Critics’ Picks

Ane Hjort Guttu, Freedom Requires Free People, 2012, HD video, color, sound, 32 minutes.


“The Society Without Qualities”

Tensta Konsthall
Taxingegränd 10 Box 4001
February 14 - May 26

At the entrance of the exhibition “The Society Without Qualities,” two monitors and an original poster display images of another exhibition, “The Model – A Model for a Qualitative Society,” organized by Palle Nielsen at Moderna Museet in 1968—which comprised a spectacular playspace for children that was endowed with a foam and rubber basin, swings, climbing ropes, paint, and costumes, among other things. But rather than treating the subject of this preamble as a historic curiosity, curator Lars Bang Larsen has returned to it as a key source of inspiration—as a setting in which children were encouraged to create their own models of play, of societal structures, and of exploration with one another. In keeping with this precedent, the works exhibited in “The Society Without Qualities” variously take up notions of child’s play, models, and the use of the art institution.

Of all these threads in the exhibition, the most intriguing is the concept of the child as an active historical subject, articulated in an accompanying pamphlet. Sharon Lockhart’s film Podwórka, which shows children improvising play in abandoned industrial sites around Łódź, is a lingering portrait of their social interactions and their ability to conceive of possibility in the most arid circumstances. Joanna Lombard’s more sinister slide projection Ljusbacken…, 2007–13, reflects the artist’s upbringing in the eponymous commune. Offering a kid’s perspective on 1960s counterculture, images with accompanying descriptions portray the rooms in which Lombard, as a girl, saw things children aren’t meant to see, such as group sex and suicide attempts. Ane Hjort Guttu’s engaging video Freedom Requires Free People, 2011, is based on interviews with a wonderfully reflective and critical eight-year-old, set in the school he attends, in which he questions some of the rules in effect (such as no tree climbing) and his classmates’ blind acceptance of them. The video portrays a fundamental conflict between individual freedom and institutional framework while displaying, perhaps most important, the resistance that children can offer.