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Die for You/Take root, 2023

Die for You is one of Charlotte Gyllenhammar’s earliest artworks – an upside-down oak tree that embodies the vulnerability of even the most powerful of trees. A new version of the artwork, Die for You/Take root, 2023, is presented during the autumn of 2023.

A method of changing perspectives

The oak tree temporarily hung over Drottninggatan at Sergels torg in Stockholm in the autumn of 1993. It is the starting point for Gyllenhammar’s method of changing perspectives to examine the conditions of human existence and the artistic creative process. The contrast between the mighty oak and the modern concrete city recalls the insensitive handling of these neighborhoods in the 1960s, a devastation that, unlike the devastation of many of Europe’s cities a few years earlier, was not caused by a war.

Die for You was part of the exhibition “Rules of the Game,” an artist initiative that playfully allowed art to temporarily meet the audience in the middle of the city. The exhibition became a starting point for a new era for public art in Sweden. Now, thirty years later, a new version is installed in the same place.

How do we read the artwork today?

Just like the last time, the oak comes from private land where the number of trees have to be reduced so that the those that remain can take the resources they need to grow healthy. The oak will be reused in a dignified way after the end of the project. In this way, the oak – just like trees in the forest – will give new life far beyond its own.

Much has happened on Drottninggatan since 1993. The terrorist attack in 2017 has created wounds and new painful memories. Had the work been installed today, it would have become a point of reference in a new landscape. In what ways can we read this art work now?