Truth or Dare


Earlier this year I had the distinct pleasure of hosting yet another one of Axhoundation’s intensely well-curated interdisciplinary seminars. This year’s theme Sanning och Konsekvens – which in Swedish means both “Truth and Consequence” and “Truth or Dare” – covered topics ranging from Fake News to No-Till Farming. UR televised the whole thing, which you can see on Kunskapskanalen today 15-18, on Sunday Dec 10th at 9-12, and thereafter on UR Play.

Among the speakers: Paul Rapacioli of TheLocalJeppe Wikström of Last Night in Sweden, Maureen Hoppers from ÖppnaDörren, Jan Helin from SVTÅsa Wikforss and Gustav Nilsonne from Stockholm University, Maria Wolrath Söderberg from Södertörns Högskola, Ola Rosling from Gapminder, Alexandra Silfverstolpe Tolstoy from Data Act LabMorten Kjærum from Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Ebba Åkerman and Lina Makso from Invitationsdepartementet, Jabou Foon from Sisters in businessDavid R. Montgomery from University of Washington, Anna Westerbergh from SLUWilliam Håkansson from Vultus, the marvelous Angela Oguntala of Greyspace and yours truly (although I as the moderator have probably been mostly edited out).

(image by Lisa Pelling)

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The Overview Effect

Photo: Johan Wirfält

Hundreds of people showed up at Kulturhuset in Stockholm on a Thursday afternoon to hear a conversation between the distinguished Carl Folke (of the Stockholm Resilience Center, the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, etc) and myself; towards the end we were also joined by music professor Anna Lindal. Our topic was the Overview Effect, the well-documented phenomenon where a – literally – new perspective gives astronauts a cognitive shift involving great clarity about the fragility of the Earth. Since we clearly cannot put everyone in space to experience this shift, we have to find other ways to give humans the Overview, and that was the topic under discussion.

The conversation was followed by a concert with the amazing Fire! Orchestra, who performed new music to video projections on the Earth from space. This was all a pretty mind-blowing experience.

We were also scheduled to converse on a live link with an astronaut at the ISS, but his day changed and it was cancelled late. Of course I was rather disappointed – but the whole session turned out to be so powerful that I think, in the end, it was no great disaster.

The event was a part of The Stockholm Act, in collaboration with the Swedish National Space Board, Rymdstyrelsen.

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The Future with Dmitry Gluchovsky


On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of discussing Dmitry Gluchovsky’s writing and especially his new novel with the author himself at the Kulturhuset culture house in Stockholm. It turned out to be a really interesting conversation about ideas of East and West, lies and truth. If Metro 2033 was about Russia at the end of the cold war, the third novel in that series, Metro 2035 – out in English this week – is about Russia today, and is about Europe today. (Since the Russian original is actually four years old, you could even argue that it’s eerily prescient on some issues). In, Gluchovsky does that thing again he does so well, creating a high concept scifi page-turner engaging with enormous ideas around immortality, parenthood, society and the meaning of life. You should read it. And I’m thinking, if you’re from the so-called West, perhaps you should read it with Metro 3035, because it is actually super helpful at a moment of political upheaval to have the viewpoint of someone friendly from outside of your own context who has very few illusions about political honesty.

The conversation was recorded and I think the Kulturhuset International Writers’ Stage will publish it in their pod series eventually; I’ll try to link to it when they do.

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The Chicken Trial Goes to Edinburgh

Fun news! The workshop version of my play The Chicken Trial, originally produced by Viirus in december at the Text festival, is going to Edinburgh! It’ll be performed in English by local actors, but the director is the same – the most excellent Fredrik Lundqvist.

An extra fun thing is that The Times picked the play for a list of reasons to go! They’re working from the blurb, as far as I know, but I’m still very happy!

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This is very Sweden specific: for the last few months, I’ve listened religiously to the masterful podcast Lundellbunkern, by my ingenious colleague Tommie Jönsson with Johannes Klenell and Maja Åström. And, in today’s episode, me! I speak AT GREAT LENGTH about Ulf Lundell, pop culture criticism, Carola Häggkvist, and loneliness. Find it here.

Also, if you’re in Stockholm, you should go to Södra Teatern tomorrow, Wednesday March 2nd, for the taping of the final episode. Annika Lantz will be hosting. Find it here – it’s free!

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Report on the Future of Film and TV, Hot Off the Presses


The 2016 Nostradamus report on the near future of the film and TV industries was released last week at the Nordic Film Market of the Göteborg International Film Festival. Read more about the Nostradamus Project here.

The report was covered in Variety and Screen Daily. I visited Roger Wilson in P1 Kultur to talk about the future of TV and film (in Swedish).

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Say It! Say It!

I don’t do a lot of pop culture commentary anymore, but when Susanne Ljung asked whether I cared for Rocky Horror Picture Show, I had to admit I do…

The full 55 minutes is worth a listen – find it here! (Swedish). Below is a pic of me in around 1997 just before visiting either the touring Rocky Horror Show or a RHPS screening in Helsinki. (Picture probably taken by Jaakko Stenros).


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Save the Date!


Svenska Serieakademin will celebrate its 50th birthday on October 17th in Stockholm. Jean-Claude Mézières is coming – and, most likely, a slew of other Adamson award winners. Save the Date!

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Art Picture Book About Creating Art

Jenny Granlund draws Esther Shalev-GertzOne lovely thing I’ve had the pleasure to work on this year is a picture book with the very talented fine artist Jenny Granlund. It’s the fifth in a series published by the sculpture park and private art museum Wanås Konst here in Skåne. They select artists that they love but who work mostly on paper and are therefore unsuitable for the monumental outdoor works that Wanås excels in, matches them to a writer who has not written a children’s book before, and commissions a picture book. This year I was that writer.

(There are some interviews with us in Norra Skåne and [paywall] Kristianstadbladet).

Jenny and I are in great company – for me personally, of course, following writers like Astrid Trotzig and Martina Lowden is the most exciting. Ours is the fist non-fiction book in the series. Although to be honest, I was so focused on storytelling and the sound and voice that I didn’t realise this fact until we were almost done.Jenny Granlund draws Anne Thulin

That’s probably good. If I’d had the pressure of “Writing A Book Filled With Truth” it might have become much less poetic.

Our book is called Jag vill bygga (I’d like to build) and describes the making of five artworks at Wanås. In real life, when you walk around the park, the artworks seem magical, like they just materialised out of thin air. In the book, we try to make the process of making art less mystical, without compromising on the wonderment the end result engenders.

Also, there’s a map. All books involving magical places start with a map.

Our book is about works by Maya Lin, Jan Svennungson, Esther Shalev-Gertz, Martin Puryear and Anne Thulin. Each of the five artists arrives with a vision – an idea of what they’d like to build. Once they’re able to explain it, they collaborate with all kinds of craftsmen, experts and even cows to make their vision come true. Each work is also shown in its final state, when they’ve achieved that quality of an independently existing miracle.

I don’t think learning about how artworks are made lessens that magic at all. But I do hope finding out can lower the threshold to dreaming about art a little. Both by demonstrating that fine art is created in a wider context of craftsmanship, and placing the singular genius in a wider context of skilled humans working with other skilled humans.

When I was a kid, and actually this is still true, I felt I couldn’t be an artist because artists are a special kind of human who have an enormous talent somehow granted to them, as well as a single-minded commitment to their vision, and really good draftsmanship. I could never identify a fount of genius inside me and also I could never draw as well as my father, who is a graphic designer. (Duh. He was also a grownup. I was a wee bit Type A). Anyway, it was CLEAR that visual art could not be for me.

Jenny Granlund draws Maya LinEven with things I was eventually good at and serious about, like singing and writing, I always felt that obviously I could never be a real artist. I had nothing to SAY. Nor did I have divine inspiration. I only had ordinary inspiration, and ordinary experiences, and ordinary passions, and ordinary curiosity, and some technical ability in these fields.

Perhaps I was a really insightful child and completely correct in my self-evaluation. I did grow up to be a critic. Maybe I was a criticism child prodigy!

But maybe not. Maybe I’d been duped by the Romantic Ideal of the lone genius and art-as-suffering and all that stuff – as communicated through heroic children’s books about Artists And Other Geniuses – into censoring myself and dreaming smaller dreams and apologising a lot for creating stuff that did not equal the work of grownup professionals.

So this book is about that, a little bit. Maybe it gets to one kid, maybe even a few, before all that programming sets in, and tells them that they can dream as big as they want and that they don’t in fact have to know how to make all of it happen, yet. Other people can help them.

A lot of the inspiration for this stuff, which I’m realising only now is also deeply personal, comes from the kids’ activities at Wanås itself. Situated in North-Eastern Skåne, a very underprivileged part of Sweden, the museum has over 5000 kids a year, mostly local, engaging with contemporary art of the highest standards in its schools programmes. If you’re a kid, this is one of the most welcoming places you can go, because it does the most wonderful thing in the world: it refuses to pander to you or treat you like an idiot just because you are little.

But if you can read this, you’re probably a grownup, and should visit Wanås for yourself. Or for, you know, Marina Abramovic, Yoko Ono, Antony Gormely…

The works in the park can be viewed all year, but in the “summer” season ending November 1st there is also an annual exhibition. This year’s theme is Barriers – Contemporary South Africa. Don’t miss the video triptych by Kudzanai Chiurai screened upstairs in the gallery (there’s a separate entrance on the back of the building) as is in itself worth the trip. To the museum. Possibly even to Sweden. Definitely to Sweden if you’re in Copenhagen.

If you go, you will also be able to see a small exhibition of Jenny’s drawings related to the imagery of the book.

Kudzanai Chiurai, Moyo, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery Cape Town & Johannesburg.

Kudzanai Chiurai, Moyo, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery Cape Town & Johannesburg.

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Brideshead Revisited, Revisited In Translation


There’s a new Swedish translation of Brideshead Revisited out. It has the charming full title Åter till Brideshead. En förlorad värld. Kapten Charles Ryders andliga och världsliga minnen.

I wrote an afterword!

bridesheadYou can read thoughtful essays by critics, inspired by this new edition here:

Johan Norberg in Expressen.

Carl-Johan Malmberg in Svenska Dagbladet.

An old article of mine, a propos the 2008 film version, is here. (All Swedish).

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