Mattias Härenstam

Everyday Life in the Post-Utopian Welfare State (The Rain)

Video installation, 1998. Blue ceiling, floor and walls. Broken glass glued to nylon strings strung between ceiling and floor, and scattered on the floor. Five "flowers" of cigarette butts on the floor and a "butterfly" of cigarette butts hanging from the ceiling. Video projection (standing format) in the inner corner. Video (DV PAL, 7 min. 54 s.) showing a man lying in bed from a static camera angle. Everyday scenes of smoking and insomnia are interrupted every now and then by more dreamlike scenarios.

(...) "Mattias Härenstam shows Everyday life in the post-utopian welfare state (the rain) at Gallery UKS, an installation with video. Floor, walls and ceiling are painted in a glossy blue color, broken glass is scattered over the floor and in the air with help of nylon strings. Because the blue color blurs the contours of the room, the gallery space seems flat and three-dimensional at the same time, it's like peeking into a virtual space or to have been put on three-dimensional glasses. Contributing to this experience of virtual space is the "stupid" flower that grows in the middle of the room, made up of cigarette butts and with a brazen look, like a poisonous plant in a cartoon. A video-projection shows a young man lying under the covers on a mattress in the corner of a room. He experiences a series of events somewhere between dream and hallucinative reality. In between smoking and masturbation, terrible or fantastic things occur in the room: A flower grows up out of the floor, gets an Indian feather-plume on his head, young people dance, a monster stumbles around. Even though technically simple and easy to reveal, a horrific ambience is the result of the crossing of the border between real and animated reality. A kind of absurd or surreal world appears.
Unlike stagings of the teenage room, as Christian Schmidt-Rasmussen's pubertal boy's room at Brekt Bein at Kunstnernes Hus last year was an example of, there is something dreamlike seductive here, that outweighs what can go in the direction of the private, incommunicative. Both the Kafka-esc absurd realism and the use of cartoon-like archetypes mixed with decay and social criticism create many possibilities to enter the installation, not intrusive, yet effective."

Excerpt from a review by Ingvill Henmo in the Norwegian cultural weekly magazine Morgonbladet, published 23. 01. 98. The full review and two others are available (in Norwegian only) as pdf-downloads at bottom of page.


First shown at UKS, Oslo in 1998, later shown at Kulturhuset, Stockholm 1998 and Galerie Chromosome, Berlin 2003. In 2013 a video version only was shown at the exhibition Retrospective - Norwegian Video Art in the 90s at Atopia, Oslo.