February 12, 2019

Snövit Hedstierna

Her practice often starts from existential, feminist and queer perspectives

Words Nora Hagdahl

Snövit Hedstierna is a visual and Performance artist from Sweden working through interdisciplinary mediums like video, installation, performance, photography, sound and sculpture. Her practice often starts from existential, feminist and queer perspectives working around experiences in the periphery. Currently, Snövit has her studios in Stockholm, Berlin and Montreal. Right now she is preparing for her participation in Pane Per Poveri, a group show taking place during Documenta14. Additionally, she is working on an project for WE.ARE Institute in NYC initiated by Jaša Mrevlje Pollak, and a series of exhibitions with curator Mike Watson that will take place in Rome and Den Haag.

NH

Something that come across for me in your art is the bodily presence. This approach is most apparent in your performances, where you often use your own body. In A Source of Values for instance, you invited the audience to clean your naked body with a sponge. I’m interested in how you think using your own body affects you, the piece and the audience?

SW

It’s never so much about using my body, but rather a body. If mine is available, I think it’s great that I can use it. When I use my body within my art I see it as a tool, just like anything else (a paper, a pencil, a piece of clay) and I see it as my responsibility to use my own body just like I use other models for my photos, videos and performances. For this particular work I felt an urge to use a female body and it felt natural that I would use my own instead of someone else’s. Its pretty common that an artist uses someone else’s body so I don’t know if my audience always understand that it’s the body of the artist that they view. I don’t think if it even matters, it is a body without fashion. What matters is that it’s a living human present. It means it’s also fragile, vulnerable and authentic. I’m drawn to the concept that everything is happening simultaneously for me and the audience.

NH

A Source of Values was presented at Manifesta11, do you want to tell me a little about the background for that piece?

SW

I believe that female body always has been subject to a lot of hatred, abuse and sexual objectification. Today, the virgin is seen as pure and innocent while the grown up woman who owns her own sexuality and is proud of her body is seen as someone dirty. These ideas about the female body have been falsely constructed to keep women enslaved in a patriarchal world. With my work I wanted to use those presumptions of a “clean and dirty body“ and create a situation where the audience could participate in a cleaning ceremony for any reason. I find the ritual of cleaning someone else’s body very interesting and I’m both cleaning processes and water will be two important elements in an upcoming work. 

NH

In those situations, what relationship do you want to establish with the audience? As a woman, do you feel that displaying of your body is something that affects you and how you are perceived as a professional?

The participants chose to do it with such gentle, respectful and caring touch and many teared up on stage or after and explained how emotional the act had been to them. There were two men who walked into the venue by accident, and decided to participate. Afterwards they expressed how touched they were by what they described as an intimate but non sexual way to experience another person’s body. I feel like nudity doesn’t always have to be sexualized and instead be a way to portray your frailty, meaning that this in-depth bond could be found with respect. On the contrary, as a woman working with in the arts I experience sexism in other kind of situations. It could be in cases about how my work is received, I’ve heard of a student who’ve gotten really upset by the piece at Manifesta11 saying something like “it’s like asking to get raped…”. Additionally, I can feel very objectified by people I encounter in different professional situations. Like a male curator telling me how pretty I am and asking me for a blow-job while about to sign a contract for an upcoming show. During Art Basel 2016, I started counting how many times I was offered sex during daytime at the fair. As most it happened fourteen times during one day, always by men with status far up in the hierarchy whom are both talented, professional, powerful, rich and driven by the dick.   

NH

I’m thinking about performance as tool for expression expression and how such work takes place in time, in you case sometimes with long durations. Looking at Our Practice, Dream a dream (seven days long performance) or To give and to hold (as examples among many others) it is performance spanning over hours. What is performance as a tool for expression for you, and what does long duration add on that?

SW

I use many different mediums in my work and some of my ideas just demands performance as its medium. I like the exclusiveness, the presence, the intensity and the directness of performance and the interactive or participatory aspects that I often create with it. I like to see my work as a delicate dimension you fall into and become part of, so I use the slow paced tempo and the long durational frame as tools to create an inspection, or a kind of meditative state to add focus and awareness of what’s happening in the space.

NH

What experiences in your life has been important for the work that you do? Also what questions drives you when making art? Your statement says that your art often starts as an act of resistance, what are your thoughts on the art as a tool for change in society?

SW

I don’t believe so much in key frames but more in the in-between moments when you actually have time to contemplate and be with yourself without so many layers of ego, those flashes of insights are of highest importance for my art creation and soul recreation. I´m inspired by Carl Jung and his philosophical theories of dream states, psychological projections, and the collective unconscious. There are so many existing realities and subject matters that the society likes to ignore, so I encourage myself to find ways to highlight aspects and narratives of intimacy, vulnerability, love, empathy, dream realms and the most fragile state of existence. I’ve written a manifesto concerning otherness and how I rather embrace “the other” and unknown, than to be afraid of them, push them aside or even shoot them. In connection to this statement I made the piece To Give and To Hold.  For this I invited the public to come and spoon with me and caress my body in the 48 hours long durational performance. It was a truly beautiful experience that still blows my mind when I think back. An act of resistance towards the narrow minded and a way to create images of people showing respect, love and compassion towards each other, something that follows the philosophical idea called “the path of least resistance” where you simply just follow the natural flow of energy.