Otesha goes to Malmo – and learns about art & culture

15th January 2009 by

One sunny morning in mid-September, we packed up ourselves, the flowery palais (aka our tent) and a hula hoop, and bundled ourselves onto a train from London to Malmo, Sweden to learn stuff at the European Social Forum.  Note from Liz: Jo can write whatever she wants here. Maybe something about the cultural stuff? Or whatever else, really.

As it says above, I can write whatever I want here. ANYTHING at all, and it will be published wide on the wordly web for all to see. Oh, the power. Fortunately for you I have no great agenda, so I’ll just tell you what we saw.

Liz and Hanna spent their first day in Sweden absorbing some Nordic Cafe culture, and discovered wireless and a very posh cafe. So over the week, it was there that we took our unwashed selves to sit in brocade chairs, drink earl grey tea (with real leaves), admire the cross stich artwork (I can replicate an embroidered Mona Lisa for the highest bidder) and wonder at a grandfather clock with a video of a man wearing an 18th century wig embedded inside it.

Meanwhile, back to the first day of our trip. I was playing on Holma Farm, watching a cheese-making demonstration, mulching quince bushes and discovering the joys of forest gardens. I also discovered, to my dismay, that to coincide with the European Social Forum, there was also a European Cultural Festival with another whole booklet full of films, talks and exhibitions. ‘How will we ever manage to see everything?’ I cried, and went for a lie down in the tent. But soldier on I did, and see a fair amount of it we did too.

Prescription Arts were there, a UK group who run art workshops and exhibit work by artists with and without mental health issues. They also hold Mad Picnics for a Mad World. We don’t know exactly what it entails, but it sounds like a good thing. At their workshop they talked about the problems with cognitive behavioural therapy. The problem being that CBT assumes that somethings gone awry with your connection to the world, so you should be fixed up so you can get back on with interacting with the world in the ‘normal’ manner. There’s no space there for the premise that there’s something wrong with the state of the world and that, rather than you, is what needs fixing.

And the story of the chair (there’s me sitting in the chair, up in the corner). Georgie and I had an excellent time sitting in the chair together, spinning around looking at the wallpaper of woods that surrounds it. Then we got told off, only one person in the chair at a time apparently. I really liked the chair until I found out what it was all about. Basically it’s a very expensive egg chair in an alcove, papered in images of lovely lush woods, with a couple of speakers playing some sort of ambient drivel. It’s all very nice until the telling-off lady finishes telling you off and starts telling you instead that the chair-woods-ambient-drivel set-up is for the busy office worker who just can’t find the time in their busy chair swivelling schedule to get out of the office and see anything that’s actually a bit green and, you know, alive. Instead they can sit in a different chair and swivel to the drivel. So, can design save the world? Not if it’s going to try and get people to put nature substitutes in their offices it can’t.

We saw some terrible art and some quite interesting stuff, but it was a good mix, and isn’t diversity the key? The best bit about the galleries though, were the old settees dotted about the place and the odd pack of biscuits lying around. That is what every gallery needs.

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