The Fotografiska Museum is on the banks of one of the many rivers that divides Stockholm. A long building, likely a warehouse in the past, of dark brick with a bronze fruit outside. The exhibits are over two floors with the top floor being a bar, and the museum, unlike many, stays open until 1am, primarily supported by the restaurant and bar.
The Last Testament: Jonas Bendiksen
A series of photographic essays, Jonas Bendiksen has been out to meet and interview the seven men who have declared themselves the second coming of Christ. He asks how we can call them and their followers eccentric when we do not do the same to those who go to other churches. He himself is not a believer and simple sought to document, but as he calls out, neither was Saul.
INRE is based in South America, with a primarily female group of disciples. When questioned on this he points out when he died on the Cross it was only the women who remained faithful to him, his male disciples ran or betrayed him. Another calling himself Jesus in Zambia preaches, at much risk to himself with a small group of followers, and when he and Jonas were chased out of a town was heard to remark 'forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.' Britain has our own reincarnation of Christ, a former MI5 agent who leaked sensitive documents and now preaches as both David Shayler and Delores Kane as the divinity is neither male nor female. In Japan and political hopeful and reincarnation of Jesus seeks political office, which will lead to being leader of Japan, and then he will be asked to be Secretary General of the United Nations allowing him to facilitate the end of the world. (the destiny of the resurrected Christ). In Africa a flamboyant Jesus in a gold embellished baseball cap has left his previous wife and waits for God to provide his final wife, who will allow the machine he is, created by the Lord, to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus. In Siberia, a community of 5,000 has been build around the teachings of Vissarion and perhaps 50,000 follow him globally.
From the 50,000 followers of Vissarion in Russia to the more modest, they all have disciples who believe with all their heart that these men are the second coming of Christ, the fulfilment of two thousand years of prophesy and the hope and light of the world. A more sinister underlying believe is the end times are with us and within their lifetime will be the Anti-Christ, the Rapture and the end of things.
The exhibit asks the audience to think about faith, and to challenge their expectations, their assumptions and at the very least ask why these people who have dedicated their lives to a living Messiah are judged to be less stable by the world than those who dedicate their life to a dead one.
A lighter tone, INRE and his disciples, in an outreach effort to Millennials and Zoomers (no one bothers to reach out to my generation of cynical GenXers of course) have created the Mystical Versions, YouTube alternative versions of pop songs replacing the lyrics with talk of INRI. My personal favourite is Katy Perry's Hot & Cold, as it forms a nice circle to her parents drive for her to be a Christian singer as a child.
Wonderland: Kirsty Mitchell
Kirsty Michell put me off almost immediately when she described herself as 'not just a photographer, with the amount of work I put in before the shot I am an artist' it was a dismissive comment to the artistry of photography.
However, that said, I was deeply impressed with her work, blending her imagination with storybook themes and parallels to fantasy, in particular Lewis Carol, she has created a linked narrative of an alternative world, called Wonderland. With her model and make-up artist, over five years, her patience was incredible, waiting a full year for the blooming of flowers and for the light to be right for a few images.
The images are haunting, but beautiful. For me, they evoke the Fae, both the Seely and Unseely. The benefited greatly from the large prints dominating whole walls.
A series of photos, all chosen from within living memory outlining how Stockholm has changed. On top of that, as many are from private collections they offer a glimpse into the hidden personalities of the city.
Inflated Fiction: Arvida Byström
"I have the voice of a cis-woman' Siri tells us as we walk into the repainted Black Box. Arvida, an Artist known for her Instagram works and her book of pictures banned by the services, we are asked to explore the images of sexuality and consider the question of the impact of the female presenting voice in our service tools. What is the result of how we present services like Siri and Alexa as women, who never talk back, assert themselves and respond to even the most aggressive and obscene comments with a affable redirection. What does it say about us that we have to be asked what this means?
Smile - and the rest will follow: Jörgen Hildebrandt
This was a difficult exhibit for me. Documenting the impact of the charity Operation Smile, it shows a series of images, before and after and tells the stories of those born with Cleft lip and pallets in low income countries. Some are children treated early, and others are adults who have lived with the deformity for most of their lives.
Superstitions abound in these communities as to the cause, being under the full moon without a red bow to protect the baby, riding a motorcycle, or being cursed.
Some are happy stories, a family without the fund's baby is healed by the work of Operation Smile, a small girl looks at herself in the mirror in a pink dress saying she is so pretty now. A man goes to the store and says he no longer feels the eyes of others watching him go.
Some are not. A woman lives in slavery to her mother for her whole life, with no money cleaning and cooking, who snuck out for the operation and who's mother now fears she may find a husband and live her own life. Families who refuse to eat with a child, who must eat alone in her room because of her clef lip and how it looked.
All these lives are dark mirrors of my own. Born in the west, to well off parents, I had my first corrective operation before I can remember and had a speech therapist and a series of orthodontists correcting my misaligned teeth. I was conscious of my difference, more so than anyone looking at me. Seeing my cousins, i realise, as I sometimes do, how fortunate I have been and how much I own to my parents.
Good art is personal and makes us look at ourselves in a new way.