Sugar becomes the way into the very heart of politics

The municipality of Gothenburg should invest in culture instead of cutting

“Varieté Métamorphose” by the artists Åsa Norberg & Jennie Sundén is currently being shown on the 3rd floor in Gothenburg. “The strength of the exhibition is that it presents complicated historical stages with graphic precision in beautiful and symbol-laden abstractions,” writes Fredrik Svensk.

It is strange what power local political decisions can have over an art experience. When I visit gallery 3e Våningen, the Röda Sten art gallery a stone’s throw away, in the shadow of the energy crisis, has received a rent increase of one million and is facing a situation similar to the Art Epidemic: renovate, pay or die. Gothenburg’s konsthall is moving out of Götaplatsen at the same time and moving to Gamlestan for an uncertain time, in the hope that the art will have a better effect there than in the city.

In 2022, the municipality of Gothenburg made a profit of SEK 3.7 billion. It does not prevent cutting 28.5 million in the cultural budget for 2023 and allowing the funding of free cultural life to be cut by 9 million, thus literally cutting vital forms of support at the ankles. The radicality of the decisions is not only motivated by the coming recession, but also by the fact that culture is no longer even assumed by the Social Democrats to belong to welfare policy.

To the open air cultural life belongs to the experimental mini-institution 3rd Våningen, which over the years has established the old sugar mill at Klippan as an energetic place at the intersection between choreography and contemporary art.

When Åsa Norberg and Jennie Sundén invites to his exhibition “Varieté Métamorphose” it is neither Josephine Baker-the variety shows in interwar Paris or some strippers or fakirs in Kivik’s market that served as role models. Their five installations vary and instead transform materials and forms from the history books of industrial and scientific modernity.

Based on maps of the transatlantic triangular trade that once passed the site of the exhibition, they have printed a pattern on polyesters, and created the flagship “Trade Winds and Calima Fog”. As often with Norberg and Sundén, the installation functions as a kind of costume or jewelry for the light and darkness of modernity.

Around the exhibition you can see fern casts in sugar that remind us of the conditions and function of the sugar mill. The shape is taken from the first mass-produced outdoor sofa that was launched at the World’s Fair in London in 1851. The high heat that could be produced by burning coke made possible not only fern ornamentation, but also the locomotive and the entire industrial revolution.

By tying the energy from sugar to colonial trade, industrialism and to the ancient plant that is the basis of fossil fuels, Norberg and Sundén weave a kind of peculiar energy montage that sheds new light on the prerequisites for both art and life today.

The strength of the exhibition is that it presents complicated historical stages in beautiful and symbol-laden abstractions with graphic precision. At the same time, the beautiful is being used as a way into an energy policy conversation as topical as the delayed electricity subsidy.

About Swedish welfare policy should also contain a free reflection on its conditions, then there is no question that public support for a place like 3rd Floor should increase rather than be cut. Perhaps an exhibition like “Varieté Métamorphose” is more important for the welfare of the future than the rut, root and electricity support of the owning class?

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Peggy McColl

Mentor l NY Times Bestselling Author. Hi, I'm Peggy McColl, and I'm here to deliver a positive message to you!

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