In the program series Revisit, we immerse ourselves in previous years’ exhibitions and in the oeuvres represented by the permanent collection. Revisit 1987 – 30 Years of Art at Wanås is an exhibition about an exhibition. By focusing on the very first year and the artists who participated then, we aim to examine the genesis and development of a sculpture park. Today, Museum Studies is a recognized academic subject, and since the 2000s there have been Swedish university programs focusing on methods and approaches for exhibition practices and curatorial studies. This impacts the current art scene and today’s working methods. To curate comes from the Latin word cura, meaning consideration, custody, and care. Boris Groys, philosopher and art critic, claims that the creation of an exhibition is a method of preservation that gives artworks the context and visibility they need in order to be made accessible for the audience and the general public.
Marika Wachtmeister created the first exhibition at Wanås and founded the Wanås Foundation, which has run the organization since 1995. Marika had no background in exhibition practices, but she wanted to create a context in order to present and make contemporary art accessible in a rural area. She sought a moment of surprise, something for the visitors to the park to meet and think about. She invited 25 artists, most of whom were based in Sweden but also some coming from abroad, who together exhibited 36 artworks. Most of the artists exhibited existing artworks on the lawn around the pond, with some exceptions located in the park’s more untouched nature. Some created their artworks on site using their experience of place as a starting point, and these became so-called “site-specific” artworks.
We can see that some of the seeds that were sown in 1987 have developed over the past 30 years and have continued to be relevant within the activities that Wanås Konst pursues today—the vision of making art accessible, the belief in focusing on the artist, a working method with a strong relationship to the site, and an international perspective. By returning to the first exhibition in Revisit 1987 – 30 Years of Art at Wanås, we gain insight into what the art world was like 30 years ago, and immerse ourselves in the exhibition. The material consists of sketches and models, archived material, stories from some of the artists who participated in 1987, photographs, publications, and a model of Wanås by Martin Svansjö that allows us to examine in detail where the artworks were placed.
One of the site-specific artworks that was created for the exhibition in 1987 has been recreated in full scale this year and also relates to this year’s exhibition theme, sculpture in motion. In the artwork Miljöaktiverare [Environmental Activator], Eric Lennarth places 13 beams of lightweight concrete at regular intervals over a total of more than 100 metres. The placement is the same today as it was in 1987, and even if it has been replenished, the path is most likely the result of how the landscape has been formed over centuries. Lennarth marks the bend in the path and activates the environment.
Even though almost eight decades have passed since Eric Lennarth studied landscape and still-life painting, he emphasizes that he is still partially rooted in that tradition, even if he found his own individual approach early on. Lennarth replaced the reproductions of vistas with minimalist painting and sculpture using found objects and mass-produced items, so-called objets trouvés or ready-mades. His methods are functional and rational; he begins with foundational aesthetics and measurements. The artworks have clear titles that provide obvious associations and directions. Black and white are base colours, and certain elements are activated with the selective use of red and green. Space, environment, and landscape are central to his oeuvre, but instead of depicting the landscape, he works actively within it and creates compositions that are in dialogue with the site. “I want to create amendments in the environment that can partially be seen as contrasting elements,” he comments. Miljöaktiverare [Environmental Activator] is an example of the stripped-down simplicity that is characteristic of his entire oeuvre. –Filippa Forsberg