The human skull is among the last parts left of man when the rest of the body has withered. It’s also a symbol found on the entire cultural scale - from the most banal kitsch to serious memento mori. In the project Skullcraft, Sebastian Hägelstam and jewellry maker Johan Schalin explore what is in and around this symbol in a both playful and serious way.
Some Other Swedes
Figurines made for the exhibition 'Going Elsewhere' at Kina Slott 2021.
Kina Slott came to serve as a private sphere for the otherwise official lives of the royal family, where they could relax in the tranquility being alone with the closest members of the court. And what could fit better to render this refuge than the exotic dream of Asia that had been inprinted in the western mind the last century.
Today, Kina Slott is static. A documentation of a different time and different views on the world. Left is buildings, the items, the art and the craft. Collections containing Chinese and Japanese porcelain, lacqeur works, wall paintings, mirror paintings, clay figurines, furniture and a numerous amount of other objects that emphasizes the dream of Asia
The exteriors and interiors of China slott composes a European misconception of Asian and foremost Chinese culture that fitted an escapist narrative. As a visitor of the castle, one is given somewhat of a power position, looking at objects lined up and being exhibited as something exotic and Other. My work starts with this concept of the Other focusing on the elaborate collection of figurines in various materials that through their positioning depicts people and cultures as exotic. Most of the figurines are installed in different shelves along or up against the walls, all lined up and most of the times grinning at the visitors. Using the gaze that one is given entering the castle, I want to turn it inwards towards Swedish culture and identityto emphasize the absurdity of it and the power relations behind it. Approaching the pavillion through the allegorical figurines on the fireplace in the red room, I’ve created a set of figurines depicting the Swede in the same exotifying way as the rest of the figurines in the castle are depicting people. My figurines reassemble Swedes whom I never met or saw other than through pop culture such as the movei Sällskapsresan, yet they capture my prejudiced picture of Swedish manners and identity. Swedes from an era that seems distant to me but yet exists parallell to my reality. They do not necessarily represent the common Swede, yet they make up what I and many others think of them. Swedes that to me seems to be as Other as the rest of their company in the silent rooms of Kina Slott.
TROPICO / Civilization Bar
Master thesis project at Konstfack 2020.
Some years ago I stumbled upon and straight into the bliss of the tropical paradise when setting foot in a Tiki bar for the first time. The story behind this enchanting pop cultural institution unfolded a history built upon colonial power, cultural appropriation and hegemonies.
My work investigates the western construction of the tropical paradise and the power relations that it is built upon. I process my own attraction towards the tropical paradise and adress how eurocentric narratives have been depicting Oceanic cultures, people and environments in Western popular culture such as the Tiki bar. The project is based on my research of the colonial history of European presence in Oceania and how those events intertwine with our ideas of an earthly paradise today. I make objects, scenes and performances to put these ideas into context and position myself as part the problem. Civilization Bar is an attempt to use the colonial gaze that constructed the tropical paradise and turn it back on the west and its history itself, to perceive it as something ‘other’.
In it, I use materials, objects, history, symbols and aestethics that I associate with the Western World to depict its material cultures. Behind its seductive aestethics and thirst quenching drinks, I want it to be a place of reflection. What structures and history does phenomenons like these build upon? What is my history and how does it affect others?
TROPICO / Sunset Seb's
Pseudo Tiki bar Sunset Seb’s, inhabited by the dead and grumpy Tiki veteran bartender Marvin Santiago was run as a performative piece, inviting audiences to participate as guests of the bar, ordering cocktails and being a part of the problem. Tended by Marvin Santiago - a made up bartender based on a caricaturistic view of the traditional role of the bartender, the Tiki phenomenon and myself. All of the objects that inhabit the bar are scratch made by me he objects I made for that bar, including mugs, memorabila and a bust of Donn Beach, founding father of the Tiki bar now fills the shipping crates that supports the marble bar of the Civilization Bar as my skeleton in the closet.