A Studio Conversation with

Linus Nordensson Spångberg

When I meet Linus Nordensson Spångberg at his studio in Hökarängen he has just recently moved in. The studio, which is part of a studio complex located directly above Konsthall C in a suburb that is nowadays densely populated by artists, is clean and spacious. Along the walls are works I recognise from Linus Nordensson Spångbeg’s earlier shows at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. The light that shines through the studio’s skylight falls onto the neon-coloured glass stalagmites on the work desk. We talk about myths and permanency, on nuclear waste and how you can go about communicating with someone hundreds of thousands of years in the future.

How would you describe your practice?
In my latest project I have worked with sculpture. But I wouldn’t call myself a sculptor; it’s limiting to put a name to what you are working with. But like most people working with art today I have tested a range of different media. For example, I started out working with sound art. It was how I got into art in the first place.

"Collection of clay objects" 2014 clay and incense

”Collection of clay objects” 2014
clay and incense

How did that come about?
Years ago I studied philosophy in Lund and at the same time was making music. Working with sound combined my interests for philosophy and music, and it became something completely new. When I later moved from Lund to Stockholm I hung out at EMS (Electronic Music Studio) a lot. Their studios and analogue synths are amazing. I even started recording electromagnetic waves during that time.

What was it that got you interested in electromagnetic waves?
Just like with a lot of my other projects it was some kind of discovery that interested me. To discover something that is difficult to grasp. By picking up electromagnetic waves you can hear things that have travelled around the world’s magnetic field, it’s what they call ‘whistlers’. It can have been a lightning strike in New Guinea for example, and the electromagnetic impulse spins around the world and is picked up by the radio receiver.


How was it going from sound to working with actual objects?
It was a really natural transition. For a while I was really into drone, minimal music in the form of sound landscapes, long drawn out synth pads that are more like states than anything else. I wanted to build a perfect drone that you wouldn’t tire of. Working in that way was almost like building an object, from there it wasn’t such a big leap for me to start working with sculpture.


Is it the same interests that lie behind what you are working with at the moment?
Yeah, but it’s distilled. I still always start from discovery when I work. But it can be discoveries from all different directions. I am reading right now for example and trying to go through all the post-apocalyptic movies there are. But also a lot of anime and sci-fi. They are genres that are huge, they never end. I like escapism, you disappear, it’s like a beta version of mindfulness.

But maybe it’s sometimes what’s needed to find a way into a new project?
Exactly, that’s often how I work. I consume enormous amounts of culture until it spills over and I have to comment on everything I have taken in. It’s a way for me to process all the material.

Tell us about your project “The Past is a Foreign Country” that you showed at your graduation exhibition at the Royal Institute of Art in spring.
The title comes from a text by David Lowenthal and is about fictitious accounts of history. Among other things I am interested in the creation of myth and how historical narrative is produced. The whole project was specifically about myth creation surrounding what takes place at the Forsmark nuclear power plant. The whole thing started with a field trip that the Royal Institute of Art did. Forsmark has a display room down in one of their caves in the bedrock where they invite people in in order to tell them how they plan to handle their nuclear waste. The display room has a mock-up that shows what the storage is going to look like. The uranium is set in cladding that is placed in five-metre tall copper cylinders. They plan to have thousands of copper cylinders in a mineshaft, which means that the surface of the whole project is enormous. It’s a sci-fi movie. Our guide from Forsmark told us how they have planned to convey important information about the nuclear waste long into the future. They are going to produce a number of crystal plaques with maps and instructions on how and where the uranium is placed and these, in turn, are gong to be stored in various archives around Europe.

 "Section one" and "Machine-elf´s plantation crop 1-3", 2014 styrofoam, vinyl glue, paint, clay, plasma tubes, electronics Installation view

”Section one” and ”Machine-elf´s plantation crop 1-3″, 2014
styrofoam, vinyl glue, paint, clay, plasma tubes, electronics
Installation view

You’ve also worked with glass and maps. Is it a direct reference to Forsmark’s crystal plaques?
Yeah. I’m interested in permanency and just why they’ve decided that the material that is going to convey this information further is glass. As long as it doesn’t fall and hit the ground then glass is really stabile, crystal in any case. But is it really the best material we have today? What the maps communicate is also interesting. You’ve got to make the maps in a language that can be understood 100,000 years in the future. SKB (Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co.) has financed research into the preservation of information together with, for example, the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies at Lund University. The production of history that is taking place here is interesting.


It becomes quite abstract to write history for something that is as far in the future as a hundred thousand years.
Definitely. It’s a future so far away in time that we can’t even imagine what society is going to look like. As it stands today we can’t even determine when a financial crisis might occur. Forsmark’s waste needs to sit in mineshafts for tens of thousands of years in order for the radioactivity to be halved. They have allowed for storing all the uranium there for a minimum of 100,000 years. I got caught up in the idea of what this communication would look like. How would I make a map that has the task of communicating something that needs to be understood in such a distant future? One of my works is called “Uranium Glass Map”. It was a failed attempt at passing on an important message.

How did you work with the piece?
I turned the process of pouring glass on its head. You often use a wax model that has the same form as you want the poured glass to have. Then you pour a plaster cast over the wax model and steam out the wax so it runs out of the cast. The wax turns into some kind of slag that looks like stalagmites. Instead of using a plaster cast to pour a model in glass, I took the slag product, the used wax, and made a new wax cast of it to pour the stalagmite forms in glass.

"Smoking table" 2014 glass, vinyl glue and spraypaint on styrofoam, five smoked Cohibas

”Smoking table” 2014
glass, vinyl glue and spraypaint on styrofoam, five smoked Cohibas

So the form of the waste became the actual glass sculpture?
Yeah, it’s slag in glass. These glass sculptures are part of a cycle. You could continue to pour them in a huge feedback loop.  Like I said I think that time and durability are interesting. There is also something very controlled about the time aspect that I think is exciting.

You also used glass, although perhaps more as a found object, in the sculpture “Smoking Table”.
Yeah, “Smoking Table” is an object with an ashtray that I did after having gone on exchange to Havana last year. The cigar was so present in Cuba, a lot of people smoked cigars and all the tourist shops sold them. It was a very distinct contrast to Sweden. Nowadays there aren’t so many places that sell ashtrays in Sweden. I drew a parallel between the ashtray and the nuclear waste. The uranium cylinders are like some kind of ashtray; it’s where the waste ends up at the end of the day.

The conversation between Linus Nordensson Spångberg and Olga Krzeszowiec Malmsten took place in Stockholm on October 27, 2014.

Text: Olga Krzeszowiec Malmsten
Translation: Nicholas Lawrence
Photo: Jean Baptiste Beranger, Olga Krzeszowiec Malmsten

Name: Linus Nordensson Spångberg
Born: 1984 in Malmö, SWE
Based: Stockholm, SWE
Education: MFA 2014 Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm, SWE
Info: Working on a film and sculpture project on Öland, SWE and preparing for a research trip to Beijing and Lhasa in 2015.
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