Realised in association with choreographer Anna Källblad
In both the film projections shown on the windows of the Sture Chapel, Helena Byström has concentrated on baptism as a rite and on its medium, water. This work was inspired by a particular phenomenon. The Macedonian town of Ohrid keeps up a special tradition on the feast of John the Baptist, 19th January every year, namely that of throwing a wooden cross into the water of its lake. In this ceremony, known as Vodici, meaning the Baptism of Christ, the young men and boys of the community plunge in their hundreds into the ice-cold water to retrieve the cross. They are followed by others, both young and old. This event is the point of departure for both films.
Helena Byström most often bases her work on a place and the specific experiences associated with it. In her installation Invasion at Konstnärshuset, Stockholm, in 2013, she alluded to Konstnärsklubben (the Artists’ Club) and its refusal to admit women to membership. In it she films all the building’s beautiful turn-of-the-century detailing but also, as a kind of “end of the place”, portrays a line of young women reflectively occupying its every corner.
The sensual and the corporeal are also vital components of her works, which often take as their starting point somebody all of us can identify with – perhaps you or me or the boy next door, perhaps at the age of 12 or so. In this way a personal apostrophisation is created, and a reminder experiences from the time when, as children, we first explored the world, what a jersey felt like against our bodies, the changing seasons, the first-time scent of snow.
Keeping in touch with this bodily and mentally recording person has become an artistic mission and a hallmark of Helena Byström’s art. In this “recipient attention of affirmation”, as the peace thinker Dag Hammarskjöld called it, the type of mental state in which all human actions can be accommodated, there is a stance which is admirably suited to a church. Invited to suggest an artistic design for a baptismal setting in St Mary’s Chapel, Iggesund, in 2009, Helena Byström made the bowl of glass, so that the work of the hands would be visible to all, the very tiniest included. In this way her composition came to embody the church’s own idea of, basically, belonging to everybody.
Born in 1960, Helena Byström studied at Konstfack, the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design (Sculpture) between 1985 and 1990 and also at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Aside from tradition exhibiting, she has worked with art in social situations, including ten years as a member of the Raketa group.
Her own art has since 2006 integrated this method with a powerful sculptural idiom, using photography, film, sculpture, text or choreography or a combination of these media. At present, as a member of the ArtAgent group, she is pursuing the international project Visualize The Invisible, and on her own behalf she is conducting the more near-to-home Blånagla in Husum, Ångermanland, activating local historiography among former industrial workers. Her separate exhibitions have included: Konstnärshuset, 2013, Sundsvall Museum, 2010, Västernorrland County Museum, 2000, and Galleri Magnus Karlsson, 1999.
Select list of public assignments: Höga Kusten sculpture park, Köpmanholmen, 2014, Stockholm Maternity Ward, Danderyd Hospital, photo ceiling and video, 2010, the Eriksdalsbadet diving tower, Stockholm, monumental wall mosaic, 1998.