“Yes, I’m Talking to You” – Contemporary Artist Emilia Bergmark Makes Voiceless Objects speak

Meet the Swedish artist who’s introducing you to everything from a talking potato teaching us our colonial history, a bee that both reflects our stressed-out work culture and criticizes our negative impact on biodiversity, a talking kitchen sink and the character Lucky – a lonely, diligent citizen in a neoliberal society.

Emilia Bergmark by Amalie Ivalo
Emilia Bergmark by Amalie Ivalo

For the Copenhagen-based, Swedish installation artist Emilia Bergmark, it all starts with the intention. We’re living in a time with complex issues such as the precarization of labour, the exploitation of nature, and the exploitative production logic that connects the two. And as an artist, Bergmark sees it as her job to create narratives and experiences that make these issues both visible and tangible so we can talk about it and initially get a better understanding of it all.

For Bergmark, giving a voice to subjects that normally don’t get heard, is one way of gaining new perspectives on the strange invasive species that is humankind. Looking at the world through the eyes of a thing, makes it possible to point at ourselves and wonder what we are doing, and why.

An example of this is one of Bergmark’s latest works, Soap which she describes as a ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’. The work has been written during lockdown and it processes experiences and anxieties that the pandemic has triggered in many of us – the over consumption of ‘flicks on the net, the social isolation in the home, and the feeling that other humans are walking colonies of germs that should be kept at a distance. The protagonist of Soap is a kitchen sink with screenwriter ambitions that has composed a soap opera with a cast of her ‘friends, the cleaning products’.

THE SINK: Ho-ho! Over here love. Yes! Right over here, [Bubble sound, swallowing] The sink! [Burp] Oh pardon me! Come a little closer… Oh, eh, d-don’t touch anything please… You have 1500 bacteria living on each–square–centimeter of your hands… On average. That’s a­–lot–of bacteria on those dirty human-skin-gloves you’re wearing on your flesh… [Jokingly] “So keep those grubby hands where I can see them” Just… Don’t touch anything. Please.

[Subtle gurgling sound]

Thank you for coming! I’ve always wanted to write a soap opera, it’s been in the pipeline for some time now, but I’ve had a creative block. [Blopp].. But.. ehm I’ve had some extra time on my hands lately… I don’t go out you see. I can’t leave the house… [Whispering] it’s dangerous out there. [Deep gurgling sound] There are germs e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

But, I’m safe in here. It’s clean. [Bubble sounds, burp] We have disinfected all the surfaces, bleached the stains, killed the germs, removed the limescale. We have scrubbed the floors, buffed the stainless steel, washed the kitchen towels and ungreased the pipes. I way we, because I had a little help from my friends – the cleaning products!

So, with my spare time, I’ve managed to break through my writer’s block and I’ve gotten quite far in the writing. It’s a kitchen sink drama and it’s called SOAP and the cleaning products – my friends and helpers – they are helping me with SOAP too, they will be the cast!

Emilia Bergmark

Soap, a duo exhibition, an installation and a Kitchen Sink Drama by Emilia Bergmark and Maria Gondek for Sirin Gallery 

Artist under lockdown – Adapting to the new normal

When the pandemic hit, Bergmark – like the rest of us – had to get creative in new ways. The issues addressed in Soap stems from the experiences of living through lockdown where the line between our work lives and private spheres are blurring out, but also the physical result changed with the overshadowing global situation. It was supposed to be launched as a physical installation with sound and objects filling the room, but as an effect of the art galleries closing, Soap ended up premiering as a radio drama. And it turned out to be the perfect fit for the piece and Bergmark’s overall intention with her art.

In art galleries you reach a very specific audience. It’s often people who’re already part of the art world and who’re used to visiting galleries. Radio as a media reaches a completely different audience that might not be the typical people going to galleries. I wonder if someone was actually in their kitchen, while they heard Soap in the radio, and suddenly heard this talking kitchen sink,” she says and laughs: “This way you can literally reach into people’s homes and sort of disrupt their daily routines and make them think: ’If my kitchen sink looked back at me, what would it think about me?’, Emilia Bergmark reflects.

Lucky – The power of the narrator

Emilia Bergmark;
“Lucky” by Emilia Bergmark; cinematography by Christopher Tym

Bergmark’s work with giving voice to objects is just one part of her art. Her 18-minute short film Lucky is an example of how she uses her art to explore the device of the subjective narrator. In fact, her art is not as much about talking objects as it’s about the power of the narrator.

Written and directed by Bergmark herself, Lucky is a tragicomic portrait of the stigma of solitude. In the short film you meet the character Lucky who lives alone in a small house in a dark Swedish forest and works remotely as a programmer. But you also meet what Bergmark describes as an “unreliable male narrator” who is judgmental of Lucky and from a heteronormative perspective judges her solitude as loneliness.

Bergmark often describes her art as “Magical Realism” as it plays out in everyday life, but introduces elements from myths or fairytales. In Lucky, she has taken inspiration from her Swedish heritage. The tale is rooted in the north-Swedish storytelling tradition, a tradition full of unreliable narrators that will never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Whether it’s by giving a voice to voiceless objects or exploring the power of the narrator, Emilia Bergmark creates art with the hope that people that engage with the artistic worlds she’s creating, are left with a lingering feeling that their everyday life is in fact more absurd than they could ever imagine.

The exhibition Soap will be created in collaboration with the artist Maria Gondek and Sirin Gallery.

Lucky was planned to be showcased at Roskilde Festival 2020 and Roskilde Festival 2021, but due to the uncertainty of the current situation with Covid-19, the short film will now be shown at the digital art fair Daata.art with the date yet to be announced.

Emilia Bergmark has made radio adaptions of several of her artworks that you can now stream as podcast on your preferred podcast platform. Listen on Apple Podcasts here.


During the fall you can see the work of Emilia Bergmark in several exhibitions:

Short film Lucky:

September 29th – October 30th: Filmfest Sundasvall SE)
November 18th – November 21st: Grasp Festival, Roskilde (DK)

The exhibition Soap (as a duo show with Maria Gondek)

September 17th – October 9th: SIRIN Gallery x Nicolaj Bo, Frederiksberg (DK)

The exhibition Soap (as part of Copenhagen Art Week)

September 16th: Opening reception 4pm – 7pm CET
September 29th: Artist talk with Emilia Bergmark & Maria Gondek in conversation with Nanna Balslev Strøjer 5.30pm – 6.30pm CET
October 3rd: SOAP is first stop of the Art Week Bike Tour 1pm – 1.30pm

The exhibition Flowers and Art / Blomsten i Kunsten

September 9th 2021 – January 9th 2022: Arken Museum of Modern Art, Ishøj (DK) Read more.

The exhibition Naturen Taler

September 3rd 2021 – January 2nd 2022: Sorø Kunstmuseum, Sorø (DK) Read more.

Darker

November 21st – December 21st: The artist run exhibition space C4, Copenhagen (DK) Read more.

The performance Heaven and Earth

December 1st: Kunsten, Aalborg (DK)

You can explore more of Emilia Bergmark’s art on her website here and follow her work on Instagram here.


Emilia Bergmark is one of the three artists who was appointed the Bikuben Foundation’s 2020 ARTISTIC PRACTICE that aims at strengthen Danish artists’ opportunity for an international breakthrough.

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