Critics’ Picks

View of “Taking matters into your own hands,” 2019. Photo: Lisa Requin.

View of “Taking matters into your own hands,” 2019. Photo: Lisa Requin.


“Taking matters into your own hands”

Sveavägen 41
November 20, 2019–January 18, 2020

Mint, a gallery dedicated to tracing art’s role in workers’ movements across generations and contexts, recently invited the Stockholm-based design historian Christina Zetterlund to curate “Taking matters into your own hands,” a show that looks at an overlooked history of glassmakers in Småland, a rural region in southern Sweden.

In 1978, Sven Lindqvist’s blockbuster book Gräv där du står! (Dig Where You Stand!) incited Swedes to do just as the exhibition’s title dictates by investigating and researching their local contexts, namely their workplaces. As Sweden has a long tradition of study circles, Lindqvists’s proposed format was familiar: Over the course of five years, from 1978 to 1983, more than thirty groups of laborers gathered regularly to discuss work, subsistence, and leisure under his text’s aegis. Their meetings resulted in twenty-one books of worker-drawn illustrations of the realities of Swedish factory life. At Mint, Annika Elmqvist has painted some of these drawings on pieces of framed glass that cover one of the gallery walls; three of the original books rest at a reading table nearby.

Benetta Crippa’s illustrations depict the laboring movements of the informal practice of sölning (the making of friggers, small items produced by craftsmen for fun, not work), in which the glassworkers created experimental objects during their lunch breaks. Unlike mass-produced glass commodities, the autonomous three-dimensional shapes born of sölning embodied the thoughts, designs, and feelings of their creators. Their organic shapes reveal the objects’ modular creation: By attaching pieces of waste glass in random colors over a course of days, laborers built these forms up gradually and methodically. Though friggers are largely found in workers’ homes and at flea markets, in the gallery context their shimmer underscores the liminal state between production and reproduction—and art’s social urgency beyond any institutional delimitation.