The untenable relationship between the 21st century lifestyle and our planet has long been the object of Oskar Aglert’s art. In a series of 3D-animated video works and stills, he has created evocative scenarios with a kinship to apocalyptic science fiction. The prevailing Western social norm – maximisation of short-term profits and growth – is portrayed by Aglert in models of speculative machines for exploiting the earth’s natural resources beyond the limits of the absurd. As if that boundary had not already been transgressed long ago.
Kiruna is an interesting case in point. The town appears to be an illustration of the global conflict between growth and sustainability. To avoid ruin for strictly financial reasons, the iron ore production must absolutely be maintained, although this will absolutely lead to the physical collapse of nature. Before the impending disaster, however, every ounce of creativity and initiative is invested in maintaining production as usual, rather than in attempts to alter the conditions themselves.
Aglert’s sculpture Totem is best described as a monument to the prevailing situation, and stands on a hill near the new railway. It consists of two parts connected like a Janus face; intimately linked but turned away from each other. One side represents a naturalistic mountain, and the other a form of imaginary industrial creation in the characteristic yellow of machinery. If we look at the “machine part”, nature appears like a backdrop, while the town of Kiruna similarly provides a backdrop if we stand facing the “nature part”. At night, the sculpture illuminates itself, like a beacon or a foreboding spectre.
The sculpture reminds us of, and implores us to consider the serious predicament we are in. Exactly how it should be interpreted is an open issue. Does it symbolise doom and repulsion, an impossible union? Or is it a vision of harmony and survival, like a magic totem for worshiping the future? If so, it is probably well-needed.