Old wooden cabin by a lake.

Till Minnet av en Illusionist

The illusionist Arne Stenman spent his time on earth and his voyage through life unnoticed. His final magic trick: to evaporate like smoke. Till minnet av en illusionist (In Memory of an Illusionist) by Isak Sundström reveals obscure and wordless traces of magic in a disenchanted world.

About Till Minnet av en Illusionist

Textile, wood, poster

The book Modern Magic was published in 1876 by a man named Professor Hoffman who was also a practising illusionist. The book is a dissertation, which sets out to rationalise “magical thinking” and finally disprove its existence. Hoffman’s book was concurrent with a growing faith in science and the general rationalisation and modernisation of the world. It should be possible to explain everything. In that context, the role of the illusionist is to artificially awaken a deeply human desire, that is, to not understand; to believe in the impossible while knowing that it is just a trick — an illusion. Modern magic, then, is like a kind of phantom pain, a substitute, an emptiness and a beautiful deception in a world that is disenchanted, yet still cannot be understood.

Arne Stenman was also an illusionist. No one remembers him anymore—only small fragments of his life remain. Between 1952 and 63 he ran Nordisk Trolleri-Apparat Fabriken [the Nordic factory of wizardry appliances] in Nelkerim from deep inside the forest. He sold magic tricks via mail order and manufactured illusionistic devices. His house and factory were demolished when Vattenfall bought the land in 1964, and it was thought that the damming of the Lule River would flood the plot. It never did, and in a barn next to the foundation of the demolished house, still contains descriptions of his tricks and various props, slowly disintegrating, soon to be reclaimed by nature.

Arne Stenman was an illusionist who did not want to be seen, but walked the earth unnoticed. This was his greatest magic trick: to go up in smoke. The Latin word textus means both “text” and “textile”. Arne Stenman’s magic cape, fabrics and draperies become the text of his life. The textiles tell a wordless story, tangible, yet at the same time obscure, impossible to access.

About Isak Sundström

Isak Sundström (b. 1983, Gotland) is an artist and musician based in Stockholm.

Find the artwork

Luleå, Sverige