Aleksandra Stratimirovic’s forty-five-meter-long light artwork Light Line for Tyrolen in Tynnered, twenty kilometers south of central Gothenburg, runs the length of the red brick facade of Tynnered Middle School.
Visible from almost the entire neighborhood, it’s like a rainbow-colored beacon for the youth center Tyrolen, which is housed there. With a strong focus on cultural activities, 10- to 16-year-olds have a space to express themselves through dance, music, art, and poetry. The purpose is to actively support and enable the children’s right to self-expression through different art forms in order to build self-esteem and confidence. Color was important to the youths, as well as the artist who wanted to reflect the activities, creativity, and sense of community among the youths.
The artist’s work was preceded by a long process in which the different parties collaborating in the project tried to find common ground. It was clear from the beginning that the youths thought light was a central element, a material that Aleksandra Stratimirovic has a lot of experience working with as an artist. When she was brought into the project, she immediate used the youths’ analysis of the needs of the area as a springboard for her work. The choice of site fell on the recreation center’s completely unilluminated and thus unsafe entrance area. The municipality had written a very committed application to Art Is Happening about harnessing the youths’ commitment to issues of democracy and social equity. But the youths weren’t interested, since they felt that the municipality had let them down several times before. For many years they had worked to change things in their district—classed as “especially vulnerable”—raised awareness of the increasing drug trade, pointed out the faulty lighting, organized their own safety patrols and marked areas that need improvement. To top it all, the politicians had just decided to close down the school.
Over a series of workshops that the youths arranged and hosted, experiments were conducted—how different color and light effects can be created, what the different color temperatures are, the differences between natural and artificial light and its impact on color—that functioned as a guideline for the work. In parallel, things also started happening outside the artistic process. The municipal real-estate management company GöteborgsLokaler became increasingly involved and provided the youths with materials to both renovate their run-down premises superficially and fix up the courtyard. New furniture was acquired through sponsorship. The city contacted the youths, asking whether they were interested in directly participating in the impending development of safety measures and the construction of a park in the area within the framework of the project Trygg Vacker Stad, a municipal collaboration with the purpose of contributing to a safe and beautiful city through physical transformation in the cityscape. The youths wanted to take “their” artist along in the process. The City chose to concentrate its efforts and commissioned the artist to collaborate on the redesign of the 500-meter-long pedestrian walkway and cycle path between the youth center and the closest tram stop.
The method of linking the art project with the youths’ reality and their experiences of their home district created a topicality that strengthened both the art and the youths’ interest and commitment. It made it possible to explore formats, processes, and results in which youths initiate and run projects in shared spaces, not just for those who are already involved but for a larger group that is affected.
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Tynnered, Göteborg, Sverige