Contextual research



© Nina Kihlborg

Gustaf Norén said in a podcast (Brännässlor) something like (!quoted from my memory!):

“Art is fatal. We learn how to make art according to certain principles because real art is too dangerous. Adolf Hitler was an artist. When you stop to try… When I go up on a stage to play a song it’s not as powerful as when I start to whistle on an unexpected occasion. Donald Trump is not a politician that’s why he is political.”

I thought about this and the fact that I had just made a set of nails with Barack Obamas face on them. I knew I was fetichising Obama and thought it was because I longed back to the almost now, the hyper retro because that’s what humans do when we feel unsafe. We want it to be as it “always have been”. But after I heard the statement from Norén I saw the irony in the nails. Fake nails are close to the self and far from the outer world and we are many that escape into beauty rituals as a comforting activity. Those kinds of comforting activities: beauty, entertainment, food, exercise are taking up a lot of our conscious these days. And we are used to read and consume entertaining, easy digested text and information. This is relevant in a presidential election.

Media and information today, how is click bait culture affecting democracy?


I’ve been questioning myself striving to be part of the art world: an intellectual realm that makes me insecure and that I believe shuts out too many and and can serve the patriarchy (Sontag).

So I started seeing alternatives to institutionalised art and thought of graffiti and craft. I thought of beauty and design. I like decorative and accessible art. Maybe it relates to the ideas of making art “that can be understood on a primary level” like Erwin Wurm. What is universally attractive visually? Natural beauty? Flowers, natural patterns…

This lead me to read about the Arts & Craft Movement, its British front man William Morris, his heritage and following across the Europe.

The Arts & Craft Movement different followers all rejected the idea that art develops. They claimed great art is timeless, universal and eternal. (Harrod)

“The specialised definition and perception of art as objects conceived and created exclusively for aesthetic contemplation is a relatively recent cultural creation, one largely defined by Europe and United States”.

To define craft as something which main purpose is function might be to elevate “art” rather than the right definition of craft.

All art and craft has a “use” be it physical or cultural – signifying a political, economical (etc) orientation.

A more productive approach might view all objects as manifestations of a complex matrix of cultural interchange – as bearers of meaning that reflect the time, place and culture of their creation.

(Burgard, Bearers of Maaning)

So there’s one notion that great art is timeless and one that art and craft is connected by time…

The Arts & Craft Movement connection to Modernism, shared inspirations: “The Bases of Design” by Walter Crane (1898) and “Art” by Clive Bell (1914).

An admiration for the abstract form and structure, a distrust of the illusionism of the art of the High Renaissance, a delight in the spontaneity that flows from a fusion of design and facture processes. (…) Appreciation focused on simplicity, earliness and primitivism that surfaces periodically in the history of art.


Are we in one of those times and places where we appreciate the “primitive” and “authentic”? The Hipster movement is really about authenticity. What is labeled as luxury becomes more “simple”. 

In the 1930’s the world changed so that individual effort, spontaneity and primitivism wasn’t as attractive anymore. People’s social security was decreasing and writers like Herbert Read changed his opinions on creative craft practice to promote an industrialised manufacturing of artefacts. Inspired by USSR and Walter Gropius from Bauhaus he thought that planning and communal effort should extend to the arts and started arguing for a new sort of aesthetic that was of no less value than the handicraft but that should not try to imitate it either. (page 15)



Paradise Postponed: William Morris in the 20th century”, Tanya Harrod (published in “William Morris Revisited: Questioning the Legacy”)

“The Art of Craft: Contemporary works from the Saxe collection”, Timothy Anglin Burgard, 1999


When does art becomes design?

Is there a way out of the cube and in to the homes, onto the bodies? Can art be craft in a contemporary setting. And can it be produced in an industry?

Quick quotes/links:

“The Arts and Crafts Movement began in Britain around 1880 and quickly spread to America, Europe and Japan. Inspired by the ideas of John Ruskin and William Morris, it advocated a revival of traditional handicrafts, a return to a simpler way of life and an improvement in the design of ordinary domestic objects.”


“William Morris and the British Arts and Crafts Movement directly influenced the Swedish painter and interior designer, Carl Larsson (1853-1919).  He, in following Morris (he was 20 years Morris’ junior), created an artistic house.  Larsson and his wife, Karin, filled their home with their artistic touches.  Where previously only the “fine arts,” painting and sculpture, would have been used to decorate a house, they painted and decorated walls, furniture and textiles.”

“Josef Frank would have been familiar with Larsson and Morris’ work.  And as a last generation of the Arts and Crafts Movement, he held on to the love of brightly colored, stylized natural motifs(…)”




©Nina Kihlborg


July 7 2016

One thing I can’t stop repeating in my head is taken from an interview with MH at this exhibition (it had a furnished living room with writings located halfway through the epic show, I sat down and read, thought it was a great idea).

Photography is like poetry, you find it rather than create it. You’re an inventor not a creator. A photo or a poem stand alone. You can put them in an order in a book or a show but the reader/viewer will not respect the order.


Michel Houellebeqc

I think this relates to my own iPhone photo practice. It’s just something I do and don’t have to think about much. It’s almost not a choice. And I kind of want to keep it like that. Not having much expectations or agenda. 


©Nina Kihlborg

I love graffiti. When I pass a real good graffiti spot I get a thrill I rarely get from museums and art galleries, the thrill of just seeing beautiful composition and colour. It’s more like flipping through a fashion magazine only without the social angst. I have wanted to use graffiti as a method to make abstract images and I wanted to see who else has done that and why. 

Ida Ekblad, Norway

Idas paintings often include graffiti or cartoony looking figures and I always loved them so much. I guess she is working with juxtaposing different visual languages to create new connections.

“I always thought it was so stupid to do graffiti on painting,”she admits. “But maybe because it was so stupid, it was tempting.”/Ida


Ida Ekblad‘s artistic practice incorporates painting, sculpture, performance, filmmaking as well as poetry. Her works transmit a distinct vibrancy and spontaneity, created through the energetic movement of her compositions, the bold application of colour and the attentive use of found materials. Ekblad’s expressive paintings often depict winding and twisted lines, some indicate human-like figures, others resemble landscapes. The forms and gestures found in her work derive from a wide variety of inspirations and art historical references, such as CoBrA, Situationism and Abstract Expressionism but also pop cultural aesthetics like graffiti or cartoon that indicate Ekblad’s genre-crossing approach.


“(…) her oeuvre is slightly akimbo, which is how your legs need to be when you are limbo-ing. Nothing, from the heaviest of scrap-metal objects to the densest of paintings, can sit still. As the gate attests, what matters in Ekblad’s work is passing through. And the journey is a dance.”

“Poetry is key to Ekblad’s work – the song indivisible from the dance. She selects words for their sounds and forms with the recklessness that comes from not writing in your mother tongue.”

“Ekblad treats words roughly, clanging them together, or physically squashing or carving them into things (as in the gravestone-like A Caged Law of the Bird, the Hand, the Land, 2011) to fix them concretely. In the case of the Wagons/Tracks paintings, this technique felt heavy-handed, the problem being that you can’t force poetry into your work no matter how much pressure you apply. Ekblad is great with hard or heavy things, but words are altogether more slippery.”



Jean Michel Basquiat / SAMO

Basquiat started as a graffiti artist (SAMO), became hyped up and centre for a huge art market boom in NYC 1980’s and left the graffiti scene eventually. 

“Jean-Michel Basquiat”, Leonard Emmerling

“I think that the two similarities that Jean and graffiti in general had in common was that people wanted to harness a wild animal. They couldn’t control him and they couldn’t control graffiti. The art world was bland and they wanted something on their wall. Jean-Michel’s work is very anti-art world you know. It’s almost like a curse. Ad people still love that. They love being cursed at.” /Lee Quiones (page 14)

The art scene in the 80’s: The line between high art and trivial culture became even more “porous” than before. the bond between art, music and nightclubs was really strong. All much because of Andy Warhol. (page 8)

Same began as a “lifestyle religion devoid of all ethical substance”. “The SAMO project attacked the speciousness of materialist society. (page 12)



In the area where I used to live in Sweden the walls would occasionally be tagged or painted with graffiti. Since the city of Stockholm has a policy of “zero tolerance” to graffiti, this would quickly be removed. When the paint was sprayed on public walls the “sanitisers” came in big trucks and removed the paint with high pressure-wash and chemicals. However I guess that when the paint was on a private building it was the owners’ responsibility to get it removed. I assume this because the techniques of “sanitation” would differ from house to house and there was this particular house that stood out among the rest.

It was the house next to mine, a typical one for the neighbourhood; built in the 40’s in a functional modern way with a light yellowish facade. Whenever there would be graffiti on the walls they would stay longer than usual (which would let the overall composition develop over time with different taggers and colours) and when they where finally removed, they would paint over them. You would think they would just paint with the original colour reducing all traces (maybe they intended to but the sun had bleached the facade already) however there would always be a contrast between the new colour and the original.

What I am the most fascinated with is that not only  did they paint over the graffiti in a contrasting colour but they where also very sparse with the paint, painting only just where the graffiti was, so that you where able to see exactly where it had been. The painting survived its removal. And I like to think that the artists who took on this wall were not simply shut up but responded to.



Nina Kihlborg

TipEx. I love TipEx.

David Mabb, lecture on January 26th

Mabb worked with overlayering and making new images by reducing another artist’s work.


Uncreative Writing by Kenneth Goldsmith

What is the difference between appropriation and collage?

Maya Conran introduced in her seminar on October 25th:

Appropriation is using an element from outside to strengthen one’s personal agenda (?)

Collage is simply putting one element from outside together with another one, that does not necessarily make sense or build a narrative (?)

Compilation is putting together elements from outside in attempt to make sense or tell a story (?)

Bob Marley & climate/culture

I’m not interested in mapping out different cultures’ differences but rather the ways different climates shape us as social beings. Everything that makes up our surrounding affects how we will go about our lives and after generations that becomes a culture.

When I had my first mp3 player I listened to Bob Marley to relax and tell myself, “everything will be alright”. For me the reggae classics represented a faraway culture of spontaneity, authenticity, simplicity and warmth. Very far from Sweden – a place for sincerity, depth and dramatic contrasts etc.

US court backs family over Bob Marley shirts

El Perro Del Mar

KoKoro – El Perro Del Mar (Sarah Assbring) – Video by Nicole Walker & Hedvig Jenning

A dream of utopia where our differences in language, tradition and appearance is truly of equal value and the globalisation means exchange and confusion of the concept of nations. 

To me this work inspired to look at a basic human experience: needing to survive, wanting to progress, being steered by love and fear of not belonging, of not being meaningful.

By playing freely with non-european images and materials as white western people they are not accepting the idea that doing so is automatically privileged and disrespectful.

What is cultural appropriation?

Cultural misappropriation is when members of the majority group uses elements of a minority group that is strongly related to their singularity and cultural identity in a way that is ignorant of the minority’s status in society as underprivileged. Minorities in western cultures often have histories of being systematically oppressed, whether it is by colonisation, slavery, law enforced discrimination or simply xenophobia. (Wiki)

As a white westerner I have to be aware of the privileges I have. However being silent is not always the solution. As Roxane Gay’s saying in her “Bad Feminist: Essays”

“We need to stop playing Privilege or Oppression Olympics because we’ll never get anywhere until we find more effective ways of talking through difference. We should be able to say, “This is my truth,” and have that truth stand without a hundred clamoring voices shouting, giving the impression that multiple truths cannot coexist.”


“To have privilege in one or more areas does not mean you are wholly privileged. Surrendering to the acceptance of privilege is difficult, but it is really all that is expected. What I remind myself, regularly, is this: the acknowledgment of my privilege is not a denial of the ways I have been and am marginalized, the ways I have suffered.”

Is there a way to celebrate our wholeness through juxtaposing wildly with body types, attributes etc?

Is there a reason to not be celebrating our similarities rather than our differences once in awhile and can we do it, without disregarding the fact that a lot of people have been brutally oppressed through history based on their cultural and physical attributes?

As a white european I need to interview people with other origins to find out.


The current exhibition at The Zabludovicz Collection Emotional Supply Chains involves a lot of video work, print and installation that can be extra relevant to PTBM students. The theme of the exhibition is the still very urgent subject of digitally constructed identities and stories we tell about ourselves online. The curator Paul Luckraft refers to recent writings by Laurence Scott and Boris Groys reflecting on commercialisation of identity online (i.e. algorithms that reaffirms our views on the world) and the role of the artist in a “mass cultural production”-age where everybody can be (and is probably) engaged in artistic activity. The exhibition is divided into three parts of which one goes under the title Authenticity and Artifice. Here questions are raised about the human nature, a concept that might have lost its self-evidence as the properties and patterns of technology and nature merges. However regarding identity, one can wonder if the desires to create fluid and edited alter egos online is contradictory to authentic humanness or if it is “natural”. 

I especially recommend the video piece “(You (People) Are All The Same)” by David Raymond Conroy that was commissioned specifically by The Zabludovicz Collection for this show. It is a 40 minute long video made with a lot of humour and self-revelation as an artist. If you recognize the format and find it strangely familiar and appealing like me it is probably because is very intentionally has borrowed the model of American investigative podcasts such as Serial and This American Life. It is very much a meta artwork talking about the process of the artist during his residency in Las Vegas, creating this commissioned piece however we are left uncertain where facts potentially changes over to fiction. This is valid for a several works in the exhibition, as David Blandy’s film Child of the Atom that depicts himself on a journey with his daughter with occasional voice over comments by the girl as an adult. Also don’t miss the works by Aleksandra Domanovics huge prints in the back room that deal with women’s representation in science fiction, place in creative direction of animated movies etc.