FA+ artists Ingrid Falk and Gustavo Aguerre painted citations from the
turn-of- the century Swedish novelist August Strindberg along Drottninggatan in Central
Stockholm during the first Strindberg Festival which was held in 1994. The artists wanted
to represent Strindberg through his own work. Drottninggatan was a street that he often
walked and where his residence was also situated. In addition, it is also one of the
busiest shopping districts in Stockholm.
Schools, libraries, literary groups and academics suggested
Strindberg quotations from which the artists made a selection. With the assistance of
members from the Strindberg Foundation and the Friends of Open Air Theatre, 11000 letters
from computer stencils were cut out by hand. Eighty-three citations were painted along a
1200 meter long stretch of pavement. Exposed to the elements, the painted text slowly
eroded, but a public desire to see the text again on the streets of Stockholm in a
permanent form remained.
in Stainless Steel
When the decision to make a portion of
Drottninggatan a pedestrianised area was finalised, the citations were made permanent.
During the 1998 Culture Capital Year an 800
metre-long stretch of Strindberg citations was installed in the pavement along
Drottninggatan. The actual citations are cast in stainless steel and have been installed
in the asphalt.
The project was commissioned by the Stockholm
Art Board, The city of Stockholm's Street and Building Authority and was completed with
support from the Danielii Donation Fund and Stockholm European Culture Capital 1998 Fund.
Discrete monumentalism, is one of the characteristics in this permanent work located on Drottninggatan in Stockholm which synthesises and in a magnificent way includes many of the premises that FA+ work with.
The work, which is “merely” comprised of an 800 metre long line of letters cut out in stainless steel and set in asphalt, has finally changed the choreography of the street. With this simple and elegant conceptual act, FA+ summarise and go beyond what many artists, politicians, ideologues, and cultural personalities have discussed for years; to present “high culture” at street level without making any exceptions in form or substance. FA+ did this “literally” by taking 33 texts from the author Strindberg’s different works and casting them directly into asphalt.
The work is the street and the street is the work. Both of these elements speak the same language. The line of letters visually replaces and rebuilds the broken white line which normally marks the middle of the street and divides the street into two traffic lines (the street is now a pedestrian’s area). The materials, asphalt and steel belong to the milieu in a natural way. The use of typography for the letters is totally free from decoration to obtain maximal ease in reading, and it is the same type of font used for public information boards. The line starts by Strindberg’s last residence (now a museum) and continues along the same stretch of road that he daily used to walk. It is possible that the work passes by places where a few of these citations were composed. The line of citations offers a fresh alternative to the unavoidable pollution of reading material about bargains, sales and advertisements from the shops along the street.
The citations are taken from texts by Strindberg, the most important of the Swedish classicists, discussed as an author, dramaturge, and polemicist who even today can be the subject of heated debates. Pedestrians are confronted without any prior introduction, with a selection of known and obscure pieces of his literary works: poetic, philosophical, political, provocatively chosen to arouse thought, and which together give a poignant picture of the author Strindberg’s manner of thought; its complexity and its contradictions; a permanently open book where people travel through the texts or can walk beside, walk on top of them, read them and which will continue to be a permanent introduction to the author for the coming generations of readers.
Young people see the texts as hi-tech graffiti and jealously wonder how one can write such things on the pavement without getting into trouble?
Feminists have had graphic demonstrations in response to Strindberg’s view of women. Conservative politicians have demanded that certain of the texts be removed. The larger portion of society has enjoyed walking with their heads bent reading the texts and has commented on the peculiar flavour the texts bring to this peculiar street. This street has become an obligatory stop for all tourists to the Swedish capital, which has meant that new bars, restaurants and cafes are popping up in the area. Strindberg is certainly revelling in this from his grave and FA+ is pleased in their studio, which is located near the middle of this street.
Strindberg’s citations are the first step in one of Falk and Aguerre’s long term projects: to create the world’s library on the streets, where each city presents its authors directly on the pavement and in their own words. This project has started in Stockholm with Strindberg and can continue with Borges in Buenos Aires, Joyce in Dublin, Ginsberg in New York, Mishima in Tokyo... until poetry is accessible around the planet.