The exhibition Undercurrents investigates mechanisms of government and state, by examining perceived truths, and narratives of freedom, patriotism and utopia. Populist parties and authoritarian regimes today apply techniques to persuade voters similar to those during the darkest moments of 20th century history. Vague promises of idealized worlds and ambivalent ideologies lie underneath these new political movements. A response to the longing for simplification in times of an environment growing exponentially complex; for mankind, nation states, societies and the individual. This simplification is a great danger to democratic values, as it does not leave any space for the nuances that constitute our reality. Instead, by incorporating falsehood and denial into the core of their political agenda, populist movements lay a foundation for lie that gradually infiltrates both state institutions and society as a whole.

We have invited Kalle Lampela (FI), Tanya Busse (CAN/NO) and Peter Johansson (SE) to discuss these issues. In his series Utopia of a Beautiful Life Kalle Lampela examines the aesthetics of desirable narratives imposed by totalitarian regimes, allowing a look behind idealized imagery into the void caused by discrepancy between reality and propaganda. Tanya Busse addresses the military presence in the Arctic, and its relationship to land through cold war architecture and resource extractive industries. Busse prompts us to reflect on the unbalanced dynamics of humans with nature, and gestures towards the possibility of a more holistic view of the world. These two perspectives are complemented by Swedish Peter Johansson’s body of work, in which he is critically examining the narrative of Swedish culture and identity building, particularly with the military’s role in mind.