In 1929, Virginia Woolf’s book “A Room of One’s Own” was published for the first time. In the book, which is based on two lectures held at Cambridge University, Woolf addresses the preconditions for women to develop literary writing. The essay is a central piece of feminist writing, noted in its argument for both a literal and figurative space for women’s writers within a literary tradition dominated by men. In the essay Woolf addresses issues still relevant today, amongst others, the conditions necessary for the creation of works of art.
Over time, the question of the conditions of culture – both economic and spatial – has been widely engaged and addressed by cultural policy, practitioners and other actors. The economic aspects have been at the center of this discussion while the spatial conditions necessary for the creation of art have ironically, by being physical, become less tangible to address. The rooms exist, but in the background of the discourse. In a world that is more urbanized than ever, where cities have become placeholders for capital instead of living habitats for citizens, the spaces of production of culture are slowly becoming extinct.
This project starts here, in the urbanized world, with the question asked by Woolf one hundred years ago: What conditions are necessary for the creation of works of art?
In June 2019, the company Nyfosa enters the Malmö market buying 40 000 sqm of property to a value of SEK 700 million. The company describes themselves as “A transaction intensive opportunistic developer” with the “Objective to develop and refine a growing property portfolio with long-term and high returns”.
One of the buildings they acquire, an old factory located in what 100 years ago used to be the periphery of Malmö, now a hip urban neighborhood, is inhabited by some of the leading independent cultural actors of the region; Malmö Dockteater, Potato Potato Scenkonst and Karavan. Three internationally acknowledged performing art groups, that to their respective stage attract visitors from the city, the region and abroad to more than 150 events, plays and performances per year.
This is a participatory action research project where the process of Sämjan is followed from a now to that when all windows for negotiation are closed. The aim is to map and visualize the trajectory of the transformation process while it’s happening. The development process is actively addressed in a series of interventions in order to challenge the narrative of different possible futures for Sämjan and its artistic community.
The answer is not a given, nor are the results of this project. This will either result in yet another obituary of a place that once produced culture – or – it becomes a documentation of how you practically obstruct your own extinction.