Cultural Heritage: Making History for the Future I

Cultural Heritage: Making History for the Future I

Session chairs:

Katarina Wadstein MacLeod, PhD, Lecturer, Dept. of Art history, Södertörn University

Charlotte Bydler, PhD, Lecturer, Dept. of Art history and Research leader, Centre for Baltic and East European Studies, Södertörn University


Defining Heritage, Designing Heritage

Victor Edman, PhD, Architect, Associate Professor of History and theory of architecture, The School of Architecture, Royal Institute of Technology/KTH in Stockholm, Sweden

The twentieth century appears to be a period preoccupied with issues of history and national identity, not least within architecture and architectural research. Architects, academic scholars, museum officials and preservationists all contributed to the formation of a Swedish architectural canon. The process involved a variety of professional practices – restorations, scholarly research and publication, vast inventory projects, exhibitions at the cultural history museums. In the early 20th century it was mainly the image of pre-modern Sweden before 1800 that was established. Later on the 19th century was included, and finally, by the end of the century, even the modern movement was defined in terms of heritage. The particular image of a Swedish architectural canon that was gradually constructed in the course of the 20th century has been surprisingly persistent, and to a large degree it is still valid.

The Swedish architectural heritage presents itself in a convincingly genuine manner, whether in a book or in real life. However, this impression is often the result of conscious interventions, and what is looked upon as national characteristics may have been deliberately designed and added retrospectively. This paper focuses on the relation between defining national qualities and designing them. The cultural history museums are interesting from this aspect, as they present concrete visions of national development through history. Nordiska museet and the open-air museum Skansen produced realistic stage settings based on scientific research and vast collections. The Mora farmstead and the Skogaholm manor at Skansen are two well-known examples from the 1930s, both designed with great care and professional skills. Partly authentic and partly synthetic, they presented significant aspects of Swedish identity. In doing so they also offered a whole set of tools that were used in similar situations elsewhere.


To Determine Cultural Value For the Future: Is it possible or even desirable?

Helen Fuchs, PhD, Lecturer, Department of Humanities, Halmstad University, Sweden

What art is worth paying attention to and protect as national cultural heritage has changed throughout history. Prior to the 19th century it was not obvious to attach importance to a work of art because of old age. In the context of modernism importance was connected to avant-garde movements.

According to Swedish law old age and price are significant factors in determining what individual works of art are to be guarded as important cultural heritage. Currently, when modernist art begins to reach the crucial age of 100, the amount of works which need permission to leave the country will rise significantly. Permissions have to include assessments of significance as Swedish cultural heritage. Therefore, what parameters ought to be used for modernistic art needs to be discussed. But is it possible or even desirable to formulate national guidelines in order to protect and determine what modernistic art should be regarded as national cultural heritage in the future? This highlights a number of important questions such as: the notion of a national canon (in relation to an international); national canonisation processes; assessment of significant local and regional cultural heritage in relation to national notions.

These questions will be addressed in relation to the introduction of surrealism in Sweden. Based on approximately 200 articles previously neglected in art historical research I will discuss the reception of Halmstadgruppen (the Halmstad Group) and its surrealism in the 1930s and 40s. It was often described in relation to “Swedish” art, international movements and to preconceived ideas about provincial places such as the city of Halmstad. As a result of successful promotion and some obvious connections to French surrealism, Halmstadgruppen was early on granted a place in the history of Swedish modernism. Local support is firm and visible in “Mjellby Art Museum, the Museum of the Halmstad Group”, privately founded now financed by the city of Halmstad. However, since the millennium “Halmstadgruppen” has generated little critical attention.

The key argument of this paper is how the notion of something as a valuable cultural heritage in a national context constantly needs to be negotiated, through exhibitions, scholarly work and theoretical frameworks.


Sami Art – Heritage and contemporaneity

Hanna Horsberg Hansen, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher, Dept. of Art History, University of Tromsø, Norway

In the European modernization project, nation building was included from the beginning of

the 19th century. Art was one of several ways to identify a nation and a people. The institutionalization of Sami art in the nineteen seventies tapped into the idea of attempting to tie together art and nation. (Horsberg Hansen 2010, One reason to do so was to prove the fact that Sami nation was not in a condition of “lacking” art. In an exhibition catalog from 1979 it is declared that “Every people has the right to their own visual art, as well as the right to its own language and culture…”. (Gaup 1979) In this process Sami art was defined as closely connected to the duodji tradition, the traditional, Sami handicraft. A discursive canon building of Sami art has taken place since, through both collections and texts. 40 years later, it is time to investigate how contemporary Sami art relates to heritage, to Sami traditions and to the contemporary. Is it possible to identify a conception of the national in a time where artist is said to be a homo viator who transforms ideas and signs and transports them from one point to another? (Bourriaud 2009)

Events and practices are accessible to us above all, and increasingly through representations, primarily imaged ones. (Smith 2006) A canon of Sámi art do not necessarily merely mirror the world, but can also be investigated as “ways of worldmaking”. (Goodman 1984) The object for investigation will be a touring exhibition, Gierdu, curated by SKINN, a promoter of art in Northern Norway and the RiddoDuottarMuseat. ( RiddoDuottarMuseat is housing the Sami collection of art, that mainly comprises contemporary art acquired by Samisk Kulturråd, Sametinget i Norge, Norsk Kulturråd og De Samiske Samlinger in Karasjok, Norway. The starting point for the investigation will be to find how this exhibition is “making a world”, and how (and if) this world relates to heritage and to the contemporary.


On the periphery. Vicke Lindstrand – Swedishness, Scandinavianness and the Other

Mark Ian Jones, PhD, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; Guest Researcher, Dept of Art History, Uppsala University, Sweden

Since the 1920s, Swedish design has forged a considerable global reputation for simple, welldesigned, functionally oriented objects. The “spectacular” debut of Swedish functionalism at the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition, has been described by geographer Allan Pred as a metaphorical “pure and simple line” – a defining line between traditional and modern, inclusive and exclusive, primary and peripheral in Sweden. By the late 1940s, when discourse in Sweden was focused on national influences under the guise of a particular Swedish version of Functionalism that had become known internationally as Swedish Modern, exotic and obvious non-Swedish influences appear to have been downplayed or even suppressed suggesting that they were both undesirable and out of line with the prevalent discourses.

The Swedish artist and designer Vicke Lindstrand (1904-1983) made his own, less-spectacular, debut at the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition with exotic glass designs for Orrefors Glassworks. Over the following decade, he went on to produce significant and critically acclaimed work whilst maintaining a position on the inside of Pred’s pure and simple line. During the 1950s Lindstrand was artistic director at another well-known Swedish glass factory, Kosta. At Kosta Lindstrand inhabited a peripheral position in Swedish and Scandinavian modern design. During the 1950s, despite internationalising trends in global design, international influences in the work of Swedish designers were significantly less visible in period discourse in favour of ‘Swedishness’ or regionally influenced Scandinavian Design. This was most certainly the case with Lindstrand. He straddled a line between conformity and divergence. His significant body of work reveals pluralistic tendencies and divergent influences that were not consistent with the prevailing aesthetic concerns in Sweden and Scandinavia. To be known as a Swedish designer during the 1950s necessitated subscribing to the Swedish version of Functionalism that was established by the 1940s. To be on the outside of Pred’s defining line meant being peripheral to what was promoted as mainstream Swedish design.

This paper examines the creation of modern canonical Swedish and Scandinavian design identity by asking the questions: Were key mid-twentieth century discourses and rhetoric, manifest in exhibitions and texts, really representative of Swedish design? What was the defining line between national values and global influences and how did they impact on Swedish national design heritage? Examples from Lindstrand’s oeuvre will be utilised to illustrate and underscore the arguments proposed by this paper.