Sunday, April 03, 2011

Lars Kleen at Sven-Harrys Art Museum

I visited the Sven-Harrys Art Museum, the latest addition to Stockholm's landscape. From outside the museum building looks a bit tacky with its golden panels. Once I get inside, however, the atmosphere is more modest and minimalistic. White walls are typical of art museums these days, but the wooden, rather than concrete, floors reflect a sense of Scandinavian roots.

The museum's opening exhibition features a Swedish artist named Lars Kleen. There are two massive sculptures on display on the ground floor, which at first glance look like an industrial architecture using disused materials like metal bars, wires, ropes, veneer boards. A fad in contemporary art these days is the recycling. So far nothing surprising.

When a museum clerk slightly pushed the second gigantic structure with his leg, I saw the structure swinging. I realized what I see is no "nothing surprising". I started investigating how the sculpture is assembled. A few minute's study revealed that 75 percent of this massive structure is actually hanging by just four ropes from the central part.

Displayed on the way upstairs are two miniature sculptures, both of which again consist of one part suspended by another part. I started feeling some sort of dangerous dependency.

And the last sculpture on the upstairs floor is this:

(The photo is taken from

I sat down on the bench and looked this up for a while. It looks impossible. The center of gravity of this structure looks so high. It's not hanged from anywhere. It's just standing. And the thin legs of the house-looking structure, which seems to me a sort of Shinmei-zukuri (Japan's oldest architectural style used for shinto shrine such as Ise Jingu), touch the lower part with tiny pieces of wood in between. How can this be supported?

And for no reason (or perhaps for obvious reasons) I started thinking about the massive earthquake and tsunami that destroyed many coastal towns and nuclear power plants in Japan three weeks ago. I started seeing Japan in this structure. For whatever trick it may be, something unthinkable is realized with human creativity. But its basis looks so fragile. If the 20-meter tsunami wave hits this structure, it will break down for sure, no matter how ingenious the way to construct it is. And what's worse, we don't know why this is possible, just like we don't really know what radioactive radiation really does to human health. Without knowing its exact mechanism, our life heavily relies on it. The electricity to Tokyo this coming summer will be expected to be severely under supplied.

I wondered if I should ask why this structure actually is standing. Perhaps leaving it unknown is the whole point of this art. But I couldn't resist. The museum clerk told me it's a sheer act of balance. Still I cannot really believe it.

I imagined what if the artist used brand-new materials to make this, instead of recycled ones. I would feel just impressed and perhaps praise the skill of the artist and human creativity in general. The use of rubbish to construct this act of balance is probably crucial here. The museum clerk said some visitors, especially men, felt like doing something similar by themselves, by collecting rubbish. (That's quite Swedish a way of reaction, by the way.) This episode even makes it scary. People think, "Well, I can do it."

It's a well-thought-out installation. I tip my hat to the artist and the museum curators who pick his works as the opening exhibition.

I now have one more favorite place in Stockholm.

No comments: