2010-2013


Transformation

In my project ”Transformation” I examine different identities. The works do not have a linear construction or time sequence. It is a story of cultural transformation and collision. Architecture and traditions affect our identity depending on where we live.

Folk costumes still have a great importance in most of the cultures. Less visible in big cities but very much visible in the countryside where traditions are preserved. During 1800-century Romanticism had a large impact on art and architecture. Romantic home became a symbol of the simple and good way to live a life. 

The American Dream, sometimes in the phrase ”Chasing the American Dream,” is a national ethos of the United States in which freedom includes a promise of the possibility of prosperity and success. In the American Dream, first expressed by James Truslow Adams in 1931, ”life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the second sentence of the United States Declaration of Independence which proclaims that ”all men are created equal” and that they are ”endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights” including ”Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Since the 1920s, numerous authors, such as Sinclair Lewis in his 1922 novel Babbitt, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his 1925 classic, The Great Gatsby, satirized or ridiculed materialism in the chase for the American dream. Within ’The Great Gatsby’, Gatsby - the character representative of the American dream was killed, symbolizing the pessimistic belief that the American dream is dead. 

Recent research suggests that the United States and Britain show less intergenerational income-based social mobility than the Nordic countries and Canada. The idea of the US as ‘the land of opportunity’ persists; and clearly seems misplaced.

The Case Study Houses, experiments in American residential architecture sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine, changed the post-war architecture scenario with the goal to create good living conditions for post-war American families. A number of them appeared in the magazines and blockbuster movies creating them into something symbolic and iconic rather then functional. The symbolic of the Case Study Houses at the present day suits my idea that people in all social groups, consciously or not identify themselves through trends, styles, design, architecture or even color. Social class is a controversial issue, having many competing definitions, models, and even disagreements over its very existence. I examine different classes and classifications creating a void space.

The symbolic and dysfunctionality of the Case Study Houses at the present day suits my idea of transformation and can be found in many societies and cultures. We remodel things so they fit our own purpose. We chase ”the american dream” and relate to different rules we learn to fit in as best in society, creating artificial living spaces.

During the Swedish emigration to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries, about 1.3 million Swedes left Sweden fleeing poverty, religious persecution and lack of political freedom. The great majority of them had been peasants in Dalarna province in central Sweden.They were pushed away from Sweden by disastrous crop failures and pulled towards America by the cheap land and a promise of a better life. 
In the second half of the nineteenth century, a mass migration crisis divided Sweden and even, some thought, threatened its very existence. In the early 20th century, the Swedish-American dream even embraced the idea of a welfare state responsible for the well-being of all its citizens. Underneath these shifting ideas ran from the start the current which carried all before it in the later 20th century: America as the symbol and dream of unfettered individualism. Admiration for America was combined with the notion of a past Swedish Golden Age with ancient Nordic ideals. Supposedly corrupted by foreign influences, the timeless "Swedish values" would be recovered by Swedes in the New World. 

Dalarna in Sweden is still likely assiociated with National Romanticism, in general, an attitude that seeks to re-establish a national cultural tradition to draw from this as a starting point for innovation. Such an approach appears in the Swedish 1600s and again in a new phase as a variant of the 1800-century Romanticism. The term romantic nationalism as the designation of the mainstream of Swedish art and architecture decades around 1900, was introduced by Johnny Roosval. Its justification is now highly controversial, and the phenomenon Roosval intended interpreted rather as an alternative path to a modern approach. I put elements of largely celebrated traditions into my works like for example confirmation and baptism and examine their new meaning as a lot of participants are actually non believers. Rejoicing on Midsummer or Walpurgis Night are an old pagan customs that has never outlived its merriment. In most of the Swedish provinces, it is a time to don traditional costumes, mischievously embrace cherished superstitions, parade through the village, and ride to church in a boat. On a clearest days in the central province of Dalarna, a Swedish-blue sky makes a brilliant backdrop for intense leafy greens and the purple of distant hills. A young girl picks a bouquet of seven wildflowers to place under her pillow so that she will see her beloved in a dream.

This idea of otherness seems to be a strangely prevalent issue. As cheap flights abound, as people travel further afield to other continents one might begin to believe that the world of the twenty-first century has opened up like a flower and we can crawl freely all over it for very little money. This is, to a degree, true, but another thing seems to be happening locally – native flowers are being cherished and hybrids considered second-rate. Authenticity is all, and there is a raised awareness of cultural identity. Folk costumes still have a great importance in most of the cultures. Less visible in big cities but very much visible in the countryside where traditions are preserved.

I take references from the musicals made in the 30ties for their timeless way of resolving boring stagnation and all the limitations in reality. Some of the drawings are inspired by a dance called Apache Dance, a highly dramatic dance associated in popular culture with Parisian street culture in the beginning of the 20th century. I examine the lightness of our expectations and dreams, that is why choosing dance movements is a conscious choice. Going “back” in time into 30ties makes drawings less documentary and more glamour, something we long for from the past which does not exist anymore. The basis of all the sequences is grey, the colour of fog, dreaming, desperation and no way out perhaps. Still there is something timeless and limitless in a dream, a vision to hold on to.

© Aleksandra Jarosz Laszlo 2019