What were 2014’s most interesting exhibitions, events and publications? In Kunstkritikk’s advent calendar our writers and invited guests share their highlights of the year in art. Number 22 is Axel Wieder who recently started as director of Index in Stockholm. He was previously director of Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, and, most recently, head of program at Arnolfini in Bristol.
I admit, it’s hard to concentrate on a review of the past year, at a time when decisions about the future are landing on our table with such urgency and such an impact that it would be careless to ignore. Not only for the sake of one’s own situation and what one is trying to achieve within the framework that we have chosen to work in, but also in a wider sense, imagining a notion of culture that has social meaning, beyond one’s own context, in an ongoing discourse with many participants involved, in Stockholm, in Sweden, abroad.
I moved to Stockholm only a few months ago, and it feels that the political climate has drastically altered even within this short time frame. I encountered a positively diverse cultural landscape, with a varied spectrum of larger organizations and experimental places exploring the expanded field of artistic disciplines. In contrast to most places, there is also a true effort to address issues of segregation and imagine an infrastructure that covers both centers and peripheries. The brutality in which decisions about the concept of culture in Sweden are currently being whacked through a parliamentary crisis, caused by the rising influence of an ultra-nationalist party, is alarming. It is concerning that it hits a system of organizations at a moment in which the need for cultural education and research is widely recognized, but resources are limited. Budgets need to be expanded rather than cut, in order to sustain the aim of an outward-looking, engaging and confident cultural program of high quality for the widest possible audience, adding a specifically Swedish aspect to the wider international debate around arts and culture.
|This year’s Liverpool Biennial, titled A Needle Walks into a Haystack, was curated by Mai Abu ElDahab and Anthony Huberman. It was a rare occasion of a large group show that dealt successfully with the constraints of this format: the relationship between works and theme, popular expectations and artistic focus. An open curatorial framework and artists presented mostly with several works allowed our own ideas to become productive. The main exhibition was accompanied by excellent side shows, such as an installation by architect Claude Parent at Tate Liverpool, serving as exhibit and display for further works, and a survey presentation of Belgian TV producer Jef Cornelis.|
|At Moderna Museet, the ongoing series of presentations by younger Swedish artists continued with an elegant exhibition by Nina Canell. In contrast to previous installation works, which were often messy and raw, the exhibition tested established norms of presentation, re-exploring the artistic object. Unrelated, but simultaneously presented in the permanent collection as a recent acquisition, were all the film documents of the seminal event 9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering (1966), which explored links between art and technology and were initially presented in New York by Billy Klüver and Robert Rauschenberg. The films remained unfinished for years, and were recently edited by Barbro Schultz Lundestam. Finding these so generously presented was a treat.|
|Stephen Willats’ two-part show in Berlin consisted of a presentation of existing works at the daadgalerie plus an excellent new production at Galerie Neu’s second space, MD72. From here, Willats explored the neighborhood, linking the gallery with a series of external spaces, such as a garden project and a second hand bookshop, with works – panels with photos and interview excerpts – present at both the gallery and the external sites. As in many of his previous projects, Willats convincingly analyzed the complexity of social spaces and the function of art within these.|
|Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft. The Power of Infrastructure Space, Verso 2014|
|Simone Forti, Thinking with the Body, Hirmer 2014.|
|OEI # 66, Process/poem (poema/processo), 2014.|