Johanna Gustafsson Fürsts artwork Kollektiva kroppen is a tall yet sheer monument of Mellanstaden in Karlskrona.
Thirty-six meters up in the air over the roofs of Kungsmarken you can see the word HÄR (HERE) illuminated. It is visible from far away, not least from the entrance to the world heritage city Karlskrona. Facing the other direction, southwards, hovers a map of Mellanstaden with Kungsmarken’s, Gullaberg’s and Marieberg’s residential areas seen from above. The work Kollektiva kroppen is a tall yet sheer monument of Mellanstaden. HÄR is here. After spending a lot of time there and working closely with local associations and inhabitants, the artist Johanna Gustafsson Fürst created a site-specific work that manages to be both monumental and vulnerable. Kollektiva kroppen creates an entrance to the residential area Kungsmarken, a hint of a central square, as well as a signal to the world around it. In a larger perspective the work has had an impact on the area by demonstrating the lack of common public spaces and by supporting local attempts at having them created.
Johanna Gustafsson Fürst’s work in Kungsmarken/Mellanstaden has led to both structural and visual changes in the residential areas’ public spaces. Local knowledge of the place was decisive to the process, which is symbolically summarized in the light installation Kollektiva kroppen. The starting point for the artist’s work was a submission from Mellanstaden’s newly established association within Folkets Hus och Parker, a countrywide Swedish community center and park association. It had been given access to a derelict boiler room that they wanted to turn into a cultural center. They wanted to establish a public place next to the new premises in collaboration with an artist.
The artist worked on site for two years, during which she lived in the area for certain periods of time in order to better understand the context and get to know the place. Her work took the form of two parallel processes: firstly, her own concrete drafting of a site-specific work, and secondly, a supportive process that looked at existing public spaces in Kungsmarken, and the need for new ones.
The project has led to both structural and aesthetic proposals aiming to invigorate Kungsmarken’s common spaces. The physical artwork Kollektiva kroppen does this on a symbolic level while the structural work has found other forms of expression: besides a direct engagement in supporting the work of the new community center such as by helping with funding applications to enable the renovation of the premises, the artist has run a number of workshops and discussions of pressing local issues. Lowering the speed limit on the street outside the premises is one such example. After frequent suggestions from the group, the municipality installed a temporary speed bump in connection with a local festival that the artist, amongst others, organized together with schools in the area. When the speed limit was lowered, it became possible to use the space in front of the premises as a public square. Ahead of the installation of the artwork Kollektiva kroppen, the speed bump has been made permanent.
The work took place in close collaboration with a group of people who live and work in the area, whom Johanna Gustafsson Fürst brought together early on in the process. Everyone who participated in the project came with their own specific interests and knowledge. Like in several of the Art Is Happening projects, all the participants have been paid, which is something that is very important to the artist.
The shape that this collaboration took has also been decisive: who participated, how the groups were formed, and how it was a learning process for all involved—the Public Art Agency and the artist included—have been central throughout the entire project. This is what puts the collective in the collective body.
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