Bonniers Konsthall presents: Tarik Kiswanson, Becoming
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Bonniers Konsthall presents: Tarik Kiswanson, Becoming
Installation view of Tarik Kiswanson, Becoming.

STOCKHOLM.- Bonniers Konsthall is currently presenting until June 18th the artist Tarik Kiswanson’s largest solo exhibition in Sweden to date. In the last few years, Kiswanson has emerged as a seminal voice on the international art scene. In January 2023 he was nominated for the prestigious French Marcel Duchamp Prize. Despite his international presence, Kiswanson’s art has not been acknowledged here in Sweden until recently.

The exhibition Becoming at Bonniers Konsthall presents Tarik Kiswanson’s exceptionally multidimensional practice, which employs sculpture, writing, drawing, performance, and video to explore subjects relating to memory, heritage, time and belonging. Notions of rootlessness, regeneration and renewal form the core of his art, subjects that he constantly comes back to regardless of expressive means. A central theme in the exhibition, which features several new works, is the idea of levitation, which he explores as a psychological state of mind and as a physical phenomenon.

Kiswanson comes from a Palestinian family, which in exile from Jerusalem fled via North Africa to Jordan before ending up in Halmstad in the early 1980s, where he was born in 1986. At the immigration office, the family name Al Kiswani was transformed to the more Swedish-sounding Kiswanson.

My identity has been defined by several cultures, my abstract works stem from my own condition as a second-generation immigrant, shaped in the aftermath of displacement. Throughout my life, I have used sculpture and writing to explore transitory and interstitial states of the human condition. – Tarik Kiswanson

The philosopher Édouard Glissant’s ideas on identity as constructed relationally, which are expressed in his essay Poetics of Relation (Poétique de la Relation, 1990), have had a profound influence on Kiswanson’s work. Glissant neither suppresses nor seeks reconciliation with a complex and multifaceted history but approaches it as a distinct condition from which we can gather the strength to move forward. The artist often reflects on the fragmented identities of the diaspora, examining what is lost and acquired intergenerationally through displacement and migration.

A key work in this exhibition is the family of works titled Nest (2020–2023), monumental sculptures resembling cocoons. These works were born from the artist ́s deep interest in the subject of birth and metamorphosis, often explored in his practice through the prism of migration. When creating these works Kiswanson turned his attention to transformative states in nature, studying pupas, eggs and seeds, impressions that evolved into sketches of a shape floating somewhere between these references. A primordial form that evokes the idea of sheltering and becoming, but more importantly – possibilities. The exhibition spaces are painted the same colour as the sculptures, blurring the distinction between art and architecture. Placed at varying heights, they give the impression of having nested themselves to the walls and ceilings, summoning a spatial experience where the laws of nature seem to be absent.

Kiswanson’s works converse over time and cultural divides. His recent work The Cradle (2023) finds its starting point in a photograph from 1986 depicting the artist’s mother leaning against a crib from Sweden’s most affordable furniture store (IKEA). The work consists of two parts, the crib of the artist’s childhood and below it a cocoon, the ensemble appears weightlessly pressed to the ceiling. The work evokes the uprooted condition the artist’s parents were in when they arrived in Sweden, their assimilation into Swedish culture and the identarian transformation that occurs with migration.

In the work Anamnesis (2022), the artist’s poems amongst other writings are recited by a ten-year-old, who moves through the exhibition spaces. The child is of an age that psychologists refer to as middle childhood. It is a time when the self is being constructed and children become aware of the world and their position within it. Language and memory are central in this work which examines the possibility of unknown histories being embedded on a deeper unconscious level. Anamnesis is a term used to speak of recollections of a supposed previous existences. Through recitation the child takes us back and forth in time and becomes a host of experiences and moments that precedes the child’s own existence.

In the exhibition Becoming, Kiswanson portrays the sensation of levitating, a moment of presence, a state between past and future. By using his own interstitial condition, he explores our existence as humans, and does so not only through the prism of identity formation, but also through the complexity of perception. The self is not static – we are constantly becoming.

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