press release

As the first art institution in Sweden, Kalmar Art Museum will show the continuation of a work that has been one of the most discussed artworks in Sweden the last decade; the work by Anna Odell titled Okänd Kvinna 349701 (Unknown Woman 340701). On the 21st of January this year the artist simulated a mentally ill person on Liljeholmsbron in Stockholm, police was called by passing members of the public and she was taken to the emergency psychiatric unit of St Görans hospital in Stockholm, where she was admitted, put on medication, and placed in a restraining belt. It was not until the following day that Odell told the staff at the hospital that she had simulated the event and that it was part of a future art project that was going to be presented at the Graduation show at Konstfack in the spring of 2009. With her work Odell wishes to discuss and investigate Swedish mental healthcare, of which she has personal experience. Okänd Kvinna 349701 is based on an earlier episode in her life. This work was going to become one of the most debated art projects in Sweden and together with the video created by NUG called Territorial Pissing and the work by Oscar Guermouche called Vi vill åka till Moskva (We want to go to Moscow) they have now become known as “The Konstfack scandals”.

There are a number of aspects to the art work of Anna Odell that gives complexity to her work, a number of possible interpretations and also many ambiguities. The actions of Odell can well be seen as a way to deal with past experiences and also as criticism of an area of which she has previous and extensive knowledge. But it can also be seen as an example of a private individual that fights back against a large institutional apparatus of power in today’s society. A case of David fighting Goliath. Maybe the discussions that has risen because of her work is a consequence of the fact that many of the institutions in society such as the artworld, mental health care and the education system – all with their own worldview and inner logic –are clashing internally as well as externally. The official institutions of society are here clashing with each other. It’s about who owns the preferential right of interpretation to define care, and about who is ill and who is not. But also in equal measures who has the preferential right of interpretation of what is allowed in art and what is to be viewed as quality. Even the legal system has hit back from its own inner logic and Odell is now being prosecuted for “False alarm”, “Fierce resistance” and “Antisocial behaviour”. The whole thing has turned into a gigantic struggle between some large institutions of society, a struggle about who ultimately has the preferential right of interpretation.

In the end, the works of Odell can be seen as a discussion about what is possible within the field of art. A discussion that to a large extent has been taking place outside the established art world. What is art about? For who is art made? What sort of art is it that we want, really? Has the artist some kind of freedom? Artists, doctors, ministers, critics, civil servants, politicians, philosophers and well-known and not so well-known columnists, editors, bloggers and so on have been giving us their views from a number of varying positions and perspectives. This debate has in many ways been able to demonstrate what kind of cultural climate we have in Sweden today.

This exhibition – Reconstruction – features previously exhibited material but also new material not yet shown to the public.

The exhibition takes place between 13th of June and 29th of June 2009 on the third floor of the museum.

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