Through two artists’ creative restlessness came a new exhibition. Fantasy is the new curatorial project of Hannes Ferm (who you might know from his band HOLY) and Annie Hägg. When they found themselves about to release HOLY’s new single Forget About Life, with a video directed by Hägg, they started to ponder the creative opportunities around that release. So they decided to make it something bigger. Using the term ‘Forget About Life’ as a creative prompt, they invited some artists to create works on that theme. That bloomed into a new curatorial concept Fantasy, which is now hosting its first exhibition at Och Galleri on Åsögatan. The exhibition had its opening last week with a performance by HOLY, and is now housed at the gallery until November 23. We spoke to Ferm and Hägg about how it all came about.
To start off, when and how did you first get the idea for this curatorial concept, Fantasy?
Annie: Sometime this summer. We had planned for a long time that I was going to do the video for this single, and we talked about how to showcase this, and make it into something more interesting, something more than just the release of a video and a single. We talked about having an exhibition together, Hannes and I, but then we thought it would be more interesting to get more people involved.
Hannes: We have both studied Fine Arts, me at Konstfack and Annie at Kungliga Konstakademien, on exchange from Oslo, and we had worked together before that too. My first year for me of Fine Arts, it felt like I had to keep music and art separated, like they were two parallel worlds. I didn’t want to intellectualise pop music. But this year, I wanted to get those worlds working together. Collaborating was a good way to do that, and do something fun with the release too.
Music and visual art can sometimes be quite disposable. They come out, and then people move on a week later, because there’s such an overflow of new stuff all the time. So is this a way of escaping that, to create a world and event around those two pieces of art that help them have a bit more permanence?
Hannes: Yes, I think so, for sure. It gives more value to it, on a personal level.
Annie: I think that with things that appear on the internet, the amount of time it exists for and that people are interested in it is so short. Opening up in a physical room is a way to extend that and give it more meaning.
Hannes: It’s also a way for me to age with dignity in the pop world [laughs]. I am proud of what I do, in the same way people are proud of exhibiting an artwork.
Then when you had the idea, how did you go about recruiting the artists?
Hannes: We had the song as the starting point, but it’s the title and some lyrics people we sent to people as a creative prompt, because no-one heard the song before they started. So my song is also a piece in this show. So we sent out the text with some lyrics from the song, and some propositions on how it could be interpreted. We sent it out to people we felt have touched upon these themes in their work.
Annie: Most of them are people we’ve come into contact with from art schools, in Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. So it’s people whose work we’re already familiar with, and we feel is related to our thoughts about the title.
Hannes: We’ve had the possibility to follow their work for a bit of time, so we could follow the threads that go through it. Almost all the works have been made for their exhibition, we didn’t need to select existing works.
Annie: We got such a good response from the artists, everyone said yes within ten minutes. These were the ones who came to our minds first, and they were so eager to participate.
So obviously, the phrase ‘Forget About Life’ and the lyrics around it have a strong meaning for you. So what is the power of that phrase, what makes it a theme and an idea that can fuel an exhibition like this?
Hannes: I think it’s a statement that can be interpreted in multiple ways. For me, it’s something both horrible and amazing too. There are artists here exploring new life forms and that whole fantasy, but there are also artists working with death and addiction, which is also a way of forgetting about life. It can be interpreted in multiple ways, you can take multiple paths with it.
If I was going to say, I would say the power comes from the fact that you can go multiple ways with it, you can go with death and leaving life in that way, or you can say it’s about escaping death and mortality, post-humanism or whatever. And then it’s also the fact that these are big ideas, big concepts, and that also gives it power?
Annie: I think that reflects a lot of how we talk about the future today. It’s about how you can do so much with technology, AI and the whole optimism about that, it feels like there’s a really strong wave of that right now. But at the same time, there are questions about whether life will even exist in the future, with extinction of species and so on. So there’s a polarity, of extreme optimism and extreme disaster.
Hannes: Exactly, and both those binaries can be interpreted in multiple ways.
For you as an artist Annie, how was it to be presented with this theme and work with it?
Annie: I started working with it parallel to Hannes working on the song. Hannes and I have been working with these themes for quite a while now, so it felt natural to work with it. The music video evolved very naturally in a way, we started filming without a specific goal for what it would be. But it connected very well to the song in the end.
What kind of ideas did the theme awaken in you?
Annie: I don’t want to glorify a dystopian future, but there is something fascinating about thinking about the timespan of humanity and the timespan of our lives. We think about prolonging life, but we also think about destruction. I guess it’s a privileged position to be able to fantasise about that, as it’s horrible in many ways, but it’s very current, and as an artist I think you have to think about these things that scientists and politicians are proposing. I’ve also been watching Werner Herzog’s movies, and I watched The Wild Blue Yonder where this man walks around in a completely deserted landscape, and some ideas for the music video came from that.
Hannes: For the record too, the lyrics have been inspired by work that Annie has been doing. You’ve been exploring these themes for a while.
You mentioned before that you, Hannes, had previously kept music and art separated. Now that you work so closely, is part of the way you work now, and part of the inspiration for this exhibition, about working in multiple different artistic worlds at once?
Annie: The response we got from people coming here [to the opening] and watching Hannes play in the gallery space was encouraging. Many people wondered why music and art don’t come together like that more often. One person talked about how music and art affect her in the same way, more or less at least, and that there shouldn’t be such an established barrier between those worlds
Hannes: I feel that when you put pop music in the context of art, every time pop music is used in art it’s almost always in a humorous or ironic way. And I get that you want to do that, but I also want to be able to touch upon the same themes in both worlds.
I think in general people treat music as a more emotional medium and art as a more intellectual medium?
Hannes: Yes, and I think I’ve done that before. Art people sometimes say that music is the highest art form, but they don’t always have the same respect for it intellectually. Which I understand also, but…
Let’s say it’s about this – what unites the art you guys work with and have put together in this exhibition isn’t their genre or format, but it’s themes that unite what you’re working with?
Annie: Yes. We also received several positive comments about Nicole Walker, who styled Hannes for the show [live performance of Forget About Life at the exhibition’s opening], being on the list of all the artists. You rarely see work within fashion or clothing being labelled as art. We want to bring together different forms of expression, not specifically art in the more classical sense.
So when it was all finished and done, and you’re here in this room, how do you feel seeing it all together, and can you see the theme running through the pieces, the shared DNA between then?
Annie: I think considering we didn’t select the works, there’s a really strong visual connection between them that we were surprised by.
Hannes: The colours reoccur, the whites, greys and greens. It’s interesting how they come together. We were talking about that earlier, that you can see the theme in all the pieces and it seems very clear to me, so I’m very proud of the whole thing.
This is Fantasy#1, so what can we expect in future from this project?
Hannes: I think we’ll need a bigger space next time [laughs]. I think we’ll do more stuff here, But I want to expand and do some stuff in other cities as well.
Annie: I want it to feel more movable, and not be static in one space. We were also thinking about doing one with performance art only. We want it to take as many shapes as it can. That’s why we chose the name ‘Fantasy’, it’s almost a cliché, and you can apply it to so many things today. We want to keep it as open as the name implies.
Fantasy#1: Forget About Life, open at Och Galleri on Nov 13, 16, 17, 20, 23, Åsögatan 94