On my last visit to Sweden a few months ago I stumbled upon this art exhibition at a subway station.
I’m blurring it out because it’s so obscene the exhibition could actually be illegal here in Singapore.
But in Sweden it’s the authorities who promote it!
The boundaries for what’s acceptable in public art are radically different in Sweden from countries in East Asia.
Let’s take a look!
There isn’t any art in the subway here in Singapore, but there’s often an exhibition along Orchard Road, the main shopping streak.
Here’s one example from a few years back: It shows a young female athlete in a delicate position, but without crossing the line to obscenity. Instead it celebrates beauty, skill, and accomplishment.
These examples are also from Orchard Road. There is something about all of them that the average man of the street can appreciate and admire.
Swedish artists, at least those who get public funding, are far less interested in pleasing the public. Take this object in a Swedish suburb and ask yourself: Who was the artist trying to impress?
It certainly wasn’t the average man or woman in the neighbourhood.
It’s not that the art is abstract. This sculpture from Singapore is also highly abstract, but has a certain elegance and beauty to it that is uplifting and inspiring.
Most public art is figurative though and often has an historical motif, such as this statue of an early feminist.
Speaking of feminism, let’s get back to the subway.
I’m not a lawyer, but I think it would actually be an offense to hang these drawings on a wall in Singapore.
I wasn’t sure if just posting them on YouTube would get me in trouble, which would make it kinda hard to report on it.
But as far as I can tell from the legal text, it should be okay.
To summarize: obscene in relation to a film means a film that tends to deprave or corrupt the audience. I doubt you’ll be corrupted, so let’s remove the blur effect.
The drawings depict women having their period, lesbian love, and hairy legs. It’s actually pretty standard for the kind of art that gets public funding in Sweden nowadays; Or other support from government organisations.
It’s just the placement that is unusually prominent. Another example is an adaptation of the SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas. The author of this intensely hateful rant against men actually tried to kill a famous artist Andy Warhol. But the hateful content didn’t stop Swedish authorities from funding performances of it, or schools from sending kids there.
Maybe you’re thinking that I must have cherry picked a single extreme incident. But the SCUM Manifesto is actually a darling of the Swedish establishment.
Of course there is less provocative art too.
And lastly there is art in East Asia that wouldn’t get funded in Sweden, not with public money.
I took these pictures in Hong Kong about three years ago. A Korean artist held an exhibition
with sculptures of people who were radiantly happy — in traditional gender roles.
That wouldn’t sit well with the current establishment in Sweden.
Who should decide what’s art and what’s just obscene?
And what do you think?
Speak your mind in the comment section below