Olivia Morris Andersen
In my thesis, I study the increasing weapons manufacture in my home Sweden. Sweden has managed to keep domestic peace for two hundred years, mainly through the traditions of social democratic values. Key policies have been neutrality and non-alliance. However, the exports-based economy still supplies weapons that exceed the needs of the national defense. Most controversial has been the exports of military equipment to the Saudi-led coalition, at war in Yemen. Still, 84% of Swedes have voted against arms exports to dictatorships or countries in war. What interests me is this evident gap between the political presentation and political actions of the country, and what these ambiguities entail for citizens. How Swedish governors can provide the means for war and still remain somewhat uninvolved, untouched, and anonymous in the face of violent conflict. As such, the following images were made by using a specific keyword in the search engine of the two main, non-commercial newspapers in Sweden. The keyword is “exports of weapons”. From the articles associated with this keyword, within a limited timeframe, I have sampled all the attached photographs. Through the silkscreen process, I have then decontextualized a final selection of 30 sampled images to achieve an alternative framing of the issue. For me, cutting and printing are comparable to clicking on the shutter release. The Swedish, public narrative of weapons exports is compartmentalized and mostly clandestine. As such, highlighting, cropping, assembling, blurring, coloring, and reprinting the old photographs from the papers is the answer to how to capture an issue that is mostly invisible. Close to film editing or maybe photomontage, I aim to re-capture an intense narrative charge. The final photographs are selected and refined according to the material reality of war “somewhere else”, but, paradoxically, as intimate as they are anonymous, they can resonate with the “peaceful”, political climate here. The images pend between distance and closeness, familiarity and estrangement, history and contemporary, femininity and masculinity, violence and gentleness, factualness and abstraction. Through working with abstraction and collage, it is possible to structure a rhythm, to the otherwise scattered, narrative. For example, “neutrality” can become synonymous with anonymity, someone becomes no one by proclaiming “non-alliance”, and as such, deflecting responsibility. Familiar faces eventually become generic, when the motions of politics keep going, and promises are not being kept. What I aim to unearth in these images is an archaeology of ambiguity, to point out our own involvement in war, which is otherwise downplayed. The theme of anonymity partially reflects this ambiguous narrative, as well as the loss of identity in the social democratic tradition. But, mostly, it reflects my position as an author and Swedish citizen; who does not really know what to believe, who is trying to explore, collect, dismantle and re-mantle, and make sense out of the narratives around our involvement in war.
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