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Un Ballo in Maschera

During February 2023 we will screen Yinka Shonibare´s film Un Ballo in Maschera (2004), on the screen in the north corridor on the ground floor of Sveavägen 65. The screening is yet another way for the students at SSE to learn about Yinka Shonibare´s artistry, as a temporary companion piece to the Yinka Shonibare Room two floors up in the same building.

Un Ballo in Maschera (VI) 2004-05.jpg

In the film Shonibare takes us to the famous masked ball at the Stockholm Opera House in 1792 where the Swedish King Gustav III was assassinated by Johan Anckarström. In the film, as well as in the Yinka Shonibare Room, the artist uses the brightly-coloured batik fabrics that have been of such importance in his works since the  early 1990s. With the fabrics Shonibare punctures established perceptions of the culturally specific (the batiks are originally from Indonesia, but are nowadays seen as “typically African”), and challenges the standard image of African culture in the West in a disarming way. Shonibare encourages us to reflect on how we perceive different cultures and symbols in a globalised world.

Yinka Shonibare´s film is loosely based on Giuseppe Verdi's 1859 opera with the same name. In Shonibare's version, the operatic form has been replaced with dance - and instead of music and singing we hear the rustling of the dresses, the dancers’ footsteps and the sounds of hand movements and breathing.

Un ballo in Maschera is Shonibare´s first film, and he explores the idea of film as an animated painting. Also he is playing with time: after the king is shot, he rises and dances again and the event is played backwards and forwards as the dancers re-perform the event in a choreography by Lisa Torun.

The location of the recording is the rococo theater Confidencen just outside Stockholm, a building commissioned by Gustav III's mother Lovisa Ulrika (1720 – 1780). She, just like her son Gustav III, had a keen interest in French culture as well as the latest fashion. Gustav III´s interest and ambitions in politics were great and he made enemies; one of them being the nobleman Jacob Johan Anckarström. During a masquerade ball at the opera, he shot the king in the chest, and the king later died.

The Nigerian-British artist Yinka Shonibare CBE (b. 1962) was last years artist in Princess Estelle Sculpture Park in Stockholm. His work is represented in collections such as The Tate Collection, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York and Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

The film is co-produced with SVT and Moderna museet, Stockholm.