From the Swedish Culture Magazine
In 1961, Swedish television only broadcasted on one channel, in black and white of course.
The most upsetting thing that had been shown so far, was Per Oscarsson taking off his longjohns in the family entertainment program Hylands Hörna Dec. 1966, and this caused a public outcry.
It was in those quiet backwaters, at a time when Jan Myrdal had not yet been hit on the head with the Vietnam billy stick, that the artists Ture Sjolander and Bror Wikström started experimenting with the TV medium "TIME" September 1966, as an art-form. (Revealed the popular image and myth of television)
Why produce 100 litographies, when you can distribute your work of art to 8, 50, 100 people via television and satellites?, they wondered. But most important was the protest against the traditional use of the television technology itself, and turning a media-development into a free and artistic intervention became necessary.
However, it was difficult to find the necessary support to realise their ideas. The framework was very narrow, but Ture Sjolander already knew this. The year before, in 1965, he had made a first attempt to produce television art, directly for the medium, and he was stopped. The program, "Have you thought about the role of photography?", was already in the TV-guides, but it was completely censored by the direction of the Broadcasting Corporation. "They have never given me any valid justification for their censorship," Ture Sjolander says today.
Perhaps it was censored because he had photographed nude models from grotesque angles and wildly grimacing people? Along with Oscarsson's longjohns, this provides us with a clear image of how far you could go in the Swedish society of 1965.
Ture lives in a pink wooden house on Gärdet in Stockholm. It is surrounded by fences, mysterious sculptures and menacing beware-of-the-dog signs. Is he a bitter recluse, who is hiding away in his nest, while dreaming about the happy '60s? Not at all. Ture looks fresh and wears well-ironed clothes, looking a lot younger than 47.
First, some personal details:
Recipient of a Royal Artist Grant. He is not listed in the telephone directory, and it is extremely difficult to get through to his answering machine. He was the first person in Sweden, and probably internationally, who realised the possibilities of video and television for art, culture and advanced communication. As early as 1966, he wanted to distribute his "video art" (even though the word was not yet invented) via satellite.
He is a multi-media artist who has collaborated with, among others, the rock band Hansson&Karlsson. Hologram expert. Author on books about Greta Garbo and Charles Chaplin. Founder of the association Video-NU-Videocentrum (with 150 members and fifteen corporate members).
Except for being a visionary, Sjolander has a bunch of other projects coming up. He is trying to get government funding so he can document the public art in Sweden (or will McDonald's be the sponsor?). He wants to make a movie out of Erik Lundqvist's book "No tobacco, no Hallelujah" (he has already bought the film rights from the author, and a contract has been signed with the production company Måsen and the author) and Ann Zacharias. He is planning a trip to Papua New Guinea.
Sjolander started thinking about the possibilities of the TV medium and its power to connect with its audience. He found a partner in Bror Wikström, who was a major talent at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. However, he had turned his back on those very people calling him a talent. Sjolander and Wikström became inseparable and they followed in no one's footsteps, they went beyond pop art, which was the most extreme art form at the time.
We wanted to punch pop art in the face, meaning that we wanted to use those big outdoor billboards and wall spaces in subway stations for example, that inspired the pop artists, and we were inspired to use this space as an art space, not for commercial purposes.
Bror and I were "best friends and enemies" at the same time, we were working on a completely unexplored theme, we worked day and night for one and a half years with a new manifest, on television, on photo exhibitions and galleries. I remember Bror advertising among the ads for galleries in Dagens Nyheter: "Gallery of Thought - outdoor exhibition" in Kungsträdgården (the King's Gardens) in Stockholm city. But it was not a "gallery" as such. Kungsträdgården is always a gallery of thought, the image that remains on your retina. Bror has left the art world now, he cannot go back to painting, he cannot turn back the time. The "bijouterie-painters" hated him because he was so far ahead of them, both artistically and academically. My activities in those years were a protest against the word. The art critics were writing away, expressing guesses and opinions. "You go ahead and write," I thought. "Ten years ago I presented a complete presentation about a video studio for research, education and production (it has been postponed for years by the Art Council of Sweden, that is complaining about how badly prepared we are for satellite programs today!).
"I called on all the political parties in 1974 together with Bror Wikström".
increase in the budget of the Government Art Council for Public Art, for the purpose of artistically humanising public places. At the communist party leader's, the clothing was a working class jacket, at the right wing party leader Boman's, the clothing was Sunday-best shirt and a grey suit.
the budget increased from SEK 3,7 million to 11 million! (Ture does not mind the epithet Cameleon Master).
"I know what is normal and acceptable in society, and at the same time I am bored with it. Sometimes I psyche myself up by behaving recklessly , to feel free." There you go. To the above catalogue, we may add that Ture Sjolander, if anyone, can be named the father of Swedish video art. The curators of the International Video Festival in Stockholm, held from February through March, managed to convince Sjolander to come there and talk about how it all began in Sweden. Ture showed up, immaculately dressed in a white suit and pink tie. Ture began by saying: "We wanted the artist to really exhibit, not to inhibit at museums and galleries." On the last night of the festival, Ture Sjolander showed the TV program that had been stopped in 1965, on a 6x7 m big screen, just after the show about American punk and underground videos. "- Visual art of today is at the same stage that literature was before Gutenberg's invention of the printing press." This is a typical quote from Sjolander in 1963. He explains: "Let's take an artist such as Ulf Rahmberg, who paints symbolic paintings with a very political content. He works six months on a painting, using the most expensive canvas and oil paint. Then he sells it to some damn wealthy dentist who shuts it up in his private living room. When he has such an important symbolic message, he should paint on toilet paper with poster paint and distribute it on postcards, posters, video and television! Preferably via satellite!
The distribution is just as important as art itself: to communicate about communication is just as important as the mode of communication. The Mona Lisa-painting is not interesting per se, it is the interplay between the people looking at the painting that has become interesting. Because almost no one is interested in the painting, its power of attraction is over after three minutes."
Öyvind Fahlström once put it this way: "Hang up a Rembrandt on your wall, it will blend in with the pattern of the linoleum within a weeks time. It is just a myth, an illusion, that it its value is alive and continuous and that you can look at it anew one day after the next … People who can experience that must be completely crazy."
Öyvind Fahlström died in 1976 and when we meet Sjolander, parts of Fahlström's production is hanging on the walls of one of Stockholm's more pretentious galleries. We looked at the exhibition and felt slightly vertiginous, or perhaps nauseous? Fahlström's protests against the US warfare in Vietnam were sold for approximately SEK 500,000 a piece, and then we are talking about graphic prints. "It is interesting, but really not that strange," Ture says. "First of all: I do not believe that Fahlström tried to express a protest, he connected a modern series of events. "(the magazine is ruined and the text illegible).
Sjolander speaks fast, is well articulated and convincing. He runs around in his house, finding newspaper clippings with quotes to support his ideas. I am sure he can be a difficult bastard.
- Once I was invited to talk about public art with some old local government councillors. I suggested that I'd make something with big fingerprints in concrete, where the grooves of the fingerprint would be about 1/2 metre tall. 'Well, isn't that a funny idea,' said one of the old councillors, 'one would have to hope that it were to be the city mayor's fingerprints then.' I felt completely fed up and paralysed by the whole thing, by the disrespect of an original idea. I couldn't see any development. I couldn't do what Michelangelo did, which was shoving the axe into the ground in front of the councillor and say: 'It was my concept, therefore it will be my fingerprints.'
In the socialistic countries, art is also governed by the politicians' wishes. There is a pressure from above: 'You bloody artist, we want you to paint a worker who is using a sledge hammer.' So the artists adapt, and become clever "photographic" painters. 'Just look at the art clubs in Sweden. They have tremendous power. There are 400 clubs, and it is said that they have about 400,000 members altogether, at Atlas Copco, ICA, Honeywell Bull, whatever. It's a fun thing for those who sit in front of their computer screens all day long, they get a bit of status if they can do some art-thing in their spare time. For them to buy something for their art raffles, it had better be something ingratiating. Artists are aware of this now, so they paint something that will please the majority - instead of going broke.
Christian Wigardt / Erik Ohlsson 1985
Translated from Swedish by Linda Henriksson.
4 September 1958Sundsvalls TidningSwedenbyAje Moreliusjournalist/artwriter" Ture Sjolander fastslår, att fotografin är en egen konstart, och som kan drivas lika långt konstnärligt som vilken annan som helst konstart, t. ex. måleriet eller skulpturen.""FOTOGRAFIEN KONSTNÄRLIGT UTTRYCKSMEDEL"" Övergår målaren en dag till att skulptera är det väl ingen som tvivlar att han ur det nya materialet kan ge uttryck för sin konstnärlighet. Men om samme man under sitt sökande efter uttryck tar kameran till hjälp och med fotografiet förkunnar sitt budskap blir många betänksamma.Denna åsikt om konsten innebär att alla som målar eller skulpterar är konstnärer.Konsekvensen blir att det är uttrycksmedlet som är konst och inte det som uttrycks i det. ""Jag uppfattar fotograferingen som en egen självständig konstart och tror på dess enorma utvecklingsmöjligheter i framtiden som självständig konstart."Signatur "Morris"Journalist Aje MoreliusSundsvalls Tidning - 4 September, 1958.
Tonsättaren Bo Nilsson's brev från Malmberget1961 - 1962, tillkonstnären Ture Sjolander i Stockholm.
Sista januaris martyriumBästis !Härmed bara en bekräftelse på vårt telefonsamtal.Jag åtar mig alltså att tillsammans med Ture Sjölander komponera en opera, som tillsvidare kallas "Rättegång i människobröst". Textförfattaren är Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd. Verket kommer att framföras antingen i Stockholm eller på kontinenten.Ja du Ture. Så hoppas jag att du sänder mig en bunt bilder så jag kan välja ut fyra, resten returneras - och naturligtvis även de fyra, dessa måste jag emellertid få titta på för att veta hur det hela skall låta. Ideen - som jag vid D hoppas är enastående - kommer att lyfta oss båda upp till berömmelsens himmel. Du - om du inte redan har det - får en publicitet av sällan skådad omfattning. Sänd per express, det kostar kr 1.20En kirurg skall vi naturligtvis ha med i skådespelet, han skall förslagvis operera i mitten av salen. Även fåglar och allehanda djur skall medverka. En strip-teasedansös spotlight-belyst och illusionister. Oj, det här blir kul värre !Tillgivne vännenBobbie NilssonPS- Just nu får jag ett brev från Fylkingen som talar om att det blir en helafton med musik av Mästaren i Juni. Dom beställer ett verk och jag erbjuder dem en opera. Saken är alltså klar ! Vårt verk ska framföras under Musikfestspelet i Juni på Moderna Museet! Detta är ju alldeles strålande!! Djävlar i Helvetet !!! Sno på med bilder!Om Du inte tror denna uppgift så går det bra att kolla. Hambraeus, Wiggen, Velin eller Naumann.