SJ: I have to split these questions/ statements. The first one is about the quality of being political and cultural actions and the second one the way I used them. During the youth revolt, I was already then older than most from the flower-power-generation. Due to this, I had different motives and experiences. I was born in 1935. Before the end of the last millennium, I sometimes thought I was one of the oldest living Swedes. This was because no one seemed to remember or dared to speak about the 40´s in Sweden. "The friendliness toward the Germans´, "racial biology´,"forced sterilization´ etc. All the things that I had experienced at an orphanage as a child and carried with me. Maybe I also learned how the people in power can be cheated or provoked and become visible and introduce themselvesÖWell, here we enter deep-psychology that I sometimes get involved with. " Ah, but I was so much older then, I´m younger than that now" (Bob Dylan)
The "The pencil is mightier than the sword?´ poster (1976) was NEVER mounted through Stockholm along the route of the newly married royal couple, but ALMOST´ It was stopped some hours before, in the middle of the night. The whole exhibition, that was mounted two days before it was entirely censored, is a longer story about The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, embassies, German and Swedish security police among others in a coordinated action. The contents of the poster´s image is the relation between the violence (the defence of it) and the freedom of speech. Was the freedom of speech in Sweden greater than in West Germany, in spite of the restrictions in ß 88a? From the experiences of censorship I had of the interventions at Lunds Konsthall, I wanted to put that question and got a direct answer´ In the picture there are four pencils that get their points chopped off by a nazi sword. (It was a real one that I had borrowed from a collector). The three pencils in front have the colours of black, red and yellow, "The banner´. The fourth and hidden pencil is white. At the moment of the cutting, with the flash from the edge, the moment when the freedom of speech is mutilated, the point of the hidden pencil is missing. It has transformed into a cartridge-case and has burnt through the paper.
The psychedelic contents
were as important as the form. And of a more superior order, "the
psychedelic policy" was almost of religious character. It
was puritan and moralized upon the use of severe drugs and alcohol.
Alcohol is the Imperial wizard´ The medium of " the
MASSAGE"´ (Not the MESSAGE- perception´). The
psychedelic policy also consisted more of a common consciousness
than of manifestos- Are you experienced? by Jimi Hendrix.
But still many of the ideas and concepts flipped into a mental environmental pollution (Mind pollution) with the philosophies of New Age and all kinds of sectarian doctrines. This at the same time as people in power, politicians and bureaucrats through their experiences learned a more sophisticated defence and control. In Sweden the progressive "politically conscious´ cultural workers took over media and very quickly climbed to the cultural ministerial offices through a successful business concept: that smoking hemp was incompatible with political consciousness, (strange, since many guerrilla movements were, now as before, sponsored by hemp cultivations among other things). The armed struggle versus Peace & Love´ But the message was desirable for the state and the Swedish national board of health and welfare. All grass was weed. And all of it was dope.
I can hardly imagine a similar development in Denmark as "tight" as here in Sweden. Christiania is alive´ My friends and I still think that there´s a great difference in mentality, openness, attitude and tolerance among other things. When Claus Pilhave from the Danish Radio called in order to make an interview, I didn´t know whether it was for the radio or the television. I was going to illustrate the cultural differences between Sweden and Denmark by alternately displaying films stills of Christian X, the king, riding on horseback in the streets in Copenhagen during the occupation, escorted by pedestrians and bicyclists, an unmanageable protest. At the same time I would display film stills of Gustav V, the king, and the crown prince Gustav Adolf in Berlin, decorating Herman Göring with an extra fine Order of the Sword. As you understand I don´t consider the Swedish Royal house as an institution especially democratic, reliable or politically trustworthy´
At the exhibition "Germany through time" at the Kulturhuset (the house of censorship), two women from West Germany were in focus: the future queen Silvia Sommerlath and the recently killed Ulrike Meinhof. The commitment to mourning for Ulrike was for both of us, Charlotte and me, more personal than political. Baader I didn´t like at all. As a group they considered themselves being a "de-individualised organism´ and I had many controversies with different people, since every attempt to separate an individual from the group was considered to be a hostile attempt of disruption. 20 years after the exhibition, Steve Sem-Sandberg, author and cultural editor at the conservative Svenska Dagbladet, published "Terese´. It´s a very nice and sympathetic description of the fate of Ulrike Meinhof.
There´s a difference
between the 11 posters I made in Denmark and those from the 70´s.
After " The Aquarian Planetarium´ I started to get
interested in computer graphics and other printing techniques,
silkscreen, electronic etching etc. The psychedelic period had
mutated? Orientation of the object in the space of the image.
Exploring space of the image. Beyond minimalism?
LBL: You started Galleri
Cannabis in Malmö in 1965 and worked with it for three years
with Charlotte. It was based upon a workshop-concept, where the
"regulars´ came and hung out, played records and boiled
hemp. The walls were decorated with psychedelic posters while
the cannabis grew in the gallery window. You do make a criticism
of the situation in the gallery: " the whole thing goes up
in smoke, people simply become "stoned out´ ".
Was the psychedelic underground in Malmö/Scania and Copenhagen
a big scene? What points of interest did it have in common with
other groups and subcultures? Where did you get your input from?
Could one talk about psychedelic networks?
SJ: The Galleri Cannabis
was established in a shutdown dairy in Malmö, in the district
of Lugnet close to the Triangeln. At that time Lugnet was a huge
demolition site with only a few older houses left. Now Lugnet
is a modern housing block, the old streets are gone. In the beginning
the room was meant to be Ann-Charlotte´s studio for her
textile work, a place where we also could work together. The name
"Ateljé Cannabis´ was registered at the County
administrative board by Charlotte, but we also used the name Cannabis
workshop. When Charlotte was pregnant and later on gave birth
to our daughter Malinda in 1967, she had less opportunity to work
with her weaving and it became Galleri Cannabis, that meanwhile
had become established as a site for communication.
I can´t say much if anything about the second part of your questions about the psychedelic underground of the region´ In my daily life I spent time with quite a small group of persons and people who apart from those who came to the gallery, were individuals that didn´t represent any organized psychedelic movement. They were involved in many different projects, ecological cultivation, construction of Buckmister Fuller domes, bootlegging, transcendental ways of communication, travelling storytellers, all kinds of subcultures in the making etc...
I was a local artist in the region (though working in a global village). It was founders of religions and missionaries that started networks´ One could talk about a multicultural revival. And not with the signification of the governmental definition of multiculturalism, but a more spiritual than a socially organized community. " Roots". Most obvious, was the image of the Vietnam war, body counting. There was a communication without Internet, in spite of the fact that Mc Luhan´s theses were an important part of our visions. " Electronic circuitry is an extension of the central nervous system". But without computers at that time. A more intuitive, "ethereal´ communication, thoughts that rose at one place, were transmitted and could be received at another place without technical means- if you were correctly tuned in. When we got the underground paper "it´ from London, thoughts and ideas we had been talking about at the gallery the week before, very often were affirmed. When a thought was aroused somewhere on earth it was transmitted throughout the world. It makes me think of the theory (chaos/mathematics) that if a butterfly spread its wings in the Amazon jungles, aerodynamics of the wing-beats could become reinforced and turn into a hurricane in Asia.
LBL: Most sources seem to
agree that the psychedelic culture went from something radical
and subversive in the first part of the 60´s until being
a part of the fashion industry and pop culture in the 67/8- "
Firmly back under the wing of mainstream culture" (Mick Farren).
What is your experience of the development of the psychedelic
SJ: In a review of the exhibition
at Nicolai Wallner, Britte Montigny wrote incidentally in Gefle
Dagblad. " It´s more than sad that Sture Johannesson
practically disappeared from the art scene after the armistice
between "the society´ and "the revolutionaries´
". It wasn´t just an armistice but rather a complete
understanding that began. The so-called "progressive´,
"politically conscious´ movement became the most precious
collaborator of the social democrats and of the establishment.
And very soon they became bureaucrats in power of the institutions
and specially invited funeral guests of Olof Palme.
LBL: Psychedelic posters
were mainly created in relation to festivals and rock concerts.
You could say that you transferred this practice to the exhibition
posters. Why was it so important to work within an art context?
SJ: Global village. Mc Luhan.
I wasn´t really part of the art world. Many, maybe most
artists didn´t consider my work as belonging to the profession.
LBL: In the Nordic countries
Öivind Fahlström is probably the most well-known, high
cultural exponent of psychedelic culture during that period. In
any case when it comes to incorporating psychedelic elements in
cultural critical art. Did you have a dialogue with Fahlström
and with his art practice?
SJ: I want to emphasize
the following from your description of Öivind Fahlström:
He was a high cultural exponent, he belonged to the refined gallery
world in Stockholm, the establishment´s own psychedelic,
in the popular Saturday entertainment at the Swedish public television
I don´t have a feeling of kinship with him, he visited galleri Cannabis sometimes, as a reserved art visitor, without making himself known, acting as an industrial spy. At his visits we were working on Indian ink drawings on long rolls of paper for the cartoon "Agent Knallrup with right to push" (Two of these drawings were bought some years ago by Malmö konstmuseum). The drawings are earlier than Öivind Fahlström´s of similar sizes. In connection to this I reflect upon the way the art of the 60´s was introduced to Stockholm. In the gallery world, at the art scene, it was enough to "change" the concept of art e.g. by "incorporating psychedelic elements" into the bourgeois art. While in the manifestations of the psychedelic underground a wider message was required, you could probably say, a social background or connection even if this alternative scene at that time was considered too spaced out and detached.
One of the few manifestations having these qualifications both in form and content was Palle Nielsen´s " Model for a qualitative society"´ I was asked to make the posters, not because of points in common with actions and artists groups, it was just a coincidence that the writer Peter Mosskin was part of the team and that we had met a couple of times at the Galleri Cannabis. Apart from that, I was working in a rather isolated way, I only made short visits to Stockholm, once or twice a year.
The conversations between Sture and Lars took place by e-mail during 2000 and spring in 2001.
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