Wednesday was a particularly (surprisingly) productive day – amazing how much one can achieve here once one has a personal number!

After opening a bank account I had a meeting with Alex (who wants to sublet her studio to me) and Klas (the current subletee). Alex wanted us all to meet as she will be away in January which is when we had discussed Klas moving out and me moving in. It turned out to be a very quick meeting as Klas told us that he had just heard that he has a job in the north of Sweden and, if it suits everyone, he can move out at the end of November. I’m really pleased on two counts first – the sooner I can get back in to a studio the better, and second – I don’t have any bad conscience that I’m making another artist “studioless”. The timing suits everyone and I feel very good about it.

On my way home from the meeting I decided to call in at the SFI (Swedish for immigrants) office and ask about registering for their Swedish classes. The receptionist arranged for me to talk with one of the tutor/language assessors and before I really know what was happening I was sitting in front of a computer with headphones on taking a test to determine which level of class I should take. After exercises in reading listening and writing (the writing took me long time and I really wish I’d prepared for it) the tutor gave me my results. I’m at level C. He then looked at a schedule for classes and schools, there’s a school very close to where I live and they have a level C class starting on December 5. Classes are five mornings a week for about three months, if I pass the end of course test I move on to level D classes. I wasn’t expecting the course to be so long, I thought it would be like my evening class in London – two hours a week for 10 weeks. I knew that the classes were free but course literature is free too. It’s fantastic. And with that much tuition my Swedish can’t not improve!

My attempt to enter the Architecture Museum’s annual open gingerbread house competition has failed! Two evenings this week I made batched of ginger bread pigs and tried to build some kind of structure out of them. I thought I’d found the answer with an “experimental” spun-sugar technique. However the next day my component parts had become rather soft and sticky – they have no structural integrity at all! So this year I will not actually participate, I will go an see the other entrants and next year I will give myself more time …


Hooray! I had a letter from the tax office saying that I’m now registered for tax and VAT in Sweden. Hopefully it’s a useful stage in getting myself “fully” registered here and getting that all-important personal number. I looked at joining a gym earlier this week and it’s not possible without a personal number! The personal number is used in place of utility bills and credit checks, once I have one the whole of Sweden seems to open up …

I’m hopeful that I’ll be subletting a studio at wip from either December or at the latest January. It will be very nice to back as I already know some artists there and the studios are very good. Things have changed since I did my residency, the residency programme didn’t continue after the second artist (I was the first) and the book-shop has gone too. Both of these are disappointing but I can see why they’ve happened.
Initially I’ll sub-letting for six months. After that there’s the possibility to share the studio with the artist who is sub-letting. Sharing the studio will entitle me to become a “full” member of the studio group which offers various benefits and opportunities. As a full member I can get involved in the committees that run the gallery and other projects. And there’s no reason why I can’t propose a new residency programme … . Nothing like thinking ahead!

This week’s event at Moderna MuseetThe Friend’s Sculpture Prize. This was actually only one event in a busy evening’s schedule. Sofia Hultén was the recipient of this year’s prize, which is one of the biggest in Sweden (a rather nice 300 000 SEK – almost £30,000). There was short discussion with her about her practice and at the time I felt as if I understood quite a lot of it (it was in Swedish), it helped that the conversation was about the pieces that were in the show. Her use of video was particularly interesting to me, she recorded staged (performed?) interactions with objects. Each interaction was relatively brief and she continued to record the object after the interaction ended. I liked the amount of control the frame of the camera gave her, I liked the time and duration that was given to each interaction and object, I liked how both process and outcome were visible without any additional fuss or maintenance. The videos were shown in loops of about eight different interactions/objects. The pace of them was perfectly judged. I came away thinking that video or film might be an appropriate media for some of my work, it might be an interesting way to give longevity to something transient …
Other events that evening included a lecture related to the Turner, Monet Twombly show and the opening of Ulf Rollof’s exhibition in the Moment series. The discussion with Ulf Rollof was far too complex for my Swedish so I had a quick look at the new photography exhibition. The exhibition has temporarily replaced the permanent collection and is huge – I need to spend at least a day there (the 30 minutes I had before the museum closed were completely insufficient).

Looking forward to hearing a date for getting into the studio, and getting my stuff brought over from the UK …

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The tax office (Swedish) called while I was on my way to the supermarket. They needed to ask a couple of simple questions to approve my application to register my company. The first was to clarify the type of artistic activities my company will do – this is because there are different tax bands for different activities. The second, and more frightening, question was about my estimated ‘turnover’ in the first year. So there I was on a busy street corner thinking about a figure that would demonstrate my professionalism and seriousness while at the same time not landing me with crippling monthly tax bills. In the end I think I over estimated what I will be able to earn in my first year here, thankfully I have some savings that should see me through to when any over payments are calculated. The paperwork should arrive this week. I hope this gives me sufficient ‘Swedish’ registration to open a bank account – the last thing I want is to have to pay international bank transfer fees on each tax bill! I’m also hoping that registering my company and starting to pay tax will enable my application for a “full” personal number to proceed.

It was interesting to visit the studio being offered through the city’s culture office. It’s in part of a former prison complex on a small island that is now a boat yard and park. There were quite a lot of us trying to find our way around, eventually someone worked out that we needed to use the door on the other side of the building. The studio was a good size with two large windows, a kitchen bench with sink and a toilet just outside. It’s one of several studios in the building and quite possibly the one with the trickiest access. We entered via an incredibly tight stone spiral staircase, thankfully it was only one flight up. Alternative access is through the adjacent studio, you’d have to use this to get in any serious amount of materials or equipment. I don’t need to worry about this though as I noticed that at least one artist who expressed an interest in renting it has been on the waiting list since 2003. The studio will be given to the longest waiting artist who expresses an interest in this particular studio. For the next couple of years I will take the opportunity to see these studios as research.

On Monday evening I went to Birgitta’s “Pumpkin Parade” on Årstafältet – the field where she also organsises the snow sculpting and other projects. Children had carved the pumpkins that they planted in spring. The pumpkins looked great displayed along the footpath that was once the road the south out of Stockholm. There wee also short speeches by campaigners and supporters trying to stop the field becoming a housing development. The evening was a great piece of socially engaged artistic activism. Birgitta’s enthusiasm and commitment is infectious and inspiring.

After the studio visit on Tuesday I went to a talk at Iaspis – an arts organisation that supports and promotes artists. They are running a series of talks about artist’s initiatives that go beyond the artist run gallery/studio. The guest this evening was Sean Dockray (USA) speaking about his Public School and AAARG.ORG projects. It made me think about what an artist is, or can be. His projects are incredibly ambitious and far-reaching. He refused to answer a direct question asking if he called himself an artist.

On Wednesday Marlene Dumas gave talk at Moderna Museet. It was held in a small gallery where there is a temporary show of her work. Her talk was illustrated with images however I have no idea what the images were as the room was already packed by the time I arrived. I opted for one of the Eames chairs outside of the gallery rather than standing by the doorway and straining to get a glimpse of her. It was good to hear her speak about the relationship between her influences and her art.

I’m becoming increasingly interested in what I (used to) consider to be an old fashioned idea of the artist …

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