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The TV Trampoline / From Children’s Television to Contemporary Art and Literature

2022-10-21 to 2023-01-29

The point of departure of the exhibition The TV Trampoline is children’s television during the period 1965–1985. Artists and authors have created new works inspired by television series such as Gena the Crocodile, Sesame Street, Our Little Sandman, and Professor Balthazar. These programmes have been the springboard, or trampoline, for each artist’s and author’s own memories and reflections. Their interpretations touch on topics such as how children’s television links to issues of memory, citizenship, education, and political movements.   
  
Participants: Petra Bauer, Ida Börjel & Lo Hillarp, Andjeas Ejiksson, Annika Eriksson, Jennifer Hayashida, Salad Hilowle, Balsam Karam, Behzad Khosravi Noori, Runo Lagomarsino, Katarina Pirak Sikku and Olivia Plender. 
  
The TV Trampoline / From Children’s Television to Contemporary Art and Literature is produced by Bildmuseet in collaboration with Kalmar Konstmuseum.

INTRODUKTION

The point of departure of the exhibition The TV Trampoline is children’s television from the period 1965–1985. Artists and authors have created new works inspired by television series such as Gena the Crocodile, Sesame Street, Our Little Sandman and Professor Balthazar. These programmes have been the springboard, or trampoline, for each artist’s and author’s own memories and reflections. The interpretations touch on topics such as how children’s television links to issues of memory, citizenship, education and political movements.

The show Tjejerna gör uppror [The Girls Revolt] is revived by a group of teenage girls on YouTube, Vilse i pannkakan [Lost in the Pancake] raises questions about memory and trauma, while another work depicts political oppression and resistance in the world of fables. Just like the children’s television of the period, the works highlight stories and experiences from different parts of the world and different levels of society. 

During the period covered by the exhibition, children’s television in Sweden was a melting pot of partly contradictory cultural and political references from both sides of the Iron Curtain and from non-aligned and neutral countries. Television can thus be said to represent the collective childhood memories of people who grew up in different parts of the world; it is a modern cultural heritage. 

The video that introduces the exhibition provides background on Swedish children’s television and highlights the links between the work of the exhibited artists and authors and the children’s shows that inspired them. 

Participants: Petra Bauer, Ida Börjel & Lo Hillarp, Andjeas Ejiksson, Annika Eriksson, Jennifer Hayashida, Salad Hilowle, Balsam Karam, Behzad Khosravi Noori, Runo Lagomarsino, Katarina Pirak Sikku and Olivia Plender.  

The exhibition The TV Trampoline was initiated by Maria Lind and Andjeas Ejiksson and is produced by Bildmuseet and Kalmar Konstmuseum. The exhibition at Bildmuseet is curated by Maria Lind and Andjeas Ejiksson in collaboration with Sofia Johansson, Bildmuseet.

ARTWORKS

Petra Bauer
Vi är Asta!, 2021-ongoing
[We are Asta!]
A YouTube channel produced in collaboration with teenage girls 

In Vi är Asta!, Petra Bauer brings to life the Swedish television series Tjejerna gör uppror [The Girls Revolt] from 1977. Based on the book by Fröydis Guldahl published in 1973, the series follows four teenage girls as they rebel against the outdated gender norms that restrict their lives simply because they are female. Taking its name from the main protagonist of the series, Asta, Vi är Asta! is a YouTube channel that publishes videos made by groups of teenage girls in Moscow, Istanbul, Stockholm and beyond that examine life as a girl in the modern world. 

The girls themselves choose what they want to share: their struggles, observations and thoughts or events from everyday life. The videos comprise a portrait of daily life in all its ordinary and insignificant detail and in all its complications, beauty, politics, hardships, fun and joy, as well as many other aspects. As so often, in this new project Bauer uses moving images to distribute influence and agency and build temporary communities, this time among teenage girls. 


Andjeas Ejiksson
Kartongdjuret, 2021
[The Box Animal] 
A children’s book with illustrations by Alexey Iorsh 

Kartongdjuret is an allegorical tale based on the character Cheburashka, who first appeared in Eduard Uspensky’s child-ren’s book Crocodile Gene and His Friends. Cheburashka is best known in Sweden as a hand puppet, appearing with his friend Gene in hundreds of broadcasts on public service television during the 1970s. The puppets were appropriated from a series of short films made in the Soviet Union by the animation studio Sojuzmultfilm. In the first and most famous of these films, Cheburashka and Gena become friends and decide to gather other lonely animals in the city where they live, so that they can live together in a house of friendship.

Ejiksson’s children’s book begins with the house of friendship in ruins. Through 15 scenes illustrated by Russian artist Alexey Iorsh, the creature seeks refuge from society’s norms and preconceptions. To become anonymous in this harsh reality, it finds itself a cardboard box of a comfortable size yet standard enough not to attract attention. It transpires that there are many box animals living in the city, but society’s inclination to avoid contact renders them practically invisible; neither human nor animal, neither male nor female, the box animal is forced to face reality beyond the fable. In this humoristic and drastic tale of social struggle and precarious living conditions in an era of authoritarianism and chauvinism, Ejiksson seeks to navigate the nominal structures that define the conditions of social reality. 

Andjeas Ejiksson
1000 frågor, 2022
[1000 questions] 
Text-based work

In 1969, prior to the launch of Sweden’s second national television station, SVT2, staff in the editorial office for children’s programming at Sveriges Television were asked to conduct a survey of children to learn what they might want to find out about on television. The results of this survey formed the basis for the editorial office’s work for many years to come. In an attempt to recreate the survey, artist Andjeas Ejiksson held a series of workshops in Kalmar, Moscow and Umeå during the autumn of 2021. At the workshops, conversations and activities were aimed at identifying questions that children cannot find answers to in a modern media landscape generally viewed to offer unlimited access to information and knowledge. 


Annika Eriksson
Barnkultur, 2021 
[Children’s Culture] 
Two-channel film installation. Film 1 (40 min). Film 2 (5 min, loop) with music by Sarah Davachi. Video production by Benjamin Brix 

In her latest video work, Barnkultur, Annika Eriksson’s attention is focused on the dark and frightening aspects of cultural production by adults for children. Using the East German stop-motion animation Unser Sandmännchen [Our Little Sandman], which aired on various German television channels for over half a century through changing political landscapes, Eriksson stages two corresponding scenes: one panning across an eerie landscape, a collage of homemade dolls, old photographs and cats; and the other a tableau of children working by themselves in some kind of art workshop.  

The dolls play an ambiguous role in Eriksson’s video, just as the Sandman did in both German folklore and the television series. The Little Sandman travels near and far around the world as young viewers are gently introduced to the everyday life, solidarity and technological achievements of socialism in the German Democratic Republic. At the end of each episode, the Sandman arrives and throws a handful of dried tears, or sand as it is described by a nanny in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s famous story of the same name, into the eyes of children who refuse to go to sleep. True to her ongoing interrogation of normality and mainstream notions of community, Eriksson’s videos construct evocative situations in which cuteness collides with the political reality embedded in both propaganda and culture produced for children.


Jennifer Hayashida
One Is Not Born a Child, 2021-2022 
Poem-essay. Chapbook designed by Denise Hedström 
Sound piece in English and Swedish (19:43 min)

Asked to address the pioneering North American edutainment show Sesame Street, which premiered on the PBS network in 1969, writer, translator and artist Jennifer Hayashida wrote the docupoetic essay One is Not Born a Child. Printed as a chapbook and available for visitors to take with them, the poem-essay draws on research-based guidelines issued to Sesame Street writers on how to deploy television to teach children how to be liberal citizens. The format of the show emerged from years of research into how television affects children and how they absorb information and knowledge through audio-visual media.  

Hayashida’s poem-essay activates key concepts used in this process, including work by Dr Chester Middlebrook Pierce, a pioneering African-American psychiatrist who served as a senior consultant on the development of Sesame Street. Pierce argued that how children are studied and addressed is based on adult assumptions about children’s needs and cognitive abilities. He mobilised the child as an argument for public television as an instrument in the expansion of a more anti-racist US welfare state. In her work, Hayashida offers a critical view on how educational television structures children’s understanding of cultural citizenship, where the child-citizen is to be educated in a liberal national narrative via television. 

In a sound piece Miyo Gerdes-Hayashida is reading from One Is Not Born a Child. First in English, then in Swedish, in a loop.


Salad Hilowle
Sylwan, 2021
Film (14:30 min)

In artist and filmmaker Salad Hilowle’s work Sylwan, Astrid Lindgren’s famous stories about Pippi Longstocking offer a window onto an overlooked side of Swedish history. This is the story of the first documented Afro-Swedish actor Joe Sylwan and his family of performers and actors. Joe Sylwan himself played a minor role in the rarely screened 1949 film adaption Pippi Longstocking, while his son Ramon played the Mighty Adolf in the better-known Swedish television adaption of 1969. The Mighty Adolf works in the circus, where he is billed as the Strongest Man in the World. Any man who dares is invited to challenge him to a wrestling match; however, he is no match for Pippi, who is no mere man but the strongest girl in the world. She easily throws him to the floor, much to the delight of the audience.  

In the visually seductive Sylwan, an actor playing Joe Sylwan enters the stage of an eighteenth-century theatre to recount the true story of a racist attack on Sylwan, which led to a much-publicised trial in Stockholm in 1932. Dramatizing documentary material and drawing on his own memories of visiting the cinema for the first time to see a Pippi Longstocking film, Hilowle combines striking images with first-hand accounts by the Sylwan family. 


Balsam Karam
Merely a Memory/Vilse, 2021
Essay printed on a foldable poster, a blanket, and a film (28 min) 

Writer Balsam Karam’s essay Merely a Memory/Vilse is inspired by the work of one of the central figures in Swedish children’s television history, the experimental director and actor Staffan Westerberg. Karam’s essay is no less shaped by the writer and philosopher Jalal Toufic and his work on loss and returning to pain in a controlled environment. In Westerberg’s classic 1975 television production Vilse i pannkakan [Lost in the Pancake], we meet a boy who does not want to eat up his pancake, despite his mother and father’s protestations. With the aid of handcrafted dolls and a table-sized pancake, the viewer is led across a frightening and fantastic landscape by a small figure named Vilse [Lost]. This is a multifaceted and surreal world in which traumatic memories, life stories, food on a plate, dreams, and fantasies unfold.  

The set of Merely a Memory/Vilse centres on a family photograph taken in the early 1980s in a refugee camp in the Iranian countryside to which many Kurdish families had been deported from Iraqi cities. Karam’s family eventually fled from Iran to Moscow before settling in Stockholm. Karam only remembers the context in which the photograph was taken through the memories of others and, like Westerberg and Toufic, she is searching for other ways to return to this place. Her memories are evoked by writing this essay, by making a blanket to reconnect to her grandfather’s profession of tailor, and in a film based on conversations with family members who appear in the photograph.  


Behzad Khosravi Noori
Professor Balthazar and the Monument to the Invisible Citizen, 2018–22 
Installation with monument in form of a climbing frame, a series of posters and three videos: A Monument to the Mutiny, 2018 Video (40 min), A Monument to an Unknown Citizen, 2018 Video (45 min), Martin Makes It to the Top [episode from Professor Balthazar, Zagreb Film], 1967 Video (7 min) 

Millions of children in Sweden and many other countries have enjoyed the television series Professor Balthazar since it was first broadcast in 1967, among them Behzad Khosravi Noori during his childhood in Teheran. In the episode Martin Makes It to the Top, the seemingly invisible Martin is finally recognised by his fellow citizens when they decide to erect a statue in his honour; however, as no one can remember what Martin looked like, the monument consists solely of a pedestal. Taking Professor Baltazar and the invisible citizen as a point of departure, Khosravi Noori has raised a monument in the form of a colourful children’s playground and a series of posters based on extensive research into the series and its context. 

This monument raises questions about who we overlook in the unending process of historical invisiblization. How about children and childhood memories?  In Khosravi Noori’s interpretation, Professor Balthazar reflects a narrative of the political circumstances and agreements that ran parallel to the East-West dichotomy of the Cold War. The series was produced by Zagreb Film at their studio in Yugoslavia and Khosravi Noori’s project is also a reminder of the Non-Aligned Movement led by Yugoslavia, Indonesia and Egypt, the members of which refused to align themselves with either the Western or Eastern bloc, and instead worked for anticolonialism and self-determination. 


Runo Lagomarsino
Starting with the Past, the Change, 2021–2022
Installation with vitrines, comic books, objects, prints, sculptures, photography and paper box animals by León Zaccagnini Lagomarsino 

The French production Once Upon a Time... Man (1978), an animated television series which aims to tell the history of the world from the Big Bang until the 1970s, is the point of departure for artist Runo Lagomarsino’s latest work. Eurocentric, Christian and patriarchal in its view of history, Once Upon a Time... Man employed slapstick to capture the imaginations of young viewers sitting in front of television sets in nearly one hundred countries, including Sweden. Himself a viewer of the show during his childhood in Spain, the artist has engaged with the comic books published alongside the television series in many countries including his parents’ native Argentina.  

Lagomarsino catalogues the children’s books that were forbidden in Argentina during the civic-military dictatorship (1976–1983), which practised extensive censorship, including of children’s literature. The installation combines frottages, objects, found material, photography, drawings and prints to create a multi-strand narrative that reveals the repercussions of the colonial past in our own geopolitical present. In the interplay of becoming and erasing – proposals, approximations, displacements, and juxtapositions – Lagomarsino uses the histories that the objects themselves carry as narrative tools. 


MOLOID A… (Ida Börjel and Lo Hillarp) 
Episode A: A Lot of Nerve, 2021
 
Film (24 min) 

Episode B, 2022 
Film (5 min) 

In The Mole and the Rocket by Czech filmmaker Zdeněk Miler (1921–2011), the eponymous little mole fails to make much headway into outer space before his rocket crash-lands on a desert island. In Episode A: A Lot of Nerve, by the duo Moloid A…, the seminar room plays the role of the desert island. The film culminates with a party but in order to get there the way must be cleared of obstacles, such as cultural codes and learned regulations. In Episode B, a lone hand is digging towards the darkness of the flow of information.  

Moloid A... invites the viewer to see through the eyes of moles: through a blurry gaze, intense work is carried out. What is clearly thought and said is lost in a state of extra-linguistic fog. And when the moling develops from their collective subterraneoconscious, anything can happen. 


Ida Börjel
From the Moling, 2022 
Booklet of poems 

The poems in From the Moling were written in parallel with Ida Börjel’s and Lo Hillarp’s work as the duo Moloid A… on the experimental films Episode A: A Lot of Nerve and Episode B. In turn, the films were inspired by the little mole Krtek in the animated short films by Czech filmmaker Zdeněk Miler (1921–2011).  

The poems in From the Moling were created by shredding all of the books on the literature list for a course on critical studies. Line by line, Börjel then constructed new combinations of words from the pile of fragmented language in an attempt to create some order from the linguistic disarray. The booklet contains five poems in English and another five poems translated into Swedish. 


Katarina Pirak Sikku
Ággiid áigái / From Time to Time, 2021
Installation in vitrines with brass, string, lithograph by Lars Pirak, Sámi texts, found objects from an abandoned school in Snesudden in the municipality of Jokkmokk, Sweden 

In this installation, artist Katarina Pirak Sikku uses two distinct forms: an oval similar to the drums made by Sámi shamans and her own father, the artist Lars Pirak; and found objects from an abandoned village school, typical of her childhood around Jokkmokk. While the drums are imbued with a history invisible in the dominant Swedish culture – being comprised of stories and knowledge passed down orally from generation to generation – the found objects are linked to numbers and letters, concepts taught in school. In comparison, during the artist’s childhood, Swedish schools completely ignored Sámi history and culture.  

One of Pirak Sikku’s drums has a pleated cover made from a lithograph by Lars Pirak. On another, the story of Stallo, a giant who eats children, is written in Sámi. The artist has developed her work in dialogue with the Chinese animated film Havoc in Heaven, in which the Monkey King rebels against the Jade Emperor, the ruler of heaven. Like the film’s hero, The Monkey King, the Sámi myth of Stallo could not be repressed by the authorities. 


Olivia Plender
The History of Animal Kingdom, 2020 
Comic book 

The History of Animal Kingdom is a political satire about a nation of chickens ruled by an owl named Prince Hoo Hoo Hoo. Each episode follows the seemingly never-ending power struggle between the chickens and their rulers down the centuries. The story follows Animal Kingdom’s transition from feudalism to laissez-faire capitalism. In contrast to the wise owl who reads from the newspaper beneath a tree in the Dutch children’s television series assigned to Plender, Fabeltjeskrant [The Daily Fable], the owl in The History of Animal Kingdom, is clearly the problem.  

Events in the fictional kingdom loosely follow those unfolding in the real world. In one chapter of Plender’s fable, “Plague Year”, the country is struck by a mysterious and deadly disease. The autocratic prince and his cronies display a toxic combination of spectacular vanity and incompetence. The chickens vacillate between rebellion and despair as Prince Hoo Hoo Hoo fails in his responsibility to lead them through the crisis. Following the death of the prince at the end of the first chapter, a new prince is crowned at the beginning of the second — the lazy and irresponsible Dauphin. In the ensuing power vacuum, a struggle for control of the kingdom is played out between the old guard and the new. 

The TV Trampoline was initiated by Maria Lind and Andjeas Ejiksson, and was produced by Bildmuseet and Kalmar konstmuseum. The exhibition at Bildmuseet was curated by Maria Lind and Andjeas Ejiksson in collaboration with Sofia Johansson, Bildmuseet. 

Interviews with artists and curators
Video documentation from the exhibition