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It’s almost unbearable to read.
Belarus writer Svetlana Aleksijevitj’s book with Swedish title Kriget har inget kvinnligt ansikte (The war doesn’t have a female face, my translation) is a remarkable project that took her years to finish. She has interviewed women all around Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, has loads of cassette tapes where these now elderly women tell their horrifying stories of joining the army at ages 16–18 years and the hardships and terrifying work as snipers, nurses, pilots, military seargents, soldiers, engineers, and as members of the partisans and resistance movement.
Women’s role in the military during the Second World War in Russia has never been highlighted. They continued their life after the war, bearing their sorrows, trying to forget while the victory of the war has been contributed men. Aleksijevitj wants to let them be heard, wants to tell their stories, the choices they had to make, their everyday struggles in the war, in life, as daughters, wives, mothers, and soldiers.
At points I have to put it aside, but then I pick it up again. I’m obliged to listen to these women and what they went through during the war and nine hundred days of siege of Leningrad (St Petersburg) by the nazists during 1941-1944. Swedish journalist Ulrika Knutson writes in her resumé in Expressen last week that if you only read one book this year, this should be the one.
I read it as I am on my way to St Petersburg to speak on a seminar about women creativity. I am shaken.
Nätverkstan has been invited to St Petersburg to speak in connection to the opening of the exhibition Creative Women on October 23, exhibiting Inventions from Swedish women.
The exhibition is an initiative by Tekniska Museet (The Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology) where Museum Director Ann Follin realized when looking through the 55.000 objects in their collection that only 100 of these were made by women. It also showed when looking deeper that of all patent applications in Sweden only five percent came from women.
This raised questions of whether women are less inventive than men? Or perhaps less creative?
They didn’t believe this to be true and put together the exhibition of women inventors, an exhibition that in cooperation with Swedish Institute has toured to around ten different countries raising questions of the role of women in innovation.
The St Petersburg-based organisation Social and Economic Institute arranges the seminar inviting a Swedish and a Russian speaker. Olga Gracheva gave a very interesting contribution of the NGO Kaykino Creative Projects she just started two years ago with the aim of promoting and develop interest for the rural area around St Petersburg. An amazing initiative.
The women in the book are with me.
The only connection between these two things is that it’s about women and their hidden voices. Women in 1940s and women in 2012.
Swedish Institute supports the seminar and project, host organization in St Petersburg (run by two charismatic women) is the Social and Economic Institute, an institute focussing on educational initiatives, projects, conferences, and exchanges of experiences between women in the world. The exhibition is shown at the Water Museum, a museum examining the role of water with both an educational and interactive part for children and an open part for the public.
Svetlana Aleksijevit’s book ”Kriget har inget kvinnligt ansikte” is translated by Kajsa Öberg Lindsten (Ersatz 2012).
A few years ago, Nätverkstan tried a slogan to attract advertisers to put in ads in small cultural journals. A fancy advertisement agency came up with witty slogans like Even poets need refrigerators to attract white goods shops to buy ads in a selected group of journals who’s target groups were poets. The slogan was put on dishcloths, refrigerator magnets and send-outs. So when you whiped your sink you would be reminded. Even poets need refrigerators.
On a seminar with John Newbigin, Chair of Creative England, at Kulturverkstan the other week, he reminded of another of those sayings. The success behind Victorian engineering in UK, he said, was said to be because ”It’s the same men building bridges reading poetry”. The engineers in Victorian UK not only held their expertise in engineering they also read poetry, which made them build better bridges.
It’s the same line that Steve Jobs is said to have followed, the idea that competence in liberal arts and humanities are important, and perhaps more so than computing skills. Jobs was looking for poets and artists with interest in computing, not computer geeks, John Newbigin reminded us.
Next weekend the yearly Poetry Festival (Poesifestival) is taking place – a great opportunity to fill your minds and add competence with three full days (and evenings) of poetry, poetry-reading and exploring this years theme of ”Orientation”.
Swedish photographer Mats Bäcker had a flying start of his career taking the legendary black and white photo of Iggy Pop at Dad’s Dancehall in Kopenhagen in 1977. Thirty-five years later the photo of Iggy Pop showing the finger to the audience sold at a famous Swedish Auction House for 56.000 SEK (6.489 euro).
He is driven by a feeling of ”it will go to hell anyway” and says that ”when the entrepreneur goes in, the artist goes out”. The entrepreneur and artist seem to be like a swingdoor in constant movement in his life.
During the one hour lecture at the six fulldays course on art and entrepreneurship hosted by Kulturlyftet and performed by Nätverkstan, Mats Bäcker tells a wonderful success-story full of worries and disbelief; a constant force to develop his artistic skill and challenging his perception in trying new things; networking; and, as he puts it ”good luck and a good gene to endure disappointments”.
The last is, he points out, how to live on your art. The other is to recycle. The artistic work he did when he started as a pop- and rockart photographer is used again, in new settings and imagery. Later as a performance photographer at the Opera in Stockholm he developed new ways of taking photos of movement. All can be used again in new playful ways.
”Recylce, recycle, recycle” he says with emphasis looking over the audience of illustrators, photographers, designers, filmers, and visual artists, and, he points out, not trying to do everything but instead choose your artistic form and work hard on this.
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