During my mini tour of my Swedish roots and a few centuries of Viking history, I learned that the Sweden of my grandfather and the Sweden of the 21st century are very different places. He was one of the many who emigrated at that time. Sweden was poor and ruled by a class structure that favoured the nobility over the peasants so lots of Swedes emigrated to the new world for what they hoped would be a better life.
Somehow my grandfather ended up in small town Manitoba. How he got there is not very clear. That he was an adventurer and a maverick is part of the family folklore. I’m not sure what the Swedish men of the poor late nineteenth century would have to say to the Swedish men of the prosperous early twenty first.
One of the cool new tourist attractions in Stockholm is the Fotografiska. I am a big fan of photography but have only recently started going to photography museums when I head to cities. The Fotografiska is popular with both locals and tourists and got me to Södermalm and a more “real” part of Stockholm. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to explore the neighborhood but the museum is definitely worth a visit.
There doesn’t seem to be a permanent collection, just a series of rotating exhibitions. All were worth viewing – and made me feel bad about my tourist shots 🙂 But the one that intrigued me the most was Maria Friberg.
Apparently in 1995 she had met with a businessman in conjunction with selling some of her art work and they got into a philosophical conversation about the role of men in modern Swedish society. She grew up on a collective in rural Sweden that was a matriarchal haven where the women worked and the men tended to domestic duties. So the businessman was a novelty to her 🙂
There were two series of paintings – Almost There and The Painting Series. There was also a video showing how she shot the photos for The Painting Series. The commentary noted how her photography had been influenced by the working styles of Jackson Pollock and Yves Klein (my Alexander McQueen pumps in Yves Klein blue are one of my most prized possessions 🙂
per the info at the museum….
Maria Friberg’s oeuvre is an investigation of male identity in today’s period of gender transition, as visualized in her signature series Almost There from 2000 and The Painting Series from 2011. In Almost There, we see a group of men, white men in suits, floating in a pool. Their homogeneous appearance is suggestive of the Western patriarchy. A patriarchy is formed when men are at the top of a societal structure. Clustered together, the pack of men appears to be in their mid-thirties, at the peak of their careers. They do not interact, but gaze instead into the distance. The image implies that they are rivals thereby reflecting the competitive nature of business. This is also suggested by the title, Almost There. Yet Friberg manages to disclose their vulnerability, by depicting the men straining to hold their heads above water. Accordingly, theseries coincided with the burst of the dot-com bubble in 2000 – 2001. The male dominated IT industry sustained devastating losses after its stocks were grossly overvalued. In its aftermath countless men were stripped of their financial status. They found themselves in a vulnerable position, much like the men depicted in Almost There.
In both series the figures float within a pool; however, in The Painting Seriesthe liquid is comprised of water mixed with various colored inks. In fact, the method for creating The Painting Series is based on a performance that can be likened to “action painting.”
A short while later I stopped in a tourist shop and bought some gorgeous glass by Mats Jonasson. The work was beautiful and as creative as Maria’s photography so it seemed the perfect souvenir for my trip. And the shop owner told me the story of the glass factory and how Mats had saved it in the 1980’s and kept alive the glass traditions in the town, which had begun when my grandfather was still living in Sweden. The past and the present perfectly conjoined.
We also had a conversation about Maria’s work and role of Swedish men in 21st century Sweden. I didn’t talk to enough Swedish men in four days to draw any definitive conclusions but my non-scientific sample suggested that Swedish men are very articulate and very cool. I don’t know much about my grandfather but my father apparently inherited a lot of his genes and my father possessed those same qualities. So, the clothes and hairstyles may have changed, but the charming Swedish metrosexual seems to have been with us long before the word was coined to describe him 😉