Conversation between Bernd Krauss and Hans Carlsson

Conversation between Bernd Krauss and Hans Carlsson
Hans Carlsson: Could you give me some background on We Are Continuing BBDG?
Bernd Krauss: The exhibition consists of a shop with whacked out Björn Borg products, and other things related to the famous tennis player. The background is Lars Skarke’s book The Truth - My Years With Björn Borg from 1993. The book describes what happened when the name of Björn Borg,
in the formation of the Björn Borg Design Group, and with great help from the companion Skarke, passed from person to brand.
HC: Can you tell more about Björn Borg Design Group?
BK: BBDG was an umbrella organization for various garment producers operating internationally, with offices in Tokyo and New York. Several different stakeholders: sports managers, producers, banks and, of course, Borg himself with all his money from the pro career. The star’s name was supposed to stand for quality.
BK: No, there is no outright criticism. But the theme relates to important topics, such as the attempt to make Borg campaign
for the Swedish Social Democrat Party. After Borg in 1974, with his huge fortune, moved to the tax haven Monaco, the party also tried to lure him back to Sweden with various benefits. All this says a lot about Swedish history and political tradition. I have also personally learned things about the Swedish history of politics and sports.
HC: How do you feel about stepping back and letting others decide the design of your art? Are you trying to emulate Björn Borg’s strategy in becoming a brand?
BK: It is important to stress that I do not wish to step back. It’s me, Bernd Krauss, who is the source of what you see, I will gladly take a curatorial responsibility for this exhibition. But then it should not be about what I’m experiencing. It is important to present material, to organize it and make it available in a new way. As for Björn Borg, he kept himself away from media and publicity. Skarke describes how he hardly said a word during the many years they worked together. He was very keen to start BBDG, but would later have as little as possible to do with the
HC: Can you say something about the framing of the work?
BK: I have chosen to outsource much of
the responsibility to the performance and theater group “Theater Societät” (Simon Frisch, Michael Thomas and Bernd Krauss). By choosing the collective theater format the actual theme comes to the forefront, and the work is less exposed to the risk of becoming a personal sculpture exhibition. The main thing is, after all, that the story of Björn Borg, thirty years after
he ended his professional career, reaches out. It’s about staging a series of visual thumbnails where the most important— dramatic and undramatic—moments in
the male friendship—between Borg and Skarke—gets retold. In fact, after moving to Skeppsholmen, for this year’s art program at the Stockholm Music & Arts (2-4 August), the performative elements will be even more significant, in favor of the rather substantial presentation shown here in Tensta. The goal in both cases is to try to understand how BBDG could have functioned today.
HC: Can you consider We Are Continuing BBDG a critique of commercialism?
group. But in the beginning it did not work so well; the Monaco incident was difficult for both the person and the brand. But today things are different, hardly anyone outside of Sweden born after 1985 associates the name of the star with tennis. So at the end of the day, he got what he wanted.
HC: In your project, one can often find a large element of play. An example is the workshop Studiecirkel utan Bil (– men med en Sandlåda) (Study group without
a car but with a sandpit) where you, along with Nina Svensson, invited by Gävle Art Center, took a sandbox to a square in central Gävle. Passers-by could then build sand models of what a future local community should, according to them, look like. Do you consider playing an artistic method? What do you have to say about Sigmund Freud’s famous assumption that the contrast of play is not seriousness, but rather reality?
BK: Most often there is no need for art. We, me and Nina, might have thought we were doing art in Gävle, but for those who came to us this was less important. Instead the actual playing became central. I think facts should be handled with little or no respect at times, but, as a groundwork, there must somehow exist seriousness and a relationship to the present. There is a risk otherwise
that it just becomes something fun. But the game has after all an ability to open up and become a sort of democratic, accessible room for opinions and discussions.
HC: Collecting is a method you frequently use. And then often a gathering that has
a historical basis. To build collections or archives says something about how we view the past. How do you relate to this as an artist? The fact that you are actually writing history?
BK: As an artist, I have more freedom than a historian. Perhaps also another ambition – to create a non-hierarchical history where everyone can join in or, in any case, through a kind of physical proximity, it becomes understandable for as many as possible.
HC: In art history there are different approaches towards gathering things. Can you name any art-collecting traditions that have been important to you?
BK: To begin with, I think it’s important to avoid the avant-gardistic belief that
publication. I draw, write and paste by hand, then I take photos that are regularly put online. Again, this is something personal and playfully rolled up in a public sphere, where it can have critical effect. It is important that each “number” of the blog is supplied with markers that are reminiscent of other forms of media. It could be a date indication, or a title, or something else that mimics, for example, the newspaper format. It is all about taking part in a public debate with a re-manufactured public “voice.” I think the death of newspapers, as well as ideology, is shown by the fact that it is even possible to work like this. It is also a bit
of this do-it-yourself-but-say-something- important spirit that I wish to highlight in my spatial and social experiments.
HC: How do you generally relate to the different places and contexts you exhibit in? What does it mean to exhibit at Tensta Konsthall for you?
BK: I do not work site-specifically, but I am interested in creating different networks for contact and understanding. It is all about creating some attraction in the theme and the design that people can possibly relate to.
you can really change something. Art
has the ability to actively participate in public debate, but guarantees in itself
no change. It, like every individual, lives
a political life, even without setting up
some ideological discourses around itself.
I always looked for a tradition that, after the idealized worldview of Conceptual art, made use of the commonplace. For example Raffael Rheinsberg who has a completely non-esoteric relation to the material he collects—everything from rusty stuff
and street signs to material that survived museum fires. An aesthetic dialogue can only occur when you really use the things you put together.
HC: You also work with writing, a practice going on in various media and contexts. One example is your blog/fanzine, Der Riecher, which blends critical reflections on contemporary life with more mundane questions and observations. What is
the explanation behind this blog? And how does it relate to your more spatial installations?
BK: Der Riecher (in english: the nose) is a mix between a diary and a more ordinary
HC: How do you relate to some current ideas in contemporary art? I refer to a kind of re-discovered interest in what the objects around us have to say, and this as irrespective of the human subject.
BK: There is, though I am not directly familiar with these new-old traditions of thought, something to collect from what you’re talking about. The idea that it in materiality there is knowledge, not shown by other expressions, is, I think, an important insight for artists. It’s a
bit what I am trying to say with We are continuing BBDG, that in this story the things in themselves play an important role. All the products that helped create the history of the Borg cannot be forgotten, people invested their emotions in them, and therefore they got another value.

It is through all these gadgets that the relationship between the audience and the artifact that I just mentioned may occur. They create the opportunity for a new conversation, which does not take into account the established notions of the material.