Starting from the premise of using that which is close at hand, Kalmar konstmuseum takes on that which is closest to us, and explores art, artefacts and tales with a connection to the geographical sphere that makes up the county of Småland. The starting point has been the museum’s collection and from there, pieces have been added from other museums, historical societies and practicing contemporary artists.
The administrative function of our counties was removed in 1634, but they continue to evoke a strong sense of cultural identity. Geography is a way of defining oneself in relation to others. But what significance do counties have today? What cultural identity can be found in the past and the present?
The artwork Summer idyll from 1940, by Lotte Laserstein (1898-1993) is central to the exhibition. Lotte Laserstein was born in Germany, came to Stockholm in 1937 and moved to Kalmar in the early 1950s. The title is enigmatic and becomes a suitable passage into Småland – idyll and roads astray. The idyll is not happy, but neither is it broken. It is both, simultaneously.
Just like time, the idyll is a chimera. It can confirm expectations, but is it possible to add the roads astray and the change? Not even the worlds of Astrid Lindgren were ever only idyll, they also portray deep injustices, poverty and darkness. Vilhelm Moberg’s literary and actual areas of emigration have turned into areas of simultaneous immigration and emigration. Many places face a daily struggle for survival as factories close and infrastructure disappears.
Like the roots of a tree, Kalmar spreads out and forms a weave of cultural identity together with other places. Ideas and exchanges are collected nearby and far away in an interplay that has continued throughout history. It was always thus. Kalmar konstmuseum, and its art society founded in 1917, is part of the town’s identity – a hub for meetings and exchanges, a port for ideas and expressions – such as coastal areas, thanks to the seamen, have always been. From their work at sea they brought back tales and artefacts from the whole world that in turn influenced the local ones here.
The South African artist Breeze Yoko talks extensively about the importance of movement and the freedom of movement. He says: “It is through movement that we spread ideas and build societies and communities. When something stands still it dies. Fresh water is fresh because it moves. If it stands still it becomes undrinkable. The same thing goes for culture. We have to create new ideas and different cultures.”
In Småland – idyll and roads astray we hope to do exactly that: to look at Småland from all different angels, both the idyll and the roads astray, town and countryside, centre and periphery, immigration and emigration, the traditional and the new.
Picture: detail from Summer Idyll, 1940, Lotte Laserstein