Art, Borders and Boundaries (2015-2016)

In this project I seeks to explore the mechanisms by which borders and boundaries between art and other visual expressions have been upheld and transgressed in different periods and image systems. This project mirrors my activities as researcher and teacher the past 15 years in which I have cross-fertilized art history and visual studies with media theory, cultural studies, design and fashion studies. By this inclusive approach I will focus on the overlaps and the osmotic nature that characterizes the bounds of art and explore the mechanisms by which images and imagery have migrated over it. This includes the agents, individuals and institutions, acting in these processes and their rhetoric as well as the visual and textual contexts in which these processes of exclusion and inclusion take place. The planned monograph consists of four case studies that investigate different visual techniques (collage, photography, drawing, performance), display contexts (illustrated press, cityscapes, albums) and periods (from the 1860s through 2000s) that highlight the nature and further implications of such transgressions. The theories and working concepts are multi-disciplinary including ‘social biography’ of images and imagery (visual anthropology) and image ecology and image systems (media theory, visual studies) among others.

Project leader: Anna Dahlgren
Funding: Riksbankens Jubileumsfond

The Vadstena Palace - Place, Space and Presence

The aim of the project is to study the visual manifestations of both secular and religious character in Vadstena from the middle of the 13th century to the end of the 15th, a period that covers the transformation of a building and a site from a royal palace to a Birgittine convent. The central questions of the project concern the significance of place and presence in Vadstena. How was the site used from time to time? Who was there and who was not? By focusing on aesthetic artefacts in a broad sense, Vadstena may be regarded as a stage for performances. This also includes rites and rituals that require both actors and audiences. Who was the observer at different times? Royal visits to the monastery are examples of delicate transgressions of the border between the secular and ecclesiastical spheres, but at the same time were important in maintaining the established order. With the location and buildings as a common denominator, the project will study the place and palace of Vadstena as a religious and political centre during what has been called “the long Middle Ages.” The focus of the investigation is on material and visual culture, where painting, sculpture, textiles, seals, buildings and monuments are only a few examples. The project will draw attention to visual expressions, both permanent and temporary, in order to explore the similarities and differences between secular and religious imagery. The intention is to provide an overview of Vadstena as a centre of power during an extended period, in order to provide a new and broader understanding of the architecturally magnificent constructions of the Birgittine Order and the Vasa dynasty in the area.

Project leader: Mia Åkestam
Funding: Berit Wallenberg Foundation

Masculinity and Femininity in Herwarth and Nell Walden’s Der Sturm

The subject of research is the visual culture and exhibition practices of Der Sturm, the joint name of an avant-garde magazine (1910-32), an art gallery (1912-28) and a publishing house founded in Berlin by Herwarth Walden. From 1912 Nell Walden, b. Roslund, collaborated with her husband on exhibitions and other activities associated with the Sturm, not least the work to build up a Sturm art collection. This project examines how gendered identities were negotiated, represented and performed in and through the visual culture and politics of art display in the Sturm as well as in art historical writing on the Sturm. The research includes analyses of written and visual material as well as spatial practices, e.g. photographs, art works, illustrations, travelling exhibitions and the public display of the Walden art collection in their home.

Project leader: Jessica Sjöholm Skrubbe, PhD
Funding: Vetenskapsrådet

The King’s Tomahawk. Collecting and Displaying the Other in Seventeenth Century Sweden

In a showcase at the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm a tomahawk is displayed, made in eastern North America and dated back to the seventeenth century. Besides being a precious and unusually well-preserved example from its time, of the material culture of Native Americans, it is also incorporated in a narrative on cultural encounters and transactions, and on Sweden’s colonial past. Already in the 1680’s the tomahawk was shown in Stockholm as part of the collections of King Charles XI. It thus suggests that the young nation shaped its self-image not only in relation to other European nations, but also to the world outside of Europe. Taking possession of the world, materially as well as mentally, was an important part of the construction of a national identity.

This project is about non-European objects acquired by Swedish Royalties and Nobility in the seventeenth century: artistically shaped weapons, jewellery, textiles, ritual objects and utility goods from America, Africa and Asia. How did these objects reach Sweden? How were they classified? What other kinds of objects were they displayed with? At what occasions were they looked at and used? In negotiating issues like these, the project approaches the more fundamental question of how non-European objects were incorporated in a narrative about the Other and, ultimately, contributed to the formation of a national identity.

Project participant: Mårten Snickare, Associate Professor
Funding: Riksbankens Jubileumsfond

Feminist Processes of Legitimization in Video Art History

The project examines art historical narratives of video art and focus particularly on how these surveys address art by women artists and feminist art practices. Historically, video art and women/feminist studies at universities are contemporary. Both fields are characterized by a strong sense of performing (ideological) critique. Within the surveys examined, there is a strong tendency to mark the artists by their sex. Women artists foremost appear in chapters exclusively devoted to art practices exploring feminist and/or gender issues; (the idea of) feminist art practices thus appear as the primary admission for - hence a legitimizing strategy of - women video artists. The project is performed as a historiographical analysis of this art form as a specific discourse and investigates the ideological grounds, assumptions and statements for this sex-biased division of artistic practices within these surveys. Furthermore, notions like women artist and feminist artist/art are discussed in depth. As a consequence, the presumption that there is something like un-gendered art practices is further examined.

Project participant: Malin Hedlin Hayden, PhD/ Associate Professor
Funding: Åke Wibergs stiftelses postdoktorala stipendium i Konstvetenskap

Rhetorical femininity

Initially this project was part of Feminist Processes of Legitimization in Video Art History. But as the latter evolved it became clear that ideas of femininity and visual representations of this concept were better suited for a separate project. Due to the fact that a large part of the by now canonized early video art works produced by women artists were labelled "feminist", certain topics have prevailed within the understanding of both the art form and the particular art production by women. The, perhaps, most obvious one is "femininity" (and/or "womanhood"). The project explores the trajectory of this topic, focusing on a number of projected art works by contemporary artists. I am particularly interested in the relations between ideas of femininity and feminist theories, as they are both visually represented and understood in critical art writing.

Project participant: Malin Hedlin Hayden, PhD/ Associate Professor