Astrid Svangren’s Best of 2016

Kunstkritikk’s own writers and invited guests share their top picks from the art scene of 2016. Today: Astrid Svangren.

Which exhibitions, events and publications were the most important, most cutting-edge or most affecting of 2016? The Kunstkritikk Best of cavalcade sums up the art scene of 2016 in contributions written by our own staff and specially invited guests. Today’s contribution is by Astrid Svangren, who this year exhibited at Tranen in Copenhagen, Kunsthalle São Paulo and Kh7 Artspace in Aarhus, among other places. In 2017, she will have a solo exhibititon at Christian Andersen in Copenhagen. 


Kai Althoff, and then leave me to the common swifts (detalj), MoMA. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Kai Althoff, and then leave me to the common swifts (detail), Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Kai Althoff and Bruce Conner at MoMA, New York.

In both exhibitions I found myself experiencing a collection of the artists’ micro-universes. They were disordered, chaotic and always existing in a fragile state. You had a feeling of uncertainty about how long these universes would hold their form. I was inspired to think about how memories and feelings from the past can come to you with such velocity and intensity, just to dissolve in an instant. Among Althoff and Conner’s works I found myself immersed in an urgency to remember and feel.


Nicolas Feldmeyer, Towards the Horizon, Fanö, Danmark.
Nicolas Feldmeyer, Towards the Horizon, Fanö, Danmark.

Nicolas Feldmeyer, Towards the Horizon, Fanö, Denmark (curated by Nina Wöhlk).

This temporary, site-specific installation really appealed to me in the sense that it was a demonstration of art for art’s sake. It was beautiful and simply made me happy. I found myself seeing the installation as a beautiful moment in time, acutely aware of the fact that it would eventually be swallowed by time. To experience this work you were forced to pause and refocus – art, yourself, and nature played together. There was a sense of harmony, but one was always conscious of the work’s temporality.  



Jamaica Kincaid på Stockholms Literature Festival, Moderna Museet. Foto: Åsa Lundén. Jamaica Kincaid
Jamaica Kincaid at Stockholms Literature Festival, Moderna Museet. Photo: Åsa Lundén.

Hiromi Ito and Jamaica Kincaid, Stockholms Literature Festival, Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

The readings by Japanese poet Hiromi Ito and Antiguan-American author Jamaica Kincaid at Stockholm Literature Festival allowed me to experience the incredible power and strength of these two women writers. Although different in their subject matter and delivery, I was drawn to their equally tragic, brutal, often comic but always important commentary on the world in which we live. Much like in art, you find yourself drawn in and thrown off balance by their work, which mediates a transition between your own understanding of the world and that of the authors. You are pulled closer to them, and in this way become inspired to think about the different ways we may allow ourselves to be drawn into the lives of others.


Umbanda, reningsceremoni, São Paulo, Brasilien.
Umbanda Cleansing Ceremony.

Umbanda Cleansing Ceremony, São Paulo, Brazil.

Umbanda is a belief system which draws upon practices from African and Roman Catholic traditions, as well as indigenous American spiritism. While I was in São Paulo earlier this year, I took the opportunity to participate in an Umbanda cleansing ceremony in order to gain a deeper understanding of some of the spiritual systems of my host country. The ceremony, however, also forced me to consider my own sense of spirituality. The music, dance and chanting of such a ceremony creates an energy and a gravity that you cannot escape; you are pulled into yourself. For me, this became a process of understanding the indescribable aspects of my own art. Here, I was able to connect with the ritual as an art form, and with the ritual aspects of my art that lie outside of discourse.



Alice Oswald, Falling Awake, W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.
Alice Oswald, Falling Awake, W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Alice Oswald, Falling Awake, W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.

I received Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake as a gift not that long ago. Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of her before, but I am incredibly grateful that I have now. When you read Oswald’s work you are transported to a Dickinson-esque word-scape, at the same time as you are most certainly in the present. The poems are very tactile. The drama of Oswald’s craftsmanship brings you closer to the object of her writing, whether it be a badger, a swan or a bean, and challenges you to invest feeling in them. I find the lines between human and non-human become blurred in this drama, which forces us to consider the extent to which we reflect and are reflected in nature.


Emma Cline, The Girls, Random House, 2016.
Emma Cline, The Girls, Random House, 2016.

Emma Cline, The Girls, Random House, 2016.

The Girls is intense and exhausting. Not least because of the jagged and direct way in which Cline writes, but most explicitly because of the relentless exploration of power and weakness, of love, seduction, and a desire for being seen. I, like many I suppose, can see myself reflected in Cline’s Evie, her restlessness and her fascination with what might be considered dangerous or cool. In this, thoughts of innocence and experience play off of each other in my mind. It is exhausting because the play is often violent, physically and mentally. Ultimately, however, I am inspired to think about what it might mean to be strong in yourself, and take control of the ways in which you carve out your own identity.