Artists: Leif Elggren, Björn Perborg, Sonja Nilsson, Gunilla Bandolin, Veronica Brovall, Mandana Moghaddam, Berit Lindfeldt, Ulrik Samuelson and Anna Koch
Death – An Exhibition about Life has its origins in four artists’ (Lars Bergström, Stefan Karlsson, Tomas Lundberg, Cecilia Runesson) shared interest in death and graves, as mirrors of our time and human footprints. They found common ground in a fascination for cemeteries, their importance and cultural differences in design and use, encountered while travelling in Sweden and abroad. Places with their own cultural history, testifying to how different religions relate to death, to the practices and aesthetics of bygone times, to graves as markers of religious, social and cultural affiliation. In Berlin, there are inspiring examples of how landscaped playgrounds have been placed inside cemeteries providing them with new life. In Sweden, new burial practices are emerging based on changing needs, however, it is a slow process. And Swedish cemeteries are still generally characterised by uniformity and strict regulations regarding cemetery design. Derelict and abandoned and no longer deeply-rooted in the surviving relatives, many Swedish graves evoke associations to forgetfulness rather than remembrance.
Must it be so? Is it perhaps time for innovative thinking on ways of preserving or materialising memory? What would happen if the places where we commemorate the memory of our dead were more integrated in urban planning and a natural part of everyday life? Could the cemetery be an interesting and vibrant park, a place for socialising and leisure? In addition to being a place for storing remains and ashes, what is a grave today? And who are they really for? With their sensibility for time and space, form and conceptual content, would artists be able to expand the notion of life, death and the final resting place?
These types of questions have been discussed in the animated conversations about life and death in the working group that developed and whose members contributed with their experiences, skills and perspectives. We agreed on a selection of artists from different generations, distributed throughout the classical Steps of Life, which illustrate the ages of man, from birth to the final and definitive step into the grave. The selected artists include those who have dealt with these issues in previous works and those who are treading new ground. How would these artists portray ideas about a grave?
The results are presented in an exhibition at Royal Djurgården, an area which contains graves and several monuments worth visiting. The physical location of the exhibition is a lawn situated between three institutions that, in different ways, can be said to have a relationship to death as a subject– fictional and historical: Junibacken, the Nordic Museum and the Vasa Museum. An open area with a sundial in the centre of the circular exhibition area, a place for encounters with an ancient method of telling the time. We hope that many conversations about art, death and memory will take shape here and new ideas will be processed. Memorable conversations about life in our time.
Introduction text by the curators of the exhibition: Lars Bergström, Petter Hauffman, Stefan Karlsson, Pia Kristoffersson, Tomas Lundberg, Cecilia Runesson. In: Döden – en utställning om livet. Death – an Exhibition about Life. Edited by Pia Kristoffersson and Lars Bergström. Stockholm: Liljevalchs, 2016. Exhibition catalogue.
Process photos by Studio Bigert & Bergström