“Faraway So Close,” currently at the House of Sweden until February 19, 2023, uses documentary photography and video art to present images from the 1960s in parallel with contemporary Swedish artists’ views of the U.S. today.
“This art exhibition takes its starting point in the significant impact that American culture has had on Swedish society and the longstanding relationship between our two countries,” said D.C. curators Helene Larsson Pousette and Johan Pousette.
“Many of the participating artists are particularly interested in exploring a different reality of the U.S.– one that goes beyond the more traditional and idealized view that is often encountered in Sweden,” says House of Sweden press officer Alexandra Bro.
Photographer, writer and ethnologist Sune Jonsson’s primary interest was “to portray people in ordinary situations, as he did with the same great human warmth and genuine curiosity as when he portrayed the rural life in northern Sweden,” said Mrs. Pousette.
The photos were shot in New York during the 1960s of city residents in everyday life. His work was inspired by American documentaries during the Great Depression.
Artist Annika Elizabeth Von Hausswolff’s three images originate from a trip she took with Jan Hornmark, when they traveled through the U.S. following the financial crisis of 2008. Titled “American Chronicle,” pictures of a gasoline hose, a cowboy and a neon sign symbolize what she considers emblematic for the U.S.
Lars Tunbjork– whose photos are commissioned from The New York Times– had a particular interest in the absurd aspects of society. In one of his series, he captured images of New York offices in Times Square, called “The American Dream.” In another series, he depicted wealthy American men living out their boyhood dreams; one is of a middle-aged man in a cowboy hat jumping on a trampoline.
Mats Hjelm’s 40-minute large video installation “White Flight ”shows how he traveled back to Detroit tracing his father’s, Lars Hjelm, footsteps. The video depicts images taken during the 1990s of the same places his father captured in the 1960s. Hjelm invites the audience on a journey intertwined with that of his late father, traveling through two time periods at the same time.
Artist Tova Mozard deliberately challenges the viewer’s expectations in “Cops are Actors,” according to Pousette.
“Is it real or staged? Are the uniformed men real policemen who step out of their professional roles and act? Or maybe it’s the other way around, or both? When Hollywood is a reference point, one can imagine that anything is possible.”
“Down on your knees…hands behind your head…freeze!” are familiar lines repeated over and over in the video, and as stated at the end of the film, “In every good cop there must be a handful of acting.”
Mozard’s other work, a video called “The Psychic,” depicts an expensive recorded therapy session in Los Angeles.
Artist Hannah Modigh’s work, “Hurricane Season” is her latest section of a photo book trilogy from around the United States. In 2010, the first section was awarded the Swedish Photobook Prize. Modigh depicts images she caught while traveling around in a van in 2012 through hurricane torn Louisiana and documented residents vulnerable to the weather.
Artist Sara Jordeno, in collaboration with American artist Twiggy Pucci Garcon, depicts LGBQT+ youth of color in New York City. The photos and video clip are called “The Reincarnation of the Rockland Palace.”
Last but not least, is Artist Axel Annica Karlsson Rixon’s “White Series,” a 640-image collection that shows an interplay between the artist and truck drivers– an interpretation of a distinctly masculine American culture.
For inspiration for the exhibition, “American popular culture grew and spread in Sweden following WWII and it has been a dominant factor in the Swedish cultural scene ever since,” said Bro.
While there are 3.8 million Americans of Swedish descent today, “the selection of art works in this exhibition reflect the partnering artists’ personal views of Sweden’s ‘neighboring’ country on the other side of the Atlantic.”