Press release
Web version
Moderna Museet logo
1898 lovin bjorn konsument i oandligheten f erik cornelius 980x684
Björn Lövin, Consumer in Infinity and "Mr. P’s Hoard". Installation view, Moderna Museet, 1971 © Björn Lövin Photo: Erik Cornelius
Björn Lövin – The Surrounding Reality
April 2 – September 18
Curator: Matilda Olof-Ors

Björn Lövin (1937–2009) was one of the first artists in Sweden to create spatial installations, then called environments, in the late 1960s. His first museum exhibition was Consumer in Infinity and “Mr P’s Hoard” at Moderna Museet in 1971. It addressed several of the issues that Lövin would revisit and elaborate on in later works.

The Surrounding Reality is a unique exhibition project. None of Björn Lövin’s large environments have been preserved in their entirety. This may partly be why younger generations don’t know about his oeuvre, or are only familiar with individual works.

In this retrospective look at Lövin’s practice, three of his large environments have been reconstructed: Consumer in Infinity and "Mr P's Hoard", 1971 Moderna Museet; L’Image – Exposition de Björn Lövin pour International Life Assurance Company ILAC, originally shown at Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1981, and C – The Struggle for Reality, shown at Kulturhuset in Stockholm in 1988.

Extensive research was required to make this exhibition possible. Based on photographs, archive material and interviews with Lövin’s friends, colleagues and family, objects have been identified and parts of the narratives and environments reconstructed. The environments are total works of art, like film sets made of meticulously chosen details, forming fictional worlds that we are invited to enter. It is important to note, however, that the installations that are now in place in the main gallery at Moderna Museet are merely interpretations of Lövin’s environments. The only available documentation of Consumer in Infinity and “Mr P’s Hoard”, for instance, is black-and-white photographs and films.

The reason for showing three of Lövin’s most important works now, in the spring of 2022, stems from our decision to not base this year’s exhibition program on art shipped in from all over the world, and in that way highlight the increasingly urgent questions posed by the climate crisis, says director Gitte Ørskou. Björn Lövin's art is more current than ever and speaks to a new generation. It is magical in this way to recreate works that have not been available.

Together, the three environments in the exhibition raise issues and questions that are as urgent today as they were then. Relationships between individual and system, personal and collective, are explored, along with the increasingly dissolved boundary between fiction and reality. The gap between the welfare state and consumer society and excluded groups is revealed. Underpinning all the works is the recurring question: Whose reality is it?

In Consumer in Infinity and “Mr P’s Hoard”, Lövin presents the bleak socio-economic reality of a Swedish low-income earner, based on the Low-Income Report, which sparked intense debate in Sweden. There are two parts to the work: the fictional Mr P’s flat and a shopping street. A calculation shows that Mr P’s family has 441 kronor to spend after all the fixed expenses are paid. Per year. So the commodities in the shop windows are beyond their reach. A closer look reveals that what could initially be perceived as a definite critique of consumer mechanisms is actually more multifaceted. Several details show how the same mechanisms can also contribute to the so-called welfare state.

Just like at Centre Pompidou in 1981, today’s visitors will encounter six containers in the environment L’Image. The work reports on how the fictional insurance company ILAC monitors over a family that has been a fully insured and predictable life through its ILAC membership. A monitor is installed in each container, and three of them showing short sequences of surveillance footage of the French ILAC family. What may have seemed utopian in 1981 – a constant and voluntary surveillance of everyday life and the private sphere – is now something that has become a reality in many ways. Today, our lives are dominated by what the American writer, social psychologist and philosopher Shoshana Zuboff calls surveillance capitalism.

Lövin himself said that a visit to Musée de l’Homme in Paris in 1967 had been pivotal to his artistic practice. According to him, the artefacts in the museum’s ethnographic exhibition Arts primitifs dans les Ateliers des Artistes challenged the contemporary view on art, labour and society and inspired his own practice. The reconstructed C – The Struggle for Reality consists of ten sculptural objects that can be interpreted as historical finds. C are society’s left-overs after the A and B teams have been selected by the labour market. C rejects the idea of employment, however, in favour of fully-automated production that frees up time for thinking and artistic creativity. The objects are presented with information about the site where they were found, with dates and short texts describing their presumed purpose in the C Culture.

Through these worlds, Lövin portrays and comments upon the surrounding reality, interweaving complex social critique and existential issues. He merges fiction and contemporary phenomena, revolutionary ideas meet hope-inspiring ones, and the demandingly sincere is mixed with playfulness. All the works demonstrate Lövin’s way of looking at and using art to formulate critical thinking and give expression to resistance, says the exhibition curator, Matilda Olof-Ors.

If you wish to participate in the press opening of the exhibition, please RSVP to:
For high-resolution press images, please visit Moderna Museet's press room

For more information contact:
John Peter Nilsson, temp. press officer
0709-52 23 62