Critics’ Picks

Anders Sunna and Michiel Brouwer, 1634 (detail), 2019, collage, oil, acrylic, spray paint, wooden sledge, iron ore, steel, reindeer horns, ink-jet prints. Installation view. Photo: Hendik Zeitler.

Anders Sunna and Michiel Brouwer, 1634 (detail), 2019, collage, oil, acrylic, spray paint, wooden sledge, iron ore, steel, reindeer horns, ink-jet prints. Installation view. Photo: Hendik Zeitler.

Gothenburg

“Every Leaf Is an Eye”

Göteborgs Konsthall
Gotaplatsen
December 7, 2019–March 22, 2020

Noah Piugattuk shrugs when the Canadian civil servant offers him money and Western education. Why would he need money, and why would he want his grandchildren to be educated by someone who does? In Zacharias Kunuk’s feature film One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk (2019), set in 1961, the white man’s insistent attempts to persuade the Innuit Piugattuk family to leave their homeland, Kapuivik, appear absurd. But the humor has a bitter taste—the film ends with archival footage of the protagonist’s forced relocation to a settlement instituted by the Canadian government.

Around the corner, three more civil servants and a priest—Swedes, who forced the native Samis into the biopolitical system of the nation-state—loom menacingly. In the Sami artist Anders Sunna’s installation 1634, 2019, made in collaboration with Michiel Brouwer, these figures are rendered, in mural form, as violent beasts surrounded by pebbles from the land that they high-handedly appropriated. The small stones fill the dim gallery space, inserting the visitor into an otherwise-overlooked scene from Swedish history. Sunna’s historizing paintings, also on display, collate historical agents to refute the official narratives of a country that is, in fact, still colonizing its Northern lands.

“Every Leaf Is an Eye” borrows its title from a series of poetic articles by the Swedish writer and activist Sara Lidman, who chronicled Sweden’s legacy of extractivism. Such irregular, imaginative, and associative narratives are more than needed in our era of automated information. The harm caused by streamlined histories is also manifest in Simon Gush’s Land is in the Air, 2019, a two-channel montage of footage of the surreal tasks the indigenous habitants of a South African settlement perform to prove that they lived on the land before their white colonizers introduced ownership. “Every Leaf Is an Eye” can’t make the relation between linear narration and linear economy any clearer.