Fredrik Svensk’s Best of 2016

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

Which exhibitions and publications were most important, incisive or poignant in 2016? In Kunstkritikk’s best of cavalcade, invited guests joint our own writers in summing up the year 2016 in art. December 13 features a contribution by Fredrik Svensk who is editor-in-chief of the art journal Paletten, art theorist at Valand Academy in Gothenburg and a regular contributor to Kunstkritikk. 

The Most Hated Exhibition of the Year

Ei Arakawa
Ei Arakawa, How to DISappear in America: The Musical, 2016. Foto: Gayla Feierman.

The Present in Drag, Berlin Biennale.

The most consistent biennial of the year, alongside Manifesta 11, was probably the editorial collective DIS’s Berlin biennial, The Present in Drag. This exhibition was hated on from so many perspectives that it has to be considered a feat. But is it really true that the exhibition lead to Donald Trump’s election? Or was it just his twitter account?


The Gender War Exhibition of the Year

Sidsel Meineche Hansen, SECOND SEX WAR, Trondheim konstmuseum.
Sidsel Meineche Hansen, SECOND SEX WAR, 2016.

SECOND SEX WAR, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Trondheim konstmuseum.

Sidsel Meineche Hansen astoundingly pulls off connecting the question of collective production to a feminist intervention into the animated porn industry. Although Oculus Rift technology has been hijacked by vicious forces from the outset, Meineche Hansen indicates a real possibility for progressively repurposing it.     


THE Treatment of the Politics of Riot OF THE YEAR

Natascha Sadr Haghighian, installationsvy från Tensta Konsthall, 2016.
Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Fuel to the Fire, 2016.

Fuel to the fire, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Tensta konsthall.

Making art about the return of riots to Europe could go very wrong. Yet when Natascha Sadr Haghighian took it upon herself to do just this, in reference to the Husby riot in Stockholm, something unpredictable happened. Although Sadr Haghighian’s methods were unexceptional, extracting the forms of the riot’s props, allowing them to blend and be assembled together with historical events, opened up a new space for struggle. 



The Clay Art Work of the Year

Nathalie Djurberg och Hans Berg, Worship, 2016.
Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Worship, 2016.

Worship, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, Wanås Konst.

As part of their solo exhibition at Wanås Konst, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg presented a new stop motion animation, Worship, 2016. In a single movement, they free themselves from a psychoanalytic feminist tradition of violence and sexuality that I never thought their work would get out of. Worship is nothing less than an exceptional attempt at using clay to liberate heterosexual imagery from itself.  


The Collaboration of the Year

VibrationHighway, Andrea Éva Győr, Manifesta 11, Zürich.
Andrea Éva Győr, VibrationHighway, 2016.

VibrationHighway, Andrea Éva Győr, Manifesta 11, Zürich.       

For What people do for money: Some joint ventures at Manifesta 11, Andrea Éva Győr collaborated with an orgasm therapist, who offered her to draw illustrations of the experiences, thoughts and fantasies of the patients. The result is an incomparable series of images about the contradictory status of erotic life today.


The Re-Hanging of the Year

Time is Out of Joint (installationsvy), la Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rom.
Time is Out of Joint, la Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome.

Time is Out of Joint, la Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome.

One of the political possibilities available to an art museum  is to combine works from different times and contexts. Yet, after seeing the re-hanging at the national museum of contemporary art in Rome, I realize how little has actually been done in this tradition. Refreshing!


ThE Historization of the Present Of THE YEAR

Saskia Holmkvist, Ellen Nyman & Corina Oprea, Sicherheit (stillbild) 2015–2016.
Saskia Holmkvist, Ellen Nyman & Corina Oprea, Sicherheit, 2015–2016.

The Society Machine. The Industrial Age from the Perspective of Art, Malmö konstmuseum.

Can a conventionally installed exhibition really tell us anything new about Swedish contemporary history? After seeing the Society Machine, I am convinced of it. The exhibition quite simply shows that art has more ways of responding to Sweden’s industrialization than we previously had thought.


The Critique of New Materialist Consensus of the Year

Drucilla Cornell & Stephen D. Seely, The Spirit of Revolution, 2016.
Drucilla Cornell & Stephen D. Seely, The Spirit of Revolution, 2016.

The Spirit of Revolution: Beyond the Dead Ends of Man, Drucilla Cornell & Stephen D. Seely, Polity Press.

Many of us have been affected by new materialism and non-anthropocentrism over the last years. When Drucilla Cornell and Stephen D. Seely contrast this tendency with Fanon’s thoughts on violence and Foucault’s thoughts about political spirituality, the celebration of Karen Barad and similar theorists sits uneasily in the stomach.



Lisa Tan, installations från Galleri Riis, 2015.
Lisa Tan, installation view from Galleri Riis, Stockholm, 2015.

Doctoral Defenses of the Year

Mara Lee, Lisa Tan, Elke Marhöfer, Annica Karlsson Rixon, Maja Gunn, Simon Goldin, Petra Bauer, Malin Arnell, Cecilia Grönberg et cetera… Whatever our opinion is about artistic research, disputations in Sweden over the last two years have not only presented several influential artistic practices, but also an impressive number of different approaches to the question of knowledge in artistic research. We still lack an art critical discussion about these individual projects.


 Art Bar of the Year

Bar 10
BRA 10, Göteborg.

BRA 10, Konstepedimin, Göteborg.

Konstepedimin continues to develop, this year including a residency program for critics! And then there is BRA 10, which upholds its status as the best art bar in the Nordic countries.


Hope of the Year

Ortens Konstfestival
Ortens Art Festival, Göteborg.

Ortens Art Festival, Hisingen, Göteborg.

Perhaps it’s because I was away the weekend that The Panthers in Gothenburg held their art festival with the support of Konstfrämjandet (the people’s movement for art’s promotion) – a stone’s throw from where I live, on Hisingen – but everything I have heard about it sounds truly hopeful. I hope it happens again soon. Then I won’t be anywhere else.