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Juvelen - A Hauntology of Cultural Politics

Juvelen is a transmedial investigation of Kulturhuset Stockholm as an arena for Swedish public sphere in the period 1968-2018. By tracing how the radical original visions of a People's Palace of the 60s gradually get integrated with contemporary neoliberal logics, the project makes a journey through a half century of changes of Swedish politics and collective imaginary

The work will produce two autonomous but linked formats: A book with a content that is re-negotiated in a performative exhibition concept. The material will operate simultaneously as archive and script, where an ambitious documentary research material is fusioned with forms and genres of popular culture. A mix of research and fiction, with a genre logic based on greek tragedy. The result is an imaginative format for production, accumulation and mediation of art and discourse in a public context.

The thematic core of the project is the cultural institution as stage for the transition between two political paradigms, where the post war consensus of education and co-determination is transformed into the free choice and new public management of our time.

The central perspective appears in reading the documentary material through the structure and dramaturgy of greek tragedy: The story of how a collective trauma, the historical conflict that guides today's Swedish public sphere, is concentrated and consummated as an individual destiny. The greek tragedy is the genre of transformation and crisis, it positions us in the conflict between the laws and hegemonies of two systems.

If Kulturhuset defines the thematical frame of the project, the fifteen year reign of Benny Fredriksson's leadership is its individual and chronological burning-point. When Fredriksson comes to power in 2002 it is with a combination of competences, networks and personal background that makes him uniquely suited to accomodate an ideological transition: from the visions that created the utopic ideas of Kulturhuset in the 60s, to the neoliberal economy ruling cultural politics during his leadership. In that perspective, he is the perfect tragic hero: the leader that we think holds the solution to our problem, but who is actually hosting the problem within his own person.

Kulturhuset is a charged symbol already when it opens half a century ago. The original plans are defined when the welfare project is at its strongest. But already as the building is finalised in the early 70s the transformation of the post war economy, the engine behind the politics of welfare and emancipation that was at the heart of the vision embodied in its architecture, has been born. And when the City Theatre moves in 1990, the neoliberal revolution of the 80s has hit with full force and the deregulation and privatisation of the Swedish economy has picked up considerable speed.

In this perspective, the destiny of Benny Fredriksson is that he is so incredibly skilled at implementing an economic cultural policy that - like all neoliberal economy - looks amazing in theory but does not work in practice. It is an economy that is intrinsically parasitic, since its recipe is capitalizatin of existing assets without making new investments. Therefore the internal conflicts and wounds of the City Theatre grow as the outer success seemingly increases.

Around the merging of Kulturhuset and the City Theatre 2013 a hauntology arises. The rethorics of a peoples palace, open and accessible for all, still live as an echo from the 60s vision of emancipatory participation. But now it is put to work in a model that is a neoliberal instrument, where all parts of the organisation are flexible and exchangeable in order to respond to measurable movements in the behaviour of its customers. The co-determination of citizens has been recasted into the free choice of consumers, and the nave of a unifying vision has been replaced by cost-effecient power concentration around an individual leader.

The logic of Juvelen can be understood as a hybrid of archive art and poetic theatre machine. Theater as transmedial music box, mobile sculpture and hypertextual sampler, where the voices of different media - film, recorded text, animations, projected text and images - are orchestrated in a polymetric system that successively recomposes and re-negotiates the components of its material.