Luleå Biennial 2020:
Time on Earth

Information regarding Covid-19

Last chance The Luleå Biennial 2020: Time on Earth

Wednesday February 10, 16~20 and Saturday February 13–Sunday February 14, 12~16
Galleri Syster is open. Group show with Augusta Strömberg, Susanna Jablonski and Ana Vaz.

Thursday February 11–Sunday February 14, 12~16
Havremagasinet länskonsthall in Bodenis open. Group show with Beatrice Gibson, Susanna Jablonski, Birgitta Linhart, Fathia Mohidin, Charlotte Posenenske, Tommy Tommie and Danae Valenza.

Saturday February 13–Sunday February 14, 14~18
The former prison Vita Duvan is open with an electro acoustic installation by Maria W Horn.

Saturday February 13, 15~19
The artist Markus Öhrn and the poet David Väyrynens sound installation "Bikt" is exhibited on the ice by Residensgatan in Luleå. Listen to older generations of Tornedal women and their testimonies.

Book your visit via Billetto. Drop in is possible as far as space allows.

For those of you who do not have the opportunity to physically visit the Luleå Biennale on site, a radio show including artist talks, sound works and specially written essays will be on stream on Saturday February 13–Sunday February 14. Visit our radio page here.

The exhibitions at Norrbotten's Museum, Luleå konsthall, Välkommaskolan in Malmberget and the Silver Museum are unfortunatly closed.

Interview with Iris Smeds about her work E la lega la crescerá, 2020
Michele Masucci
Ruben Nilson, *The History of the Workers Movement*, c.1940 Deposited by the Swedish sheet metal workers’ union at the Workers Educational Association in Stockholm

During the fall of 2020, Michele Masucci and the artist Iris Smeds met at a restaurant close to Iris’ studio to discuss an artwork that she is working on for the exhibition A Careful Strike° at Mint konsthall located in The Workers Educational Association Stockholm. The exhibition opens in fall 2021 and departs from the plate metal worker, musician and artist Ruben Nilson (1893~1971) and his monumental painting The History of the Workers Movement permanently installed in the Augustroom at ABF.
° Precarias a la deriva, 2005

Michele Masucci: What is the work E la lega la crescerá about that you are working with for the exhibition?

Iris Smeds: The artwork plays with the idea of children as strike breakers. It’s about how starting your own private family hinders a larger social community and so makes the family vertical and ancestral/genealogical rather than horizontal and dispersed through one’s network and community outside of family ties.

I think about the collective climb up the social ladder in Sweden during the 20th century. How people together fought their way out of the poverty standard that characterised Swedish life at the beginning of the 20th century. The will to create a better tomorrow for one’s children. How the standards have improved with each generation. And I also reflect on how this generation instead actually lives in worse conditions than our parents. So, what happens when one has that kind of motivation and incentive? When the one thing you want the most is to make tomorrow better for the children to come, and that this ‘better’ is connected to something material — that you want to give the child more — when we already have so much? In this material mindset, the children’s real needs are pushed aside and thrown under the bus to leave room for their own beliefs in what a promising future for the children involves. Then, of course, there are other things that also take place to make it better for the children, pertaining to the climate and social justice, etcetera. Those are forces that exist in society for the children’s sake; they are here to give the children a chance to live in a better world. These thoughts are where I started with E la lega la crescerá. 

– When you [Michele] sent me a picture of The History of the Workers Movement by Ruben Nilson I noted and took much interest in depiction of playing bourgeois children in the painting. The interest the children sparked, I believe, was mainly because of my situation, that I have kids. Before starting my family/having kids of my own, my idea of society consisted of diverse wills, driving forces and ideas. One realises that when all these big events, ideologies and ideas are formed, the one thing, one foundation - working for families’ ability to function and prosper. That is what has become more apparent since I got a kid. It has also shifted to become so much of the ‘petty life’. That, I fear, could become a problem: the simple life becomes a catalyst for happiness and a measure for success and happiness in relation to society. One part of you feels that connection with the society, as you fulfil a norm. At the same time, you have your little world in and besides that society in which you’re not as exposed to it, since you have your sub-version in which you can build a whole world for yourself. There’s escapism in starting a family. Then there is also something regarding the queer family. There are a lot of people who can’t start a family since it’s not physically possible. Concerning that, starting a family is, in a way, a betrayal of the queer community of that space. Overall, I am dealing with this idea of a betrayal since I had a kid.

That it’s a betrayal to the struggle or the community to have a child?

– Yes, a bit. You get exhausted when you’re carrying out a project. You then feel that the project is more material than you earlier realised. In the long run, it feels like I’m more interested in starting and becoming a family. In theatre, becoming a family is a big thing since the first role you play is in your/a family. To have a house and a family is the foundation that the world rests on in a way, especially the little world, your small world.

It concerns the bourgeois family a little and fits into this capitalist social norm: you own your home.

– Yes, and that you can always defend it with the notion that you do it for the kids, and so in that way, it’s the right action. There may be a good heartedness in the idea of the family that comes from doing it for the kids’ sake. But the question still is, who are you doing it for? This piece is really about the idea of the bourgeois family and how it was built up alongside the workers’ movement. Folkhemmet1 did also imply and implement such a family ideal. It built up a norm where everyone should be the same. I think there’s something special with folkhemmet. There is something unique about how its plan was blended with capitalism. A strong force occurs when these are united, a state that I believe we are living in now.

These are my primary and core ideas. The title E la lega la crescerá (And the union it shall grow) comes from a feeling that no one is enrolled in any trade unions, and that it’s so fragmented. Everyone is moving across from and to more ‘exclusive’ engagements and gigs. The title spurs from the notion that society today is a collective of individualists. It is about this community and non-community – that this is the kind of union and commonwealth that grows today: the union of strike breakers.

Could you describe the sculpture itself a bit further? 

– The sculpture is a small version of a small cabin. And someone has thrown their child into the fire. There is a child in a piece of sweet bread, which relates to having broken the child with too much baked sweet bread, and that one has sacrificed the child for the child’s material success. Although breaking free from the bun and engaging in kissing its ass, the child is just a regular strikebreaking child. It’s simply a swine. But it’s also about what you raise your child to be: if one teaches the child to kiss ass, how should children relate to authority? What you meditate on and tell the child is essential.

My work is that it should represent an immemorial room in a way, with four walls, a ceiling and the floor. And where the carpet stands for the bourgeois home. I believe that the work will be in a sort of process of decay. It also alludes to neglect. Many great thinkers have thrown their children under the bus for their own advantage, as they are engaging in and creating the enormous and important cause/thing. The work is also about that conflict, the principal conflict between the small and the large “thing” cause.

I’m curious about the child who kisses ass. It’s often the opportunist who kisses ass. But when you portray the child as an ass kisser, you turn the idea of children as innocent, powerless units that are disburdened from the adult world or responsibility upside down. What the parents have to do to provide a good life for the child and themselves often ends with becoming an opportunist; you become a strike breaker. Children can be seen as something bad that makes us compromise our values and creates ass kissers and strike breakers. And children are also the only subjects that, over and over again, are excused.

– We do have an image of children as pure and unpolluted. And then the world destroys them. They are slowly broken down. But children do also play a part in the destruction [laughter]. It’s time that we demand justice from the children. They are neither good nor evil. That is something you remember from being a child yourself, that you were just a person in a tiny body, and that you were and are both evil and good at the same time.

I also think it’s interesting that there exists a sort of escapism in children that’s “evil”. In this reality that we live in, our children become a sort of comfort.

– That’s also how it is. By having children, I have started to believe in the future and think that there is a small world that we can salvage. You can’t be a cynic, and you cannot give a damn about it. You don’t do so much anyway about it since you have the child to care for. But there is something important in it, in the children. 

There are other aspects in your sculpture. How were you thinking about the work in relation to the room? What are your thoughts about the placement of the work in Augustrummet, and in front of Ruben Nilson’s painting?

– I see the work and the room as an archetypical space. I’m thinking of placing the lines in angle to eachother to construct a room. That the only thing that remains is the construction itself, only the original framework and the symbolic structure. But I also think about how you look into the room, that you don’t see that it does not have walls or ceiling. Apart from that, I’m not sure. These characters are in a room. They are not on a levelled surface out in the infinity; they are in a room.

I think that work is also much of a playhouse. A square playhouse where oneself can imagine and set up the boundaries for the game. In this cube real life is what happens inside of it, and what is going on on the outside is not the reality. It is about escapism; that here, inside the four walls of the home, something is happening that’s not happening out there, in society.


  1. Folkhemmet is a political concept that in the 30’s began to play an essential role in the Swedish welfare state, especially in the history of the Swedish Social Democratic Party. It refers to the time between the 30’s and the 70’s in Sweden. The folkhem vision was that society should be like a family in which everyone contributes and looks after one another. It sparked more and better housing development; despite its socialist foundation it also became divisive in its nationalist implications and control of the population.

Radio 65.22 is an auditory cross section of the biennial’s theme and contents, which amplifies and makes accessible written texts, framed situations and artistic voices. Radio 65.22 also enables an encounter with chosen parts of the Luleå Biennial’s activities for those who cannot experience the biennial in situ.

With Radio 65.22, we want to inscribe ourselves into an experimental and exploratory radio tradition, where the media itself becomes a platform for our ideas on radio and its capacity to depict and mirror the world around us. The task of Radio 65.22 is to tell of reality, in further ways that may not be possible through the image or the text.

Under Fragments: Time on Earth you will find radio programmes and sound pieces in different genres and forms that reflect this year’s biennial in various ways. Spirit of Place is a touring series of literary conversations on language and place. The culture journalist Kerstin Wixe takes us along to places that have played a significant part in an author’s stories, or carries the story’s history. Woven Songs is a deepening series of radio programmes that accentuate singing, the voice and the role of storytelling in the creation of new world views and orders, produced in collaboration with Public Art Agency Sweden.

Listen, reflect, enjoy!