The Other

In this work the artist Mats Hjelm was tasked with relating to the Eucharist, one of the principal sacraments of the Church. He had previously addressed the subject in the large-scale video composition Deliverance (2005), which featured in the Vox exhibition series at the Swedish History Museum and included a communion service filmed in the Sture Chapel, Uppsala Cathedral and conducted by the then Archbishop, K. G. Hammar.

The sequence formed part of a film narrative which, slowly passing through the outskirts of cities and run-down industrial landscapes, shows a civilisation in decay, the theme being that of the need for reconciliation with religion as a possible tool. In the present work, Mats Hjelm returns to those ideas.

The work consists of a neon sentence, “Where one is the other must be,” in upper case. In form and size it relates to the great 16th century crucifix from Bollnäs Church temporarily installed above the high altar. Through his choice of technique, the artist has consciously added a contemporary idiom to this historic space. Equally deliberately, he has chosen a message which is open to a host of interpretations and which serves as a credo for the whole of his artistry, an artistry permeated by profound social commitment and powerful solidarity with marginalised groups.

In his previous works he has often related to his own history, as for example in his quest for a father figure in White Flight (1997), a tribute to his then newly deceased father, the documentary film maker Lars Hjelm, whose pictures flowed copiously through the media but who himself was barely a part of his son’s childhood and adolescence. He recreates the reportage journey his father went on in 1967 to Detroit, a city rent by race riots. Thirty years later the artist encounters new riots as a continuation of the story. The result is a film whose ostensibly documentary approach has a profoundly personal accent.

The titles of earlier works of his, such as Deliverance, Light of God or Father’s Day also contain keys to a thematic interest. His films are non-chronological, made up of innumerable micro-stories which one can move in and out of, as if in a constantly transparent time zone where all time is now. As in the repetition of the meal which will forever transform our view of what it means to be human.

Mats Hjelm was born in 1959 and studied partly at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He has been active as artist and film director since the 1990s. His artistic practice encompasses monumental video compositions underpinned by history and the processing of the past and its impact on the present, in a mixture of documentary and fiction. He exhibits widely in Sweden and internationally, e.g. at the Venice Bienniale and international film festivals. Works by him have been purchased by the Swedish Public Art Agency, the Modern Museum (Stockholm) and several other institutions, as well as by private collectors.

In addition to having many years’ teaching experience, he is often engaged in an expert capacity for post-production directing, film photography and video installations.