Thursday, May 17, 2012

I call it Annie's leaf (one of thousands)

Okay, so it's been a while... First of all, thanks to everyone who came to the workshop in Stockholm, it was nice to see you + you made the night a smash hit. Looking forward to more of the same later this year. If your'e interested, keep an eye out for more info at Zickermans.

Earlier this year, I was invited to participate in the exhibition Ser du löven för alla träd (Can you see the leafs on the trees, some info in English here) at Liljevalchs this summer. The exhibition is a part of the 100 year jubilee of The National Association of Swedish Handicraft (by the way, I'm totally smitten by the posters and branding work for the jubilee & apparently I'm not the only one).

After a lot of stress & agony (due to other factors in life, mostly) I finally was able to send them my contribution  last week. It didn't turn out just as I imagined, but I'm still happy with the fact that I at least got it done... It feels nice to be part of something big, being one of 2000 pieces in a colletive project.

The inspiration for my leaf comes from an internet campaign called Vi kallar oss (We call ourselves) started by Almega, branch organization for temporary work agencies in Sweden (if someone know a better translation of the swedish term 'bemanningsföretag', I'm happy to hear it).

The point of the campaign was to launch a new term for workers employed by these agencies, to polish up their brand & silence the questioning voices that were getting more and more annoying & loud. The increase of companies that fire their workers, only to re-hire them trough agencies that do not provide the same security or salaries, has been notable in Sweden during the last decade. Getting a job through a agency is also often the only option for many young people, as companies do not want to risk employing staff that they cannot sack or relocate as they want to, when 'needed'.

The aim of this particular campaign was to 're-brand' these temporary workers, by initiating a competition where the workers could send in their own suggestion of what they should be called, to dream up a new & improved job title, & then vote for their favorite. Problem was, that's exactly what happened. But the workers employd by the agencies did not share the PR experts and bosses' idea that the problem with this kind of employment is what it is called, more than the actual insecurity of it all. So they started sending in suggestions that did not quite fit the 'positive' & 'flexible' connotations that the campaign aimed for. As these suggestions started to climb to the top of the list (by votes from the public), the people behind the campaign paniced & invoced a strong censurship on the website, cleaning out all the unwanted suggestions.

This in turn sparked the flame in some temp workers, that got together & launched a counter campaign, also called Vi kallar oss (but with a slighty different url). Here all the suggestions that weren't welcome in the original contest were collected & voted on. The catchphrase for the site was (still is) 'What we call ourselves, not what the agencies wants us to be called', & in a couple of days this new site had totally hijacked the original campaign (that closed down due to the shitstorm it got caught up in). The words in my cross stitch are choosen from the suggestions of this counter movement; day labourer, slave, flex servant, insecured, serf, precariuos, & so on...

I found this event both amusing & important, that's why I wanted to spread the word about it. Amusing, because it shows the total unpredictability of 'viral marketing' & internet PR campaigning, as no one can be sure of what the interwebz does to the content & message that is communicated. Important, becuse the right to a steady income, permanent employment, & overall job security is one of the most important political issues in Sweden today (& all over th world, I'd imagine).

Some might say that this form of employment is the new black, that the modern worker does not want to stay in one place all her life, that 'flexibility' & 'freedom' are the catchwords of today's labour market. That it's better to get a job - any job even though you're paid less, have no job security, & no chance of planning your life more than a day ahead - than no job at all.

But, as a friend of mine would put it - I call bullshit. Temporary work agencies were illegal in Sweden up until the beginning of the 1990's, since they exploit people, provide insecure employment, and makes it difficult for workers to organize in unions. Their modern comeback is  part of a greater shift in society, where the flexibility of the creative middle class working as project managers, temporary understudies, and freelancers is applied to every area of the labour market. As Zygmunt Bauman puts it in The Individualized Society:
'Flexibility' is the slogan of the day, and when applied to the labour market it means an end to the job 'as we know it', work on short-term contracts, rolling contracts or no contracts, positions with no inbuilt security but with the 'until further notice' clause.
This development is not about providing freedom of choice, creative job opportunities, or making it possible for people to 'explore their potential' & 'evolve as a person'. It's about making more money for less investment, & also, in the long run, to destroy the unity & community that has been the basis for workers' organizations. A reality where you don't know if you're gonna work the next day, where you gonna work in that case, and who will be working with you, makes it pretty difficult to demand your rights & put pressure on capitalist interests at the place of work. Bauman again; "The present-day uncertainty is a powerful individualizing force".

The insecurity of this arrangement also leads to health issues such as stress & depression, and in some cases - death. Temporary workers are overrepresented in the statistics of work place related injuries in Sweden today. This is no coincidence, since temp workers often are young, lack experience & knowledge about particular safety hazards, & are afraid to speak up when it comes to problems at their place of work  (knowing that they might lose the job if they complain, since it's easy to replace them with someone else from the agency) .

Someone who does not find this as troubling as I do, is apparently Annie Lööf, leader of the Centre party in Sweden ("a green social liberal party" with its roots in the farmers' movement). She is a devoted neoliberal, known to list Ayn Rand & Margaret Thatcher as her political role models.  She is also the youngest party leader in Sweden, but earns the highest salary of them all (about 151 000 sek per month, which is 7000 more then an avarage nurse gets in a whole year).

In the posts tagged 'bemmaningsföretag' on her blog (no I won't link, use google if you want to read her ramblings), she draws up a picture of the temp agencies as the saviours of youths & immigrants who have the biggest problem with "entering the job market" today. If the working conditions are bad, it's the unions fault for not taking care of their members properly, it has nothing to do with the profit or nature of the business. And, as a special twist, she argues that if it is that bad to work under these conditions that you have to call yourself a slave, then why don't you choose to be unemployed instead? Yes, it's always about choice for these people...

So without further ado, I dedicate my leaf to Annie. I call it "Annies lööf" (okay, so this is only funny in Swedish, since lööf is an alternative spelling of the word löv, meaning leaf).

I won't be able to attend the opening of the exhibition in June, due to facts such as finishing my masters degree & moving all my stuff from Stockholm to Gothenburg (yes, the West coast will be my permanent location from now on) in the same week, but I hope to get to see it sometime during summer.

Monday, March 5, 2012

cross stitch workshop at my alma mater


I will be participating in a workshop entitled
Political crafts at Kulturhuset, Stockholm, April 21th.

The event is part of Kulturnatt Stockholm & arranged by Zickermans Värld. There isn't any info in English, but the copy text on the site says that it's going to be a night of punk embroidery, guerilla handicraft, yarn graffiti & queer crafting. Sounds like fun for the whole family, I say.

Be there or be a spineless liberal!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

mixing pop and politics / he asks me what the use is / I offer him embarrassment / and my usual excuses

I almost forgot to post this... It is a birthday gift for the smartest four month old baby I know, quoting my teenage heros in Rage Against the Machine. The first time I saw them play live was at an old gymnasium in a suburb north of Stockholm, back in 1996. I was fifteen, going on sixteen, & got totally blown away by their performance. I still think that the debut album is so awesome, that I'm prepared to forgive them for the fact that this is the band that probably played the biggest role in creating the monstrosity what later would be known as funk metal.

Fun anecdote: When RATM played at the Hultsfred festival in 2000, rumor has it that the Seismic Institute at Uppsala University recorded a small earth quake in southern Sweden.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

DO IT YOURSELF - 100 years of Swedish handicraft

Some of my cross stitches are part of the exhibition GÖR DET SJÄLV - Hemslöjden 100 år that opened at Skövde Stadsmuseum last Saturday. I coulden't be there myself for the opening (because I was in Stockholm to see the Norwegian black metal/punk rock cross over Kvelertak) but my father was there to represent the family. Here are some pictures:

Friday, October 28, 2011

that legendary divorce is such a bore

This cross stitch is about family, about how sometimes it doesn't matter if you're connected by blood or by choice - family is family, even though you might not share the same genes. I've had the lucky fortune to have some people in my life that've always been there for me, always carried me through. I thought they deserved some recognition.

The quote comes from this song. Hopefully, some day I'll have the time to get it properly pressed & framed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

our house, was our castle and our keep / our house, in the middle of our street

So, I wrote a review about this book for a newspaper here in Sweden where a friend of mine works as an editor for the moment (nepotism, ftw!). It's not published yet & it's not really a big thing, but it got me thinking about how important certain places can become in your life. Not just the people that build them, by spirit or by hand, but also the buildings themselfes. The colour of the wallpaper, the grafitti in the bathroom, the carvings on the surface of a table. Layer upon layer of history in the making. Lifes & stories getting mixed & turned around just because you happened to be there just then.

These houses are not important just because they provide a space for alternative culture, for the kids, the rebels & the vagabonds, but also as institutions. As a very real proof that something can be built by joint effort & that together we can make a difference, demand a place & a voice in the public sphere. Because of this, the very personal relationship many people have to them, it's always a tragedy when one of them gets destroyed. When Ungeren died it was the end of an era, when Cyklopen was burned down it was like getting hit in the face. But as they say in the song - Vi har 69 i hjertet / We have 69 in our hearts. A new era has already begun in K-town & just about a month ago the first steps was taken of the construction of a new free culture house in Stockholm. These houses, together with hundreds others all over the world, provide a safe haven for some of us, a place where to find like minded people, to plan a revolution, to learn a craft, to live. They are worth fighting for & worth documenting for the world & the future.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

til ungdommen

Kanskje du spør i angst,
udekket, åpen:
hva skal jeg kjempe med
hva er mitt våpen?

Her er ditt vern mot vold,
her er ditt sverd:
troen på livet vårt,
menneskets verd.

Fearful your question, / Defenceless, open / What shall I fight with? / What is my weapon?
Here is your battle plan, / Here is your shield / Faith in this life of ours, / The common weal

I have nothing more to say right now.

Thanks to Linnea for making me aware of this poem.