva brought the occasionally sidelined performative element of her practice out; not only by a documented performance (‘Dead Matter Moves’) from last year’s Performa 19 Biennial in NYC, that a gem in itself, but also by inviting the museum hosts to double as performers to rearrange and sort the objects out. It’s one of those exhibitions that could easily have tanked and had better been left at the drawing board and someone’s mind – takes a certain artistic command – but in Éva’s hands, it’s masterfully orchestrated and made for quite a spectacular experience.
Valeria Montti Colque, installation view, studio residency IASPIS, Stockholm
4. Valeria Montti Colque & Rossana Mercado-Rojas, Studio residency, IASPIS, Stockholm
Valeria Montti Colque likely would belong to among the most singular and distinctive Stockholm-based artists we would be able to think of, and is one who is established as of years, although mostly have been found outside of a commercial gallery realm. Her residency stint at IASPIS this year which we got to experience first-hand while enjoying a week-long residency there of our own earlier in spring (IASPIS Diaires with C-print) was a well-due reminder of several things. On the one hand, how her work most definitely needs to be exposed to wider audiences much often than it is. On the other hand, there was a hunch about how the greatest “exhibitions” are not always even formally contextualized or announced as such but rather is the partial labour of chance and moment. Away from big banner-locales and bundles of resources, sometimes sisterhood and one artist making space for another artist goes a very long way.
Valeria Montti Colque and Rossana Mercado-Rojas, Peruvian-born, began collaborating with performances which organically have to led to an extended collaboration which was showcased in Valeria’s studio at the end of her residency term. It could best be described as that two-person exhibition, which made for a microcosmos encapsulating and resting on a shared macro-body of non-Western iconography and narratives, that you did not get to see this year. From Valeria Montti Colque’s intricately layered, wearable and performative sculptures on display in the studio, to her gorgeous large-scale tapestry and play on the Swedish 500 kronor bill (the depicted figure on which is a significant childhood friend of the artist who passed away young, making it a tribute and commemoration of his life and story), everything housed in the studio sparked an interest in our eye and everything appeared aptly interconnected. Rossana Mercado-Rojas’s project Fiestas funerarias (departing from the collective aspect of grieving through traditional and ceremonial rituals) also struck us as an important suggestion, a year like this, that not all shapes of mourning is subject to introverted and solitary Western schemes as we might be used.
Fathia Mohidin, KIN, 2020 and Roll Deep, 2020, Maria Bonnier Dahlin Grant Exhibition, Bonniers Konsthall. Photo: Jean Baptiste Béranger.
3. Fathia Mohidin & Ida Idaida, Maria Bonnier Dahlin Grant Award 2020 Exhibition, Bonniers konsthall, Stockholm
A (very) fitting turn this year for the annual Maria Bonnier Dahlin Award Exhbition – as it proved on site at Bonniers Konsthall – is that the awardees have seen the spatial elevation of being afforded the entire venue as locale. We thought last year’s exhibition with Iris Smeds and Olof Marsja broke some new ground in this annual exhibition’s trajectory and found it at once dialogistically tight and cucumber-cool in form. This however operated on another altitude, hence even a further advancement. There are certain kind of exhibition experiences we routinely – but definitely not arbitrarily – relate to either one of two of our favourite conceptual art venues in Europe; Palais de Tokyo in Paris and Kunsthalle Wien. And this is one of those times. We’re just going to haul it out that for us Fathia Mohidin was one of the artists who raised a bar or just came seating themselves, delivering so much conviction, that they were impossible to forget over the year. And suddenly there was now as well…Ida IdaIda. Ida Idaida is where ingenious and inventive engineering qualities intersect with refined form, without omission of aesthetical qualities, that is bound to amount in impressive feats. We do think her output looks more refined than it did before and the staging in red light in the big venue hall, with a towering mechanical centerpiece; gorgeous! We can only think of relating her work to two other compelling artists; Agata Ingarden and Aude Pariset, both of whom we incidentally saw at Palais de Tokyo over time.
Ida Idaida, Truth is not delivered whole but received in parts a rotten corpse flesh slushed acid rain burn the scars, 2018, Maria Bonnier Dahlin Grant Exhibition, Bonniers Konsthall. Photo: Jean Baptiste Béranger.
Fact; Fathia appeared a star already at Tomteboda in the 2017 degree exhibition of the Royal Institute of Art. We love how she is still departing from the same thematic realm, i.e. rooms for physical enhancement and their inherent identity and elements, but now is moving further towards abstracting away from the explicit presence of bodies, in favour of switching on the sensory alert; sound and smell and so on. Brilliant, the allegories made between the gym and societal foundations and “infrastructure”. Those concrete foam rollers, damn! The installing along the hallways was everything, allowing her part of the exhibition to take what felt like the pleasantly "punk" route. We were trying to keep cool while enjoying a private tour with the artist but in the inside, we were trembling with excitement.
Johanna Gustafsson Fürst, installation view, Graft the Words, Whip My Tongue at, Acclerator, Stockholm University, Stockholm. Photo: Christian Saltas
2. Johanna Gustafsson Fürst, Graft the Words, Whip My Tongue at, Acclerator, Stockholm University, Stockholm
It’s safe to say that this two-cycle-exhibition-vehicle of Johanna Gustafsson Fürst’s has presented as a significant momentum for the artist. It’s duly been one of the most publicized and lauded exhibitions, locally this year. It’s likely been heard about how the work came about following the artist’s epiphanies about the depletion of minority language in Northern Sweden and the gentrification mechanisms that preside over language. Visiting the exhibition, we were struck by wondering how much nevertheless you actually “need” to know about the contextual framing of an exhibition, which at face value rests on abstract sculptures and installations that appear to stand perfectly well already in their own visual right. Johanna Gustafsson Fürst’s exhibition interestingly brought this matter to a head, in so far, yes – her material and sculptural command is so meticulous that you will be bowled over no matter the specific ideas that the exhibition and underlying process inform. But add to what is already sublime, coded representations of language as the complex and hegemonic notion that it is, and you have a very rewarding experience at hand.
Moreover, what is truly worth noting as well is the publication Stridsskrift as a genuinely incorporated fixture of, and not merely a memorization of the exhibition. Edited by the literary erudite Sara Abdollahi, the publication brought voices into the exhibition with experiences not shared by the artist first-hand; a much commendable approach. To stress its reading, the publication saw an elevation in the second cycle of the exhibition when making part of the spatial installation Biblioteket (The library). It consisted of 21 sculptures, wooden benches and the publication itself. Just as a library is intended for solace and literary indulgence, so was this contemplative stage.
Nathalie Gabrielsson, installation view, The Campaign, Index Foundation, Stockholm. Photo: Index team
1. Nathalie Gabrielsson, The Campaign, Index Foundation, Stockholm
Thought-provoking and very timely in days of distorted facts and” fake news”, Konstfack graduate Nathalie Gabrielsson’s solo exhibition, by way of “creating an institution within an institution”, brought forth a historical exposé of Swedish policymaking, invisible power structures and economic theories and models with the aid of the Kybernein Institute, a research-based platform of sorts founded by the artist while still at art school. Executed with tonal and visual perfection, bringing the likes of senior peers Goldin + Senneby to mind, the exhibition is quite the accomplishment not just for a recent graduate but for any artist. That needs to be stressed. Nathalie Gabrielsson makes for one of this year’s significant new discoveries – hats off to Index for bringing forward a great artist who might otherwise have been criminally overlooked – and cheers already to what great feats Nathlie Gabrielsson might have in store and up her sleeve next.
To put into greater perspective, Index through and through did great exhibition programming this year with nothing really missing much of a beat. If Nathalie Gabrielsson's exhibition was the most impressive exhibition of the year, placing it at the top of this year's list, honorable mentions would have to be the solos of Ramesch Daha and Ulrika Sparre. At the core of the Ramesch Daha's exhibition (I Am Healthy, I Cannot Write This Letter Myself) was Sigmund Klein; Ramesch Daha’s grandfather whose correspondence while in imprisonment in Nazi camps (Dachau, Buchenwald and Ravensbrück) served as the main point of departure for a four-year long archival and painterly process. That is nothing less than first-level history writing per way of art. Ulrika Sparre's exhibition Ear to the Ground consisted of sculptural works and a video installation as a centerpiece. The latter sees a journey off the beaten desert track, as we follow the artist while she with contact microphones picks up on the sounds of stones, literally putting our ear to the ground. The close-ups of her coming in contact with the stones; testaments to time, the past and history, lends a tactile dimension to the work. As a viewer you are ushered into a meditative state – a place, which in the midst of a pandemic, functions effectively as a well-needed spiritual refuge.
(l-r): Ella Saar, Koshik Zaman, Corina Wahlin & Ashik Zaman