Ett brev från Herr P : om det personliga hos Björn Lövin
For the Swedish artist Björn Lövin, the personal was a problem. In his first exhibition in Moderna Museet, Lövin observed through the fictitious character Mr. P (for »Personality«) the ruptures in the Swedish welfare state. The exhibition Konsument i oändligheten och Herr P:s penningar (Consumer in Infinity and Mr. P’s Money) (1971) was composed of two environments, through which a veridical working class apartment and a high street with life-sized mannequins and furniture characteristic of its time, visualized the societal discrepancies in the welfare state as well as the art world of the early 1970s. Lövin was as much a dystopian observer as a utopian thinker, where art must, according to him, engage the whole of society, and in essence change reality rather than act upon aesthetic experience.
The personal is always contemporary, this essay argues. It concerns a question about the now, what Michel Foucault called »the ontology of actuality«, which means that, for Lövin, art must engage in the historical and critical questioning on how the present is configured, in its blind spots and hidden potentialities. Here, another element in the exhibition foregrounds the ontological questioning of the now: the fact that the two environments were designed as archaeological excavations in the future, representing an era before a catastrophic event. Lövin challenged us to look upon our times as if struck with amnesia. This remarkable displacement of perspective makes it possible for Lövin to not only reveal the inherent contradictions in the social conditions of the 1970s, through the harsh conditions that Mr. P represents, but to regard potentially everything, the consumer culture and all ephemeral expressions of our society – through the eyes of the future scientists – as art.
Challenging the problematic notions of persona, socially determined beings or citizens, we are guided by Lövin, in a way that is not unusual of his time, to look upon »the art of the people« as synonymous with »the life of the people«. In this essay, which is one of the first in-depth analysis of Lövin, who Lars Nittve has called »the creator of some of the most important Swedish exhibitions in the last decades«, the allegorical meaning of »the art of the people« is seen as the nexus where the personal is pushed through its boundaries, to its ostensibly opposite meaning, the impersonal, in which a social utopia of the now emerges.
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