Drama and Development

Artistic Undressings of Stockholm’s Royal Seaport

A Public Arts programme as a strategic maneuver to insert ecological sensitivity into a globalised model of sustainable development.

The political history of  ‘sustainable development’ is often stated to have begun with the first major UN conference focused on environment (UNCHE) hosted in Stockholm in 1972. However, it can also be traced further back to the 13th December 1967, when Sweden’s UN Representatives—Sverker Ästrom and Borje Billner— proposed the first environmentally focused international delegation. This delegation came to be known as the ‘Swedish Matter’.
Five decades on, the State of Sweden strives to position itself as the leading nation of environmental sustainability. An example of such ambitions is located in the capital city of Stockholm, where a globally profiled model of sustainable urban development is under construction —The Royal Seaport.  This development is directed by the document Vision 2030, thats sets the ambition to become a world-class urban district rather than affordable for a majority of Stockholm’s residents.

In 2016, Holly was approached by Stella d’Ailly, the Artistic Director of the independent Public Arts Producer Mossutställningar, to produce a proposal for a new artwork in response to the development of The Royal Seaport and its exploitation on cultural grounds.

Fascinated by the actions of lobbying groups within the development and their appropriations of cultural practices to influence public opinion, the proposal shifted into a four-year curatorial collaboration with Stella to produce the extensive Public Arts programme Artistic Undressings of the Royal Seaport, and to take this on as an artistic commission within the programme for The Ether Act

Graphic banner for 'Act III: Water' by Benedetta Crippa
Graphic for Act III: Water, by Benedetta Crippa

Artistic Undressings of The Royal Seaport takes on the structure of a drama including five Acts, three reoccuring scenes and a character list. This is represented in the visual identity of the programme. Graphic designer Benedetta Crippa created a reoccuring curtain motif as a surround for the programme’s communications. Each act circulates around one of the five classical elements Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Ether. The reoccuring scenes include a series of walking lectures known as Power Walks, an agora known as The Market and an artistic commission.
Commissioned artists were Sara Söderberg, Loulou Cherinet, Newton Harrison and Harun Morrison.

Circulating the programme was a free newspaper, Stockholmstidningen produced by the Editorial Board—Maja Hammarén, Elof Hellström, Louise Nassiri and Helen Runting.

Distributed across Stockholm, the newspaper investigated a character’s involvement within urban development processes including The Real Estate Agent, The Child and The Artist. 

The overall ambition of the programme is to insert generative and critical artistic practices into The Royal Seaport. Through this process the programme actively questions if the production of global urban models is counter-productive and what alternatives there may be.

The programme included contributions from over 150 artists, designers, planners, civil servants, researchers, practioners and activists from across the Nordic Region.

Taking inspiration from the subtle, holding and framing role of ether and its more contemporary replacement space-time, the broader artistic commission Stress and Sanitation focused on invisible power structures and their influential role on how we percieve and act in the world.

This involved a durational mapping of climatic stress, lobbying tactics, the growth of the wellness industry and the colonial roots of sustainability. It also explores how democratic processes are maintained when the eco-system is within a deep-time emergency so that we not only act, but also think and feel.

Ether is currently on-going and, in addition to the co-curation of the Public Arts programme, includes a Power Walk on globalised trade, an essay within Stockholmstidningen #3: The Child on the impact of visions, a series of workshops in collaboration with Under Tallarna, a fourth issue of Stockholmstidningen in collaboration with Agentur and a publication in collaboration with Benedetta Crippa who also designed the visual identity of the programme. 

The knowledge generated contributes to governmental research on environmental communications and local Public Arts programming in relation to regional development.

The project Artistic Undressings of the Royal Seaport is carried out with the support of The Postcode Lottery Foundation, The Swedish Publics Art Agency, Stockholm City, ARQ, The Swedish Arts Council, Östermalms District Administration, The City Museum, The Nordic Culture Fund, The Nordic Culture Point, Bergen Centre for Electronic Arts, The Medieval Museum and Kulturbryggan.
(C) HOLLY KEASEY 2020 — GO UP︎︎︎