Some assembly required – hard hat diving

Artist: michael johansson Tags: Permanent art

The first diver in history was, according to Herodotus, the Greek sculptor Scyllis, pupil of the legendary Daedalus, and maker of bronze and wood statues in the art metropolis of Sicyon around 500 BC. Scyllis was captured during an attack by the fleet of the Persian king Xerxes, but managed to flee overboard and was thought to be drowned. Using a rush as a snorkel, and armed with a knife, he was able to cut the Persian ships’ moorings. Legend has it that he then swam 15 kilo­ metres the same night to warn the com­mander of the Greek fleet. This Greek superhero combines the artist, inventor, warrior and athlete in one person, and outsmarts a whole army.


Michael Johansson’s archaic diver’s equipment, mounted as a plastic model kit in scale 1: 1, paraphrases the industrial, cultural and social production processes that construct our artefacts, myths and heroes – all you need to do is snap them off and combine them with existing sys­tems. Under the plasticky yellow surface is tradition-Jaden bronze. In the military setting of Lindholmen, this model kit be­ comes a paraphrase of the typical equest­rian statue. The commander gazing towards the frontier is transformed into a potential for every viewer to mentally combine him- or herself with the attributes, and to position themselves below the surface.

The activities at the diving school, the core of the Swedish Armed Forces Naval Base, are both high-tech and traditional, safety-oriented and adventurous. We are amphibian creatures, albeit rather ill­ equipped for pressure changes and lack of oxygen. When we want to transcend our physical limitations, we need equip­ment and mental preparations, extending the capacity of our fragile bodies. The protective suit is a softening interface between man and environment, between the vulnerable body and the tough ordeal. Faced with the actual futility of the sculp­ture, we can cut the moorings to all contradictions in our lives, let the ship of para­ dox sail off aimlessly, and practise free ascent to the body surface from the depths of mind.

Malin Zimm