Anna Odell and Her Artwork – The H is O

The heat is on: the loooooooongly anticipated artwork by Konstfack student Anna Odell is now in the limelight at the graduation show at Telefonplan untill the 29th May. Now we can finally review the entirity of the endeavor that in Sweden has been labelled "Anna Odell-skandalen". The work is nicly placed in the most shurky room at the school (the exclusivity and soft power of her work seems to be without precedence, at this point!). It consists of four videos, three black cubes and one discussion piece. Swedish Public Radio did a swift and interesting live review of the work with Martin Agaard and Mårten Arndtzén. They both criticized the work for not fulfilling its main stated goal of showing the cracks and inertia of the Swedish mental care, all she proved was that it actually works!, they both echoed. And yes sure, they have a point, but if and only if they take her loosly stated goal of the project as a arithmetic postulate of the artwork, from which it logically must not deviate.

87260I do not think you can reduce the work just to be fulfilling that initial goal, that in itself has been modified in certain ways. And, yes, this work CAN be compared to journalism or a scientific investigation, but that is not saying it cannot be somthing else as well. And asking a journalist/artist to be scientifically acute while using the commonplace rhetoric like "investigating" is failing to see what is really going on.

There are problems with the piece, but it is well executed and almost a Swedish classic by now. Her main work is for me the part of contacting organisations around Sweden to find out the legality of the (then) forthcoming execution of the piece. It puts into play what it means to be an art student, creating a work that questions boundaries between law and morality, grounded in her own personal history. Almost a perfekt school example, so to speak. This part of her work is very well made, don’t miss it!

What seems to be at the core of the debate is whether the work can be said to have practical utility, or be just in a moral and legal sense. Moral philosopher Torbjörn Tännsjö does not see any principal problems with the civil disobedience part of Odell’s artwork, but  he clearly states that the only justification of civil disobedience is proving REAL incongruities within the mental care system, which we can all agree, she hasn’t. But what we see here is not only a category of civil disobedience, but also and economic exchange, where she artistically acts self therapeutic in order to publicly reveal the emotions she herself experienced 13 years ago. Now when she has gotten prosecuted, as Vilks states, it will only make her stronger and begin the discussion about the economics of breaking the law, something Tim Harford and other behavioral economists have written about. Please comment, keep bloggin!

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