Leonard Forslund

Magasin 3 Projekt (Djurgårdsbrunn)

Subjekt och Dedikation MCMXC (Subject and dedication MCMXC, 1989-90) is the title of Leonard Forslund’s latest work. Though the painting is gigantic (ca. 96 by 1164 inches), I am determined not to be swept off my feet by the impressiveness of its physical dimensions. The work is painted in a cold blue-green hue. Upon this smooth ocean of color Forslund has placed a number of ocher rectangles, no less smoothly painted. To begin with, the enormous work feels as numb as it is big. But as I walk along the painting, it gradually “opens up.” On the mute surface I discover a number of traces, traces that lead into a very complex and polyvalent structure.

There is a diagram in the catalogue representing the increase of the human population between the year 0 and the year 2100. The diagram consists of 12 sectors of increasing size and the painting displays the same structure. To my amazement it takes half the size of the work to represent the population increase between 1990 and 2100. I doubt, however, that Forslund’s work should be read as some kind of protest against overpopulation. The demographical dividing principle is more probably both a way to structure the gigantic surface and a way to make humanity, albeit on a very abstract level, present in the work. The division functions, to borrow a term from Martin Heidegger, as a framework for a Daseinsproblematik, for an existentialist interpretation. Stamped on the surface, there are four plans of houses from different cultures and epochs: an ancient Egyptian house, a Roman villa, a traditional Japanese house, and a modern apartment. The plans are authentic, but Forslund has made certain “adjustments” to them. In the Roman villa there is a great number of telephones, computers, and TV sets, and in the modern apartment the number of toilets is exaggerated (an ironic comment to the “hygienic” ideals of Modernism?).

In his “Brief über den Humanismus” Heidegger maintains that ”language is the house of being. In its dwelling man lives." It is through language that we make ourselves at home in the world. It can hardly be a coincidence that each of Forslund’s houses/languages poses connections with empires of various sorts: military, economic, or cultural. The empire builders of history have not only stamped human existence materially, they continue to mark our egos and our picture of the world.

These plans also emphasize the local—the house, the site—rather than the universal. Forslund seems to oppose the kind of humanism that puts the subject above being and thereby makes man “homeless” in relation to the rest of existence. In one of the ocher fields Forslund has painted a coffeepot and two cups. This also underlines the domestic, the quotidian. In other words, he depicts “small narratives” instead of totalizing visions. Nothing is unambiguous, though. The pot and the cups are decorated with Shell Oil logos. Suddenly, the local perspective is replaced by a multinational one. Irony again, or a serious hint at the connection between coffee and oil? Here, this intriguing work turns mute again.

Lars O. Ericsson