by Magnus Jensner
The crystal chandeliers that hang from the ceiling at Dunkers Kulturhus are separated off from the surrounding world by thin transparent cloth. A protective layer, a casing that divides two worlds, or perhaps a cocoon? They give off a slightly mysterious impression, at the same time as they make a candid statement of colour, function and position in space. Their history and their appearance make them strangers, but their self-explanatory attitude means that they still belong there. Masked in their own well-preserved world. Despite the very thin partition wall of cloth, they have an outside and an inside. These magnificent chandeliers have travelled back to us across the seas. In one sense, they represent the direct opposite of integration, it is more a matter of making the disparity visible by sharply isolating it, by bringing out the unfamiliar, at the same time as, paradoxically enough, it is shielded by a casing of sheer fabric. It is exquisite and beautiful in its cool elegance.
On his several trips to Cuba the artist David Svensson has been fascinated by the culture of the island, which is made up to such a tangible degree of old objects, decay, patina, and things reminiscent of the Old World, of Europe at the turn of the last century. Svensson was struck by the idea of restoring some of these historical treasures to the old world. Of situating them in our current historical space, so as to let the lights shed their radiance upon us once again. They are shining now, and "transmitting" visual images somewhat like a long-extinct star whose light we can still perceive because of the incomprehensible distance. But what are they really saying to us?
When, after numerous adventures, Svensson had the crystal chandeliers delivered for transportation to Sweden, they were all dismantled, wrapped in newspaper and packed in boxes. He documented this and the rest of the process in a set of pictures showing the different stages of the journey back to Europe made by the various prisms and crystal components, pictures which, at the same time, succeeded in capturing daily-newspaper stories, for instance, about Cuba and its leaders.
In many of his works Svensson sculpts in light and in sources of light. He gets the light sources to operate in such a way as to transform our perception of space, giving it a different character, and, at the same time, trying to get us to reflect on our place and our role in a variety of spatial contexts. How do we use and perceive space, how can space's various fixed and replaceable elements influence our understanding of proportion, scale, and sense of orientation? By treating these crystal chandeliers from Cuba in a very precise and highly deliberate manner, Svensson is able to resolve a series of questions that can be found in the history of the objects, and in their very palpable presence in space.
In his works, by starting out from everyday forms, situations or objects, he has often succeeded in isolating them, while still giving them a central place in space with the aid of light or the challenging or encouraging positioning. He brings out and utilises the potential for reflection in our immediate vicinity by pointing to it and saying: Look, you can see this, too!
The Cuban crystal chandeliers, which are now hanging close to the water inside Dunkers Kulturhus in Helsingborg, constitute an exotic ingredient, like a spice that has travelled across the sea. In a town with a long history of seafaring and trade these quays have often been the destination of vessels that have come a long way with unusual, magnificent objects. When these lights now put into port on these foreign shores, it is easy to see them, in all their ethereal elegance, as being oriental or Venetian visitors. Svensson has previously worked with similar forms on several occasions, and here he has evidently let the shapes of the chandeliers determine the final appearance of the artwork.
Now, they are hanging here and illuminating our everyday lives for a couple of months during the darkest period of the year. We are grateful to the artist, who has succeeded in relaying an exotic greeting from our own European history, filtered through the Cuba of the colonial period and 20th century. In the encounter with these crystal chandeliers we are compelled to reflect on the frequently unexpected routes taken by history, and on the artist's unerring ability to get us to contemplate our own place in both historical and physical space. David Svensson has created an artwork that manages to ask questions about both power structures and integration, while at the same time prompting us to reflect on space and time, and on the role played by light in our lives. And besides that, it is exceptionally beautiful.