Sweden, this huge, sparsely populated country located in Northern Europe is too often overlooked, even though it has so much to show and offer to the world. Sweden is a nature holiday destination, with attractions such as Stockholm’s Old Town, Drottningholm Palace, the Vasa Museum and the Northern Lights in Lapland. This nature, so dear to Swedes, is also a strong point of the country, with breathtaking landscapes such as the archipelagos on the west coast and the mountains of the Jämtland region, or canoe trips on the lakes from Arvika in Värmland.
Sweden was for a long time the first of the class
Sweden is often seen as a model of an advanced society, with strong social protection, high gender equality and low income inequality. The country is also known for its commitment to the environment (who doesn’t know Greta Thunberg), with progressive green policies and heavy use of renewable energy.
This Scandinavian country is a constitutional monarchy with a unicameral parliament called the Riksdag. The country has a mixed economy based on the export of products such as cars, electronics and machinery. Sweden is also known for its high-tech sector, as well as for its global brands such as IKEA, H&M, Electrolux, Ericsson and Spotify.
All is wrong in the Northern Kingdom
The rise of the far right, which was victorious in the legislative elections of September 11, 2022, and a wave of anti-immigration are shaking this usually peaceful state and threatening the realization of the most important political decision in its recent history, joining NATO. Sweden spent both world wars with a status of neutrality. But the kingdom changed dogma after the Russians invaded Ukraine a year ago. His government, last May, officially asked to join NATO, as did Finland. Sweden’s admission to NATO, which must be approved unanimously by member countries, is blocked by one of them, Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is blocking it, accusing Sweden of harboring terrorists and fostering anti-Islam sentiment. A fanatic burned a Koran during a demonstration in Stockholm, which further soured relations between the two countries.
In a country that has always welcomed immigrants and asylum seekers with open arms, something has broken. The government has announced what it calls a “paradigm shift” for the country, of which 20% of its 10 million inhabitants were born abroad. A large-scale communication campaign has just been launched to discourage migrants from coming to Sweden. Of all the current problems, perhaps the most astonishing thing is that it will be, according to economists, the only country in Europe in recession in 2023. In December 2022, the inflation rate in Sweden reached 10.2% . Sweden is a member of the European Union, but not part of the euro zone. The country has its own monetary policy. And Swedish households are among the most indebted in Europe, having enjoyed interest rates close to zero for years.
A rich and mystical culture
Swedish culture is rich and varied, with a long literary, musical and artistic tradition. Artists such as August Strindberg, Ingmar Bergman, ABBA, Avicii, Stieg Larsson, Camillia Läcberg… have put Sweden on the cultural map. But there is an important yet lesser known aspect of the nation’s spiritual life present in its art and literature. Bozar is therefore organizing an exhibition bringing together several leading figures of the Swedish art scene whose creations have mysticism and esoteric speculation as a common thread.
Hilma af Klint, August Strindberg and other Swedish visionaries
You will be able to discover works by some of the country’s greatest literary figures, from Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century to the turn of the 20th century with August Strindberg, known as a writer, but also the author of magnificent drawings and paintings. August Strindberg (1849-1912) Swedish writer and playwright is considered one of the greatest Swedish writers of all time. His work is diverse, ranging from naturalistic novels to symbolic plays, passing through philosophical essays and diaries. As a novelist, Strindberg is known for his detailed descriptions of daily life and his ability to penetrate the thoughts and emotions of his characters. His most famous novel, “The Red Room” (1879), is considered a masterpiece of the naturalistic genre.
Strindberg was also a prolific thinker, writing essays on a variety of subjects, such as philosophy, religion, politics, and science. He was influenced by thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard and developed his own philosophy of existence, based on the idea that man is a solitary being and that life is essentially absurd. His tumultuous personal life, marked by several marriages, conflicts with other writers and mental disorders, has also made him a controversial and fascinating figure.
The same period gave birth to the visual art of visionaries such as C.F. Hill, Ernst Josephson and Hilma af Klint.
The abstract before abstraction
Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) was a Swedish artist who became famous for her abstract work, even before the abstract movement was recognized as a separate art movement. Although she was relatively unrecognized during her lifetime, her contribution to abstract art was widely recognized in the years following her death. Af Klint was a member of a group of female artists called The Five, who began to explore spiritual and mystical forms of expression. During her formative years, she studied botany, anatomy, literature, and theosophy, an esoteric religion that emphasized the union of man and nature. Her abstract work was often inspired by visions she said she received from spirit or the afterlife.
Af Klint created many abstract paintings during her life, but she kept most of them hidden away, bequeathing them to a foundation to be unveiled 20 years after her death. It was not until the 1980s that his work was exhibited and studied more widely. Hilma af Klint dreamed of a building in the shape of a spiral to house her most important works, the Paintings for the Temple, which number no less than 193 works. During his lifetime, this dream never materialized, the temple remained an imaginary creation – until today. Bozar went back to his notebooks and built a VR installation of Hilma’s vision in the exhibition.
In addition to his paintings, Af Klint also created a series of books and manuscripts that explain his approach to spirituality and art. She is considered a pioneer of abstract art and spiritual expression, and her work continues to influence artists and thinkers around the world.
The Five was a group of five Swedish women artists active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The group consisted of Hilma af Klint, Anna Cassel, Cornelia Cederberg, Sigrid Hedman and Mathilda Nilsson. The Five held meditation and communication sessions with spiritual entities to try to understand the nature of reality. They also created works of art that incorporated esoteric symbols and abstract patterns. The group did not achieve much success during their lifetime, but they are now considered an important precursor to abstract art and spiritual expression. Even today, these visions continue to inspire contemporary artists like Carsten Höller, Christine Ödlund, Daniel Youssef, Cecilia Edefalk and Lars Olof Loeld.
Film and music
Note also that on May 8th. In collaboration with CINEMATEK and Polarise, Bozar is honored to welcome Swedish director Ruben Östlund. His most recent film, Triangle of Sadness, won numerous awards in 2022, including Best European Film at the European Film Awards and the Palme d’Or at Cannes, as did The Square in 2017. Controversial filmmaker, screenwriter and producer , Ruben Östlund poses as an observer of contemporary cowardice and hypocrisy. His often subversive work seeks to abolish social norms and good morals. In doing so, it breaks brilliantly with the Scandinavian tradition of Ingmar Bergman’s sober psychosocial dramas. By describing human social behavior with humor and precision, Ruben Östlund quickly positioned himself as an influential figure in international cinema. Today, the Swedish director already has more than ten feature and short films to his credit, both fictional and documentary. In May, CINEMATEK devotes a vast retrospective to him.
And on June 14, Johan Dalene will be alongside the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for the moving and very melodic Violin Concerto by Sibelius. Inhabited by the sagas and landscapes rich in forests and lakes of his country, the Finnish composer integrates a plethora of Scandinavian folk influences in this piece with typical late Romantic architecture. Ein Heldenleben also testifies to a great musical imagination.