MIKAEL OLSSON
MIKAEL OLSSON

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Mikael Olsson

“I’m an artist, I use myself to get into new situations”.

The key to Mikael Olsson’s art is understanding his method. Born 1969 in Lerum, outside of Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast, Olsson was trained at the Department of Photography and Film at University of Gothenburg 1993-96. At the time, the department was led by Tuija Lindström, Gertrud Sandqvist and Gunilla Knape, and amongst Olsson’s teachers were Mary Kelly, Sven Westerlund, Bruce Davidson, Andres Serrano, Nan Goldin and Lewis Baltz.

As a student Olsson started a decade-long collaboration with Göteborg film festival, the largest film festival in the Nordic countries. This resulted in several books, the possibility to work with guests such as director Wim Wenders, and sharpened Olsson’s eye for film making and led to an ongoing interest in cinema – and, later, a flirt with acting.

After graduating, Olsson has participated in numerous group exhibitions and had several solo exhibitions, both in Sweden and abroad. In 2018 he showed some works in the main exhibition of the Venice Biennale of Architecture (together with architect Petra Gipp and ArkDes). Olsson’s collaborations are wide-ranging and include various forms of expressions and representations. He has worked with Japanese fashion designer Jun Takahashi, Swedish Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund (The Square), Italian director Luca Guadagnino and British artist and director Isaac Julien.

In his photographs Olsson investigates the reenactment of history and the presence of the past in current times. Even if his works might be reminiscent of classical documentary photography, Olsson´s underlying aim is to redefine the genre. Taking the question of how we look at pictures as a starting point, he is interested in how authenticity is used as a visual language.

The heritage of Bruno Mathsson – “the Ingmar Bergman of interior design” and one of the leading Swedish modernists – is at the center of Olsson’s debut book Södrakull Frösakull (Steidl, 2011). Olsson stayed in Bruno Mathsson’s abandoned summer house to get a sensuous understanding of the architecture. He rearranged the space and created fictious rooms, a scenography. The reader of Södrakull Frösakull is thus turned into a voyeur of the certain relationship between man, nature and architecture that Mathsson established through his built structures, which dissolves the border between interior and landscape.

Space and displacement are also at the center of Olsson’s latest publication, on | auf (Steidl, 2020), a photographic study of the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron’s and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion (2012). Olsson follows the object from its conception as an idea, through immaterial and material traces in the architects’ and the artists’ archives – he even visited Ai Weiwei’s Beijing studio –, to its temporary location in London and then to a private estate in southern England. The book includes an essay, “Loaned Landscapes, Borrowed Objects. The Real Space of the Image and the Representation of Space in Mikael Olsson’s Photography”, in which the Hungarian writer and photographer Péter Nádas situates Olsson’s tactics. Nádas shows how Olsson moves away from architecture’s conventional relationship to place and instead captures the more unexplored relationship between the perception of the object and the object itself.

To gain the trust needed to fulfill his artistic vision, Olsson uses methods from the tradition of classical documentary photography – such as getting access to spaces and objects through other assignments. Olsson’s collaboration with director Luca Guadagnino is telling for this method, and his strive to not become consumable as an artist.

Olsson first met Guadagnino when he photographed his apartment in a 17th-century palazzo outside of Milan for T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Later, he was invited to the shooting of Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, saw his other films and became intrigued by the director’s relationship to art and aesthetics. So when Guadagnino planned to record a new version of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Olsson asked if he could use the film set as a platform for a photographic work.

While working on this upcoming project, Olsson was commissioned to shoot promotion stills for the film – and was also casted as a German spy; thus effectively “going undercover”. The stills caught the eye of Jun Takahashi from Japanese fashion brand Undercover and became the starting point for the clothing collection “Suspirium”, launched in 2019, which incorporates Olsson’s photographs. And what surface could be better suited for a photographer attempting to redefine documentary photography through questions of authenticity, the fictitious, performative and transformative.

Mikael Olsson is represented by Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm/Berlin.
Mikael Olsson

“I’m an artist, I use myself to get into new situations”.

The key to Mikael Olsson’s art is understanding his method. Born 1969 in Lerum, outside of Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast, Olsson was trained at the Department of Photography and Film at University of Gothenburg 1993-96. At the time, the department was led by Tuija Lindström, Gertrud Sandqvist and Gunilla Knape, and amongst Olsson’s teachers were Mary Kelly, Sven Westerlund, Bruce Davidson, Andres Serrano, Nan Goldin and Lewis Baltz.

As a student Olsson started a decade-long collaboration with Göteborg film festival, the largest film festival in the Nordic countries. This resulted in several books, the possibility to work with guests such as director Wim Wenders, and sharpened Olsson’s eye for film making and led to an ongoing interest in cinema – and, later, a flirt with acting.

After graduating, Olsson has participated in numerous group exhibitions and had several solo exhibitions, both in Sweden and abroad. In 2018 he showed some works in the main exhibition of the Venice Biennale of Architecture (together with architect Petra Gipp and ArkDes). Olsson’s collaborations are wide-ranging and include various forms of expressions and representations. He has worked with Japanese fashion designer Jun Takahashi, Swedish Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund (The Square), Italian director Luca Guadagnino and British artist and director Isaac Julien.

In his photographs Olsson investigates the reenactment of history and the presence of the past in current times. Even if his works might be reminiscent of classical documentary photography, Olsson´s underlying aim is to redefine the genre. Taking the question of how we look at pictures as a starting point, he is interested in how authenticity is used as a visual language.

The heritage of Bruno Mathsson – “the Ingmar Bergman of interior design” and one of the leading Swedish modernists – is at the center of Olsson’s debut book Södrakull Frösakull (Steidl, 2011). Olsson stayed in Bruno Mathsson’s abandoned summer house to get a sensuous understanding of the architecture. He rearranged the space and created fictious rooms, a scenography. The reader of Södrakull Frösakull is thus turned into a voyeur of the certain relationship between man, nature and architecture that Mathsson established through his built structures, which dissolves the border between interior and landscape.

Space and displacement are also at the center of Olsson’s latest publication, on | auf (Steidl, 2020), a photographic study of the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron’s and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion (2012). Olsson follows the object from its conception as an idea, through immaterial and material traces in the architects’ and the artists’ archives – he even visited Ai Weiwei’s Beijing studio –, to its temporary location in London and then to a private estate in southern England. The book includes an essay, “Loaned Landscapes, Borrowed Objects. The Real Space of the Image and the Representation of Space in Mikael Olsson’s Photography”, in which the Hungarian writer and photographer Péter Nádas situates Olsson’s tactics. Nádas shows how Olsson moves away from architecture’s conventional relationship to place and instead captures the more unexplored relationship between the perception of the object and the object itself.

To gain the trust needed to fulfill his artistic vision, Olsson uses methods from the tradition of classical documentary photography – such as getting access to spaces and objects through other assignments. Olsson’s collaboration with director Luca Guadagnino is telling for this method, and his strive to not become consumable as an artist.

Olsson first met Guadagnino when he photographed his apartment in a 17th-century palazzo outside of Milan for T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Later, he was invited to the shooting of Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, saw his other films and became intrigued by the director’s relationship to art and aesthetics. So when Guadagnino planned to record a new version of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Olsson asked if he could use the film set as a platform for a photographic work.

While working on this upcoming project, Olsson was commissioned to shoot promotion stills for the film – and was also casted as a German spy; thus effectively “going undercover”. The stills caught the eye of Jun Takahashi from Japanese fashion brand Undercover and became the starting point for the clothing collection “Suspirium”, launched in 2019, which incorporates Olsson’s photographs. And what surface could be better suited for a photographer attempting to redefine documentary photography through questions of authenticity, the fictitious, performative and transformative.

Mikael Olsson is represented by Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm/Berlin.