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Focusing on the fragile

Insekt Insikt
Insekt Insikt.

The Insect Insight exhibition runs between June 29th and September 1st, 2019.

The Insect Insight exhibition showcases the beautiful but frightening world of insects. Before it opened, we visited artist Annika Liljedahl in her studio.

Most surfaces in Annika Liljedahl’s dark studio in Stockholm are covered in insects of various sizes. In one of the rooms, there’s a large hybrid insect with menacing red pipes; hundreds of little black flies appear to be crawling around on one of the tables; and what look like x-rays of large beetles are hanging over the studio’s large windows. This is where Annika creates the artworks that are set to feature in her Insect Insight exhibition at the Artbox this summer.

In a career as an artist and sculptor spanning over 50 years, Annika Liljedahl has exhibited in Sweden and internationally, including at Gallery K in Washington DC, USA, Länsmuseet Gävleborg in Gävle and the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg.

– When you’ve been working for as long as I have, you discover that you’ve been expressing the same concept all your life. It’s the fragile and delicate, the small and the vulnerable. That’s the story that I want to tell, even if I’m not always aware of this when I’m working. It runs like an invisible thread through my artistry, Annika explains, as she shows us around her studio.

In Insect Insight, she showcases artworks which use the insect as a metaphor for transformation and survival. In her sculptures, fragile silk fabric meets menacing pins and lovingly sewn edges are juxtaposed with crumpled wire – illustrating not only the beautiful and frightening aspects but also the fragility of the insect world.

– Insects are vulnerable little creatures right now, at the mercy of human interference. The newspapers are full of stories reporting their disappearance, due to toxins and pesticides. But they’re also tenacious and strong. The struggle for survival fascinates me, notes Annika Liljedahl.

Her interest in working with insects was awakened when she inherited her family’s summer cottage on the Swedish island of Öland. Every spring when the cottage was opened for the season, she had to sweep up heaps of dead insects from the furniture and floor. Over the years, she’s become more and more fascinated by the variety of species and the insects’ struggle for survival.

In the spring of 2016, she started to create the first artworks to feature in the exhibition, and she always planned to enhance the installation with lighting and audio. The idea to work with Lo Kristenson was born when Annika Liljedahl heard a documentary about her in the ‘Meet the Musician’ series on P2 in 2017.

For Lo Kristenson – who’d just been awarded her master’s degree in composition from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm – it was an exciting challenge to start from actual objects when creating the sounds, which consist of insect-like scratching and buzzing.

– I don’t often get the chance to create sound art. I’ve really enjoyed playing around to find the right sounds. I’ve tinkered around with string sounds and used glass to create the whine of mosquitoes, for example. I’ve also used a giant rainstick, a dried cactus, to create the sound of pincers. It’s been an extremely exciting experimental project.

This is an article from the Artipelag yearly magazine produced in 2019 by Make Your Mark. Text: Linus Fremin. Photo: Samuel Unéus.