“Why would you go to Stockholm in summer??” asks my Italian colleague, (only half) joking. Of course, coming from the country of “dolce vita”, wrapped in endless sunshine, pink oleanders, ripe oranges falling on the streets, the azzuro of the Mediterranean, the mouth-watering food, the good-for-body-and-soul siesta, you have every right to make that kind of joke. Well, I didn’t have an answer, because this trip was based on one of those whimsical decisions: one day when my wanderlust exceed the normal limits that would allow me to sit peacefully in my office, I checked flights from Brussels and seeing that the ticket to Stockholm was cheap and allowed me to leave soon, I bought it in an instant it without thinking too much why or what. (Actually this prompted me to think of the reasons people travel, but on that, some other time). But all this was too complicated to put in a sentence in a casual conversation, so I joked back: “For the men, dear! You know, those gorgeous, tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed descendants of the Vikings”. Yes, this is me: big mouth 🙂 We both start giggling and then I promise I’ll tell her all the details at my return. Eh, girly jokes.
And now that I’ve been to Stockholm, I could give a better answer to my colleague: Fotografiska with Annie Leibowitz, the quaint and startling sculptures in Millesgarden, dozing off on my serene private beach consisting of a lean rock surrounded by pine trees in one of the islands in the Archipelago, strolling around the medieval Gamla Stan, the quiet evening on the terrace on top of the theatre, with a sun that was refusing to sink into darkness, bathing the city and the bay below in that surreal, golden, northern light until almost midnight, having a conversation on everything that matters with a random stranger I happened to share the table with, while in the street the crowd was roaring and cheering the victory of Spain in the World Cup 2010. So in the end it was not for the men (yes, I know, my story will not live up to the expectations I created 🙂 )
But if I were to choose only one thing for which I remember each city that I visited, then for Stockholm it must be…oh, tough choice between Fotografiska and Millesgarden. I’ll tell you why.
I must confess I like museums…moderately 🙂 That is to say, if I have three days to see a city, probably I won’t spend one day in museums. Unless… I was lucky enough to be in Stockholm just when the photography museum Fotografiska – former warehouse in the port converted into a perfect space for exhibitions – was hosting Annie Leibovitz’s work.
Maybe it was because of my love for photography, that I was so moved by this exhibition. Maybe it was seeing spread on an entire wall that famous black and white photograph of Mikhail Baryshnikov held in the air in a perfect pose, gracious and strong; maybe it was her powerful portraits of celebrities: the famous photo of Demi Moore naked, night months pregnant, which made the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991 and scandalised the public, before such pictures became fashionable nowadays, John Lennon, cuddled naked around serious Yoko, the embrace full of longing and abandon of Jonny Depp around Kate Moss on an unmade bed, Daniel Day Lewis staring from a dark toned studio shot with his hypnotic eyes; maybe it was the story of her controversial life in pictures intertwined with captures of the day-to-day life of her family (in the tradition of Imogen Cunningham); but what especially moved me was the series of photos documenting the illness, the suffering, the fighting, the slow road to death of Annie’s extraordinary friend and partner, woman and writer, Susan Sontag, and how she spoke of her with so much admiration.
And speaking of Susan Sontag, I would like to quote from her book of essays “On Photography”, which looks with a critical eye on this art:
“To suffer is one thing; another thing is living with the photographed images of suffering, which does not necessarily strengthen conscience and the ability to be compassionate. It can also corrupt them. Once one has seen such images, one has started down the road of seeing more – and more. Images transfix. Images anesthetize. An event known through photographs certainly becomes more real than it would have been if one had never seen the photograph – think of the Vietnam war (For a counter-example, think of the Gulag Archipelago, of which we have no photographs). But after repeated exposure to images it also becomes less real.
The same law holds for evil as for pornography. The shock of photographed atrocities wears off with repeated viewings […] The sense of taboo which makes us indignant and sorrowful is not much sturdier than the sense of taboo that regulates the definition of what is obscene. And both have been sorely tried in recent years.”
(the same view is shared by the photographer James Nachtwey in his wonderful and touching movie “War Photographer”)
And that was not all. Probably you’ve all seen the picture of the fetus supposedly in his mother’s womb, with a finger in his mouth (see photo). (I must confess I first saw this photo on the cover of Massive Attack’s album “Mezzanine” when I was a teenager).That photo is part of a series called “A Child is Born”, showing the stages of development of the human embryo and the fetus, by Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson. Apparently this is the best-selling illustrated book ever published. Images from it were sent even into space with the spacecraft Voyager as representative images for the human race, in case it would meet alien life forms. What I didn’t know was that for this project he used mostly aborted fetuses, whch of course sparkled more controversy. And THIS was on exhibition in Fotografiska! Imagine my luck…and my amazement!
As for the other candidate to steal my heart in Stockholm – Millesgarden, I can only say that it is such a space of wonder! It felt like walking among strange creatures from fairy tales and mythology, angels blowing trumpets or…skating ?!?, delicate figures of humans reaching for the sky, heads with a horrified or sleek look, fish and birds, voluptuous nymphs, all turned into stone by an evil hand (something like the stone garden from the “Chronicles of Narnia”)
That was Stockholm for me. You can see more photos of Stockholm here.
Versiunea in romana a acestui articol, aici
How about you: what is your favorite thing in Stockholm?