Born 1976 in Kristinehamn, Sweden Lives and works in Älvkarhed, Sweden and Berlin, Germany
Swedish artist Bo Christian Larsson’s wide-ranging practice incorporates a variety of media, including video, drawing, sculpture, painting, installation and performance, which he uses interchangeably and often simultaneously. Interested in symbols, social conventions and rituals, and how we rely on them to make sense of the world around us, Larsson frequently distorts found and everyday objects – from suitcases and feathers, to books and clocks – to create alternative, often ambiguous, associations that challenge our human desire for order, identification and understanding.
A site-specific workshop and installation in historic Camperdown Cemetery in Newtown, Larsson’s Fade Away, Fade Away, Fade Away, 2016, unfolds and grows throughout the course of the Biennale. Given his interest in social rituals, symbols, history and narratives, the location is an ideal one for Larsson. Working among the cemetery’s gravestones and monuments, Larsson explores a number of social and historical phenomena; the gravestone as a symbol of life and death; collective versus individual narratives; globalisation; and the gendered nature of work and history.
Camperdown Cemetery, founded in 1848, was for several decades Sydney’s main general cemetery. By the time it closed in 1942, nearly 18,000 people had been buried here, including Surveyor-General of NSW Sir Thomas Mitchell and one-time harpist to Napoleon, Nicolas-Charles Bochsa. These eminent men rest alongside countless ordinary Sydneysiders whose lives and stories are largely unknown. Today, around 2000 tombstones remain, and it is these memorials that inform the sculptural shape of Fade Away, Fade Away, Fade Away.
Larsson has established a workshop, or ‘field hospital’, within a shipping container in the grounds of the cemetery, where three local seamstresses are at work making elaborate white covers for the gravestones. These drapes, or dressings, will render the monuments as anonymous monolithic shapes, devoid of gender, distinction, history or hierarchy.
Says Larsson, ‘White is the ultimate camouflage, both as a visual colour, a conceptual texture, and religious and chemical constellation.’ It is also the colour most associated with purity or cleanliness, and with ghosts and phantoms.
The shipping container itself also serves a number of significant functional and thematic purposes, operating as both a headquarters and a mobile sweatshop for the seamstresses. As a ubiquitous symbol of globalisation, it is a potent symbol of the usually invisible labour of women, carrying – as such containers do – literally tonnes of garments made in factories throughout the developing world.
In emphasising the performative work of the silent seamstresses within this laden container, Larsson challenges not just our tacit acceptance of sweatshops but also, in the production of the white cotton drapes, our capacity to understand this global phenomenon within the historical context of the textile trade. Set among the wider associations of the cemetery and its monuments, the artwork also begs a critical re-appraisal of the patriarchal way in which history is written and remembered.
Bo Christian Larsson has exhibited widely, with solo shows including ‘Animal Magnetism’, Galleri Bo Bjerggaard, Copenhagen (2015); ‘CASTAWAY’, TS artprojects, Berlin (2014); ‘The Knife as we Know it’, Institut für modern kunst, Nuremberg (2013); and ‘The Emperor’s New Thoughts’, Ludlow 38, New York (2012). Selected group exhibitions in which the artist has participated include ‘Navigate necesse est’, Seefahrt tut Not Schau Fenster, Berlin (2015); Borås International Sculpture Biennial, Borås Konstmuseum, Borås (2014); and ‘Colliding Discourses’, Shiryaevo Biennal, Samara (2011).