Short Circuits

Short Circuit No. 1 and No. 2 (1989)

Bigert & Bergström’s first fuse performance happened in 1989 at LIDO—a porn cinema turned nightclub, which became central place for the young art crowd in Stockholm during the early 1990s. The club owner, Kim Klein’s driving force was to create a space where music, dance, art and film could blend.

The first edition of the fuse intervention consisted of metal led walls, which was welded through by the artists by using torches. After their entrance through the heavy metal curtain, Bigert & Bergström lit a fuse, which burnt up in the air of the large cinema hall, crossing above the audience’s heads. Small, transparent plastic bubbles, containing goldfishes were attached to the fuse. Due to the glow, the containers were melted and released one by one, showering the public.

The second edition of the fuse performance took place at the Swedish Institute in Paris. The artists placed a very long fuse in the Institute’s garden and by promptly exiting the area, they lit the fuse and disappeared. The seemingly never-ending burning process triggered the audience’s impatience and frustration. After an hour of burning the fuse disappeared over the wall to the adjacent garden.

"Short Circuit No. 2," 1989. Fuse, performance, installation view, Swedish Institute Paris. Photo: Studio Bigert & Bergström

Short Circuit No. 3 and No. 4 (1995)

For their catalogue project, in conjunction with the exhibition LOOP at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin (1995), Bigert & Bergström created their first paired Short Circuit wall drawings. The drawings No. 3 and No 4. express the clash between raw energy and delicate filigree while combining the spirally shapes of the so called “flourishes”, a decorative calligraphy style developed in the 17th century, with the modern-day’s ECT (Electric Compulsory Therapy) handles.

"Short Circuit No. 3," 1995. Fuse, ETC handles, cable, 140 x 175 x 80 cm. Photo: Studio Bigert & Bergström
"Short Circuit No. 4," 1995. Fuse, ETC handles, cable, 140 x 175 x 80 cm. Photo: Studio Bigert & Bergström

Short Circuit No. 5 and No. 6 (1996)

The color “bubblegum pink” or “drunk-tank pink” was used in the American prison system in the early 1970s: holding cells were painted with the color, which was said to calm and soothe aggressive prisoners. In the installation Bubblegum Pink, the public is confronted by three different mental climates in which the color pink is an essential component. Mental Well is a pink rug with a worn-down circular pattern, as though someone had walked around and around on the carpet for a long time. The rug is flanked by two wall drawings made with fuses, Short Circuit No. 5 and Short Circuit No. 6.

Floor: "Mental Well," 1996. Handmade carpet, 350 x 350 cm. Wall: "Short Circuit No. 5," 1996. Gundpowder fuse, ECT handles, cable, 300 x 160 cm. Photo: Jan Almerén
"Short Circuit No. 6," 1995. Fuse, ETC handles, cable, 210 x 100 x 80 cm. Photo: Alex Rizkalla
"Short Circuit No. 6," detail. Photo: Alex Rizkalla

Short Circuit No. 7 (1997)

"Short Circuit No. 7," 1995. Fuse, EEG electrode, cable, 140 x 240 cm. Private Collection. Photo: Studio Bigert & Bergström

Short Circuit No. 11 (2000)

"Short Circuit No. 11," 2000. Video documentation

Last Supper (2004)

In the film The Last Supper (2004) the title sequence is predominated by a looped burning fuse resembling an EKG heartbeat.

"Last Supper," 2004

Last Words (2006)

For their solo exhibition at Galeria Noua in Bucharest (2006), Bigert & Bergström burned last words into the gallery’s wall, which were collected from executed American prisoners, who all had the opportunity to make an official statement prior the execution of judgement. The sentences allow a glimpse into the thoughts of a dying person, while the act of turning words into smoke and branded them into the building, formulate a physical testimony of “the ultimate coercive sanction.”

"Last Words, Short Circuit Nos. 8-10," 2006. Fuse, dimensions variable, installation view, Galeria Noua, Bucharest. Photo: Studio Bigert & Bergström
Burning fuse at the opening. Photo: Studio Bigert & Bergström
Photo: Studio Bigert & Bergström

Branded Words (2007)

Branded Words was a project made in collaboration with the Swedish PEN organization. For this project a special type face was designed by Swedish art director Björn Kusoffsky. The type face was used to write ten different sentences with fuse borrowed from imprisoned writers from around the world. The work first presentation took place at the International Book Fair in Gothenburg, 2007. The sentences were also shortened into shorted sequences and burnt on canvas, which was resulted both in a series of printed post cards that sent back to the prisons were the writers were incarcerated, and a film installation at the Stockholm video nightclub Berns.

"Branded Words," 2007. Fuse, dimensions variable, collaboration with the Swedish PEN organization
Branded alphabet, type face designed by Björn Kusoffsky


Three tableaux with burning fuse appear in the film Mind Map, produced for the Swedish Science Commission during the International conference, New Worlds – New Solutions (Lund, 2009).

All three depict different diagrams connected to assembled climate data and stock market fluctuations. One of these fuse drawings also appear in Bigert & Bergström’s project, The Last Calendar (2012), illustrating Pyromancy—the method of forecasting the future through studying burning objects. While another is shown in the film The Climate Experiment

"Pyromancy," 2009. Fuse on wooden panel, paint, 100 x 200 cm. Photo: Charlie Drevstam
Excerpts from the film "The Climate Experiment," 2018

Short Circuit No. 18 (2009)

The fuse drawing performance Short Circuit No. 18 was realized on the occasion of the release event of Cabinet Magazine’s Fire Issue in Brooklyn, New York, in February, 2009. The drawing is a diptych depicting a neural crossing path with dendrites, axons and synapses.

"Short Circuit No. 18," 2009. Fuse on wooden panel, paint. Each 100 x 200 cm. Photo: Studio Bigert & Bergström
"Short Circuit No. 18," 2009. Video documentation

Short Circuit No. 19 (2011)

Short Circuit No.19, a Rorschach shaped flourish burned into the wall at the occasion of the group exhibition “CO-OP” organized by the artist Anna Kleberg and Kamarade, at a private collector’s flat in Stockholm in March 2011.

"Short Circuit No. 19," 2011, before burning. Fuse, dimensions variable. Photo: Anna Kleberg
"Short Circuit No. 19," 2011, ready. Fuse, dimensions variable. Photo: Anna Kleberg
"Short Circuit No. 19," 2011, detail, before burning. Photo: Anna Kleberg
"Short Circuit No. 19," 2011, installation view. Photo: Anna Kleberg

Short Circuit Drawing, DIY manual, Bigert & Bergström (2013)

Instructions on how to make your own fuse wall drawing:

1. Make your drawing with a pencil on a wall
2. Attach fuse to the wall along the lines of the drawing, using a staple gun or aluminum tape
3. Make sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby
4. Invite your friends and ignite

Illustration by Johan Mets
Box of igniter cord

Explosion of Speech (2015) 

Launch: Thessaloniki, Goethe-Institute, 30 January 2015

Second iteration: Venice, Palazzo Mora (performance, 8 May 2015), 
Palazzo Bembo (video installation, 9 May – 22 November 2015)

"Explosion of Speech," 2015. Fuse performance, Goethe Institute, Thessaloniki. Photo: Ingo Duennebier

The Europe-wide program Artecitya (2015-2018), a collaboration between 8 partners from around Europe (Greece, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Slovenia, and Poland), was launched in Thessaloniki in 2014. The program aimed to bring together artists, architects, town planners and citizens to re-create the cities we want to live in. The priority is to stimulate a vigorously innovative approach to the concept of urban life taking into account the sociological evolution and people’s needs.

The performance and film Explosion of Speech by Bigert & Bergström was launched in Thessaloniki in 30 January, 2015, as part of the first public presentation of Artecitya, curated by Lydia Chatziiakovou, ArtBOX and organized by Goethe-Institute Thessaloniki.

As the artists state, “Explosion of Speech is a fiery paean to the importance of free speech and the power of poetry. It follows a common thread – a burning fuse – that winds through Europe leaving a burnt-out trail of text in its wake. Words become sentences, evolving into a collective poem created by a group of poets from the cities through which the burning fuse passes. There is no written script. The fuse interventions are developed on location, while the poem’s verses are distant from each other temporally and spatially.”

The first verse of the poem was contributed by Greek author Alexandros Aimoniotis, while the second verse is owed to Italian poet and artist Alessandro de Francesco.

In May 2015, Artecitya Thessaloniki traveled to Venice to present the project itself, as well as the second iteration of Bigert & Bergström’s Explosion of Speech, at two amazing spaces, Palazzo Mora and Palazzo Bembo.

Artecitya and Explosion of Speech were presented in Venice in the context of the exhibition Personal Structures. Crossing Borders organized by the European Cultural Centre and GAA – Global Art Affairs Foundation in the context of the Venice Biennale 2015. .

For Artecitya, Explosion of Speech is a call to arms. As a performative and cinematic endeavor, the work cuts through time, space, individualities and realities. Its improvised urban scenography signals the city as the space par excellence where democracy is made possible, animated through polyphony, debate and conflict. The burning poetic word dethrones the slogans of politics as expression of the people’s voice, articulating dreams, aspirations, needs, prophecies, admonitions… In that sense, the work becomes an agency, even more so a peaceful call to arms or a vehicle of transformation, as it positions multiple individualities at a vantage point, that of an emancipated protagonist of a delightfully utopian film, projected into what could very well be the near future.


Photos: Ingo Duennebier
"Explosion of Speech," Thessaloniki, 2015. Video documentation
"Explosion of Speech," Thessaloniki, 2015. Interview with Alexandros Aimoniotis



Photos: Lars Siltberg
"Explosion of Speech," Venice, 2015. Video documentation
"Explosion of Speech," Venice, 2015. Interview with Alessandro de Francesco