By Kirstine Schiess Højmose, Fotografisk Center
NORDIC EXCHANGE – INNER AND OUTER LANDSCAPES
Artist presentation: Johan Bergström
In August 2014 Fotografisk Center will present the exhibition Nordic Exchange – Inner and Outer Landscapes showing five young Nordic artists working with photography: Tonje Bøe Birkeland (Norway), Anni Leppälä (Finland), Johan Bergström (Sweden), Ingvar Högni Ragnarsson (Iceland) and Ditte Knus Tønnesen (Denmark).
The exhibition is the first project in Fotografisk Center’s newly started network Nordic Exchange – a network project made to help facilitate exhibitions, collaborations and exchanges between young artists working with photography.
For more info on exhibition and network have a look at this previous blog post: https://blog.photography.dk/2014/02/08/nordiske-udvekslinger-indre-og-ydre-landskaber-nordic-exchange-inner-and-outer-landscapes/
Johan Bergström was born in Piteå, Sweden, in 1978. He lives and works in Stockholm. Bergström graduated from School of Photography, Gothenburg University, Sweden in 2007.
For more info: http://www.johanbergstrom.com/
In many of his works Johan Bergström deals with our relation to history, memory and how looking back is often mixed with nostalgia and a somehow ignorant view of the past. He is not creating harsh critique but with a hint of irony and a complicated love affair with nostalgia itself he tells stories of how we make up images and stories of the past and how tales are being made up to show the world in a certain way.
Bergström implements text in some of his images because of his inspiration from literature, his writings on the side and his wish to test visual culture’s many sayings, statements etc. He also lets the statements and the images say something opposed in order to confuse the viewer and make us consider the expected once again.
A sample of the work of Johan Bergström:
The work Pagan Postcards takes the ideologies of Norwegian black metal as its starting point. In this series of photographs excerpts of black metal lyrics are taken out of their context and projected on Norwegian scenery, the same scenery that served as inspiration for a new wave of black metal. Instead of approaching the characteristic dark and symbolic visual codes of black metal, the landscapes of Pagan Postcards are displayed in the manner of Romanticism and influenced by Norwegian Romantic painters like Johan Christian Dahl, Hans Gude and August Cappelen. Many of the ideas that defined Romanticism can be found in the philosophy of black metal, two hundred years later. For all of its violence and misanthropy, black metal is a deeply romantic movement and nowhere is this more evident that in their hymns to nature. Through sampling and remixing the work Pagan Postcards takes an open-ended and ambiguous shape, on the one hand celebrating the grandeur of nature and on the other hand hinting at an approaching apocalypse. (text by the artist)
Since the beginning of the 21-th century Swedish state-owned power company Vattenfall AB operates lignite mines and lignite power plants in the Lausitz region of eastern Germany. Under the direction of Vattenfall two villages, Horno and Haidemühl, has been excavated. In 2005 the villagers of Horno were resettled in Neu Horno, a newly built community outside the town of Forst. In the same year the inhabitants of Haidemuhl were resettled in Neu Haidemuhl outside the town of Spremberg. The people of Horno, with a majority of Sorbs, fought hard, taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 1998, but was rejected. Despite past promises by Brandenburg politicians that the resettlement would end with Horno, eight more villages have been slated for demolition to make way for lignite mines over the next two decades.
The work Smoke Signals reflects on the activity of Vattenfall in the Lausitz area and covers the open-cast mines Jänschwalde, Cottbus-Nord, Welzow-Süd and Nochten, the brown coal power plants Jänschwalde, Schwarze Pumpe and Boxberg, the relocated villages Neu Horno and Neu Haidemühl, the remains of old Haidemühl and also the threatened villages Atterwasch, Kerkwitz and Grabko. In the work Smoke Signals the exterior of homes comes to represent all that it shelters, such as family, heritage, culture and history. The pictures of homes threatened by extrusion, evacuated homes and resettled homes are interweaved with pictures of the lignite mines and power plants. The lignite power plants are represented through their carbon emissions, where the chimneys are removed by retouch. As warning signals, the emissions point towards the environmental aspect of coal mining and at the same time making the voice of both protesting villagers and myself heard. (text by the artist)
A contemporary Russian saying claims that the past has become more unpredictable than the future. Nostalgia may depend precisely on the irrecoverable nature of the past for its emotional impact and appeal. It is the very pastness of the past, its inaccessibility, that likely accounts for a large part of nostalgia’s power. But this is rarely the past as actually experienced; it is the past as imagined, as idealized through selective memory and desire. The selection of memories becomes obvious in the tradition of family photography. The family albums are usually characterized by pleasure and held-off closure – happy beginnings, happy middles and no endings, making a promise of a brighter past in the future, a kind of nostalgia-in-prospect.
But how can we ever be sure to remember things as they were? Over time memory fades, people grow old and events seem to change. Shared experience slowly turns into collective memory. We mix up what really happened and what we choose to remember, as well as mixing that up with other people’s memories and mediated information through newspapers, television and films. The work NOSTALGIA reflects on the mechanisms of nostalgia and questions ones solidarity with the past by visualizing memories too unpleasant or too trivial to remember. It points to the deceitfulness of memory, in the age of photography, where many seem to be under the delusion of being able to control the past.
All images copyright Johan Bergström