Conversation between Nina Svensson, Bernd Krauss and Mirja Majevski (for TENSTA KONSTHALL)

Mirja Majevski: Can you start by describing the project Tensta Horse Racing Society.
Bernd Krauss: What we are showing here, at the Museum of Medieval Stockholm is in a
way a shop window that presents the various activities of Tensta Horse Racing
Society. The name is an umbrella under which we’ve collected several pedagogical
projects that we’ve carried out during the last 12 months in Tensta, Sundsvall and
Jakobstad (FI).
Nina Svensson: The format of the display makes a nod towards the didactics of the
museum. The installation consists, among other things, of betting shop receipts casted in
aluminium, foam rolls from the summer camp that were used as carriers, some dust
from Solvalla racetrack in Stockholm, and portraits (membership plates) of kids wearing
big sunglasses that are typical for race driver. In other words numerous elements that
mark a connection to the reality and talk about how things were or could have been.
MM: Out of all things, why trot?
NS: It all started in 2006 with my Art Academy graduation project, where I turned the
café of the Umeå Bildmuseet into a betting shop for trot. From there on both Bernd and I
have continued to collect trotting related material and inquire into the sport. Also,
having spent time in the countryside, in connection to our pervious projects, we’ve come
to notice how you can always speak about trot – like you speak about the weather – as it
is common ground for everybody.
BK: We are also interested in the way that trot is connected to identity building. Trotting
here in Sweden is mainstream culture. It is a tool for cutting trough and understanding
the society, the world, material, whatever you are facing.
MM: Simultaneously with Tensta Horse Racing Society you are showing another
trotting related installation, The only thing we/you are world’s best at, at Tensta
konsthall. How do these two works relate to each other?
BK: There is a structural link. From the moment we knew about having two places to
exhibit we wanted to make sure that both installations could work without needing to
be legitimated by one and other. Thereby, after the summer camp and our other
pedagogical events we created Tensta Horse Racing Society as an umbrella to gather
our trot related educational projects. With the title The only thing we/you are world’s
best at we anchored convoluted material into the bigger framework of the exhibition
Tensta Museum dealing with terms of cultural heritage and making a statement about
the New Sweden.
MM: How does the context of the Museum of Medieval Stockholm resonate within your
BK: We would like to put Tensta, part of the landscape and extended understanding of
the city, on the map by using trot to inform the audience. The installation is used as a
tool to communicate our activities and this brings us to the field of mediation.
NS: The Museum of Medieval Stockholm is very proud of its pedagogic program.
Pedagogical approach is also at the very core of Tensta Horse Racing Society.
Additionally there is a link to the long tradition of people using horses for both work and
leisure. After all how trot as a sport came to be, was that on Sundays people raced each
other to church. You could see this as the beginning of people wanting to have fun and
spend time with horses.
MM: What are your thoughts about public. How would you like to see your work being
NS: We don’t want to pose as an authority. We want people to come along and approach
our work like a study circle, to think: “Ok, I can catch something from the video, I
recognize the poster from the ATG” – at least that is what I personally want to receive
from an artwork.
BK: The problem is that a work of art is expected to mean something else that what you
see. I think you, as an individual, should be able to react to an artwork and find a way to
your own expression. What I want is to claim territories for freedom of aesthetic space
in society, space where things can happen that are not predefined by my work or by
choice of other things, spaces that are meant for individuals that want to come in, with
whatever background they have and find an opportunity for possible encounters. That is
the utopian space I want to speak about. I think that it is getting more and more harder
for museums to open up the mechanism and be that kind of spaces. Instead it feels like
this is happening through a pedagogical framework. In these kind of situations we have
been very free, much freer that when making artistic work. And that is interesting. That
suddenly you can feel the territory where there is a blind spot where things can happen.
Ultimately what I am trying to establish is a different understanding of what a work not
needs to be.
MM: You often rework elements from your previous projects and incorporate them to
new installations. Could you say that this a way to form a continuous thread that runs
trough your entire oeuvre?
BK: I think the world should move beyond looking at works within given parameters of
an oeuvre. This is a historic way to place an artwork. The contemporary needs to have
different parameters for discussing and looking. You should be able to enter at whatever
point and just face the work. If it is a layout where you need to first find out what these
things meant before and what is the relation between this point and that point then we
are in the old iconography again.
MM: The two of you have been working together since 2006. Both of you have also
employed collaborative tactics in your substantial individual practise. How was it that
this came to be and what, from your opinion, are the benefits of the collaborative
BK: You can do things together that you could not do by yourself. By sharing
responsibility and becoming a projected author you can have the freedom to experiment
with structural solutions. I would also consider loosing yourself as a key to learning and
seeing the world.
NS: Collaboration is for us a way to take people seriously as we want to spend time
doing activities together, to really be present. Take for example Johan who works as a
technician at Tensta konsthall. Tree days before the opening of the exhibition Tensta
Museum he was telling us that he is going to a bachelor party at the Solvann racetrack.
We immediately asked if he could take document the event so that we could include it to
the installation The only thing we/you are world’s best at. We asked him to
participate and presented his contribution in a serious manner.