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After hours

A discussion about the video based artwork After Hours and the relation between the private and public space

During autumn 2015, After Hours was displayed in the Atrium at SSE. The video artwork shows dancers in business suits who perform an incredulous dance with the office space as a backdrop. After Hours first took place in an SEB office at Sergels Torg in Stockholm, opposite Kulturhuset, after closing time. From the street one could suddenly see how some people entered a room and interacted in various scenes, in which they met in a more human, intimate and loving way than is usually the case in an office.

For the opening of the artwork, Art Division in collaboration with SSE Art Initiative organized a lecture in order to give students at SSE the possibility to understand the new artwork better and shed light on the different ways to approach some of the questions to which it gives rise. The lecturers were Catharina Gabrielsson, architect and researcher, Billy McCormac, CEO of Fastighetsägarna, and the artist Mats Hjelm.

Mats Hjelm (b 1959) is one of our most prominent video artists and documentary filmmakers. Since the early 1990’s, Hjelm’s work has been shown in numerous solo- and group exhibitions, including Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Museum of African American History, Detroit, Dubai International Film Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Venice Biennale. In his lecture, Mats Hjelm discussed how we are affected by the social norms and expectations, in the office space as well as in the public space more generally, and shared his thoughts on the creative and practical processes which led him, to the creation of After Hours. In After Hours, Mats Hjelm departs from the existential melancholia of his earlier pieces in order to operate in the interface of dance and public art, resulting in a new work, which features humour but is mainly about human longing.

Catharina Gabrielsson is an architect, researcher and writer with a background as curator and project manager for the Swedish Public Art Agency (Statens Konstråd). Her doctoral thesis, Att göra skillnad: det offentliga rummet som medium för konst, arkitektur och politiska föreställningar (Stockholm: Axl Books 2006) explores the material, spatial and imaginary dimensions of public space through a series of cross-readings between political philosophy, art and architecture in order to trace the multifarious connections between aesthetics and the political. In her lecture, Gabrielsson discussed the functions of the public space from a more theoretical perspective. She examined the important political role of the public space; a vital part of a democract as well as a source of conflicts, and emphasized the duty of architects to participate in the public debate. 

Billy McCormac successfully changed the public space through an urban architectural project called “Pallis”, in which he transformed a street block in Stockholm to a flourishing urban park where people, ideas and culture met in an environment with a new set of socio-cultural norms. In the lecture, he talked about the difficulties one meets in the process of trying to personalize the public space, but also about the endless possibilities which can be explored.

The symposium ended in a Q&A session which led to a indignated discussion involving all three speakers, on whether increased possibilities for the private person to transform the public space really are desirable.