Jay Ponteri, English faculty, will be a guest author on Sugar Radio, hosted by Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond on February 14, 2016.
Excerpt from an article by Emanuele Lugli in Vogue Italia, January 25, 2012.
In 1930, in Stockholm, most of the profits from the international exhibition held then came from the sale of a small wooden horse, which was produced in the central Dalarna region and decorated in a brilliant range of colours. Called the Dalahäst, the toy is one of the symbols of Sweden.
So it comes as no surprise that the artist Sanna-Lisa Gesang-Gottowt has taken the Dalahäst as the focus of her artistic work. Art has been excited about pop, toys and tourism for decades. But Sanna-Lisa's work is much broader in scope. In brief, it divides into three phases.
The first is already complete: it consists of Dalahäst heads attached to wooden shields – as if they were stuffed trophies. "I hung them through the streets of Stockholm, in places where it's difficult to get to, so they could create something unexpected."
In the second phase, the Dalahäst will be flattened like a skin to put under the table in the living-room. The third will transform the Dalahäst into a My Little Pony, as if the little Swedish horse had been transformed into a mass success.
The horse's metamorphoses are interesting in themselves. But Sanna-Lisa aims to give a clear message about the state of Swedish today.
"We're seen as this perfect country and in the past the Swedish 'social welfare' system has actually been used as a model by much of the world. But the country has changed significantly. During the years I spent in Portland (Sanna-Lisa studied at Marylhurst University), I came to understand how the Americans see the Swedish social model and how Swedes see the American."
The Dalahäst then could be interpreted as the commodification of a defunct social system which now functions only as a tourist knick-knack, like the toys and the trophies of the past.