Critical Introspections

Sweden and The Netherlands, Spaces of Production


Sara Rossling, Sara Davin Omar, Denisse Vega de Santiago

On a cold evening in October, a Swedish curator (Sara Rossling), a Swedish-Kurdish architect (Sara Davin Omar) and a Mexican architect and art historian based in the Netherlands (Denisse Vega de Santiago) met in Stockholm over some drinks. We met at Kungsträdgården, one of Stockholm’s best known parks, where Swedish artist and activist Simon Ferner also joined us. On the way to the bar, we passed by the statue of King Charles XII standing firmly, pointing towards the east.

Simon, who has been researching Swedish Nazism for sometime now, told us about the history of the place. Every year on the 30th of November, Neo-Nazis commemorate the legacy of the 17th century Swedish Empire around the statue, countered by anti-racist activists. The demonstration was brought back to light by right-wing university students in the 1990s, who later on became right-wing politicians in the Swedish parliament. In response to this information, Sara Davin Omar expressed her interest in public space as an agonistic arena where people also counter the flux of racist trends. Someone else then added: Wouldn’t it be nice if our spatial projects could do the same? Protest out loud, actively and affectively against racism? We continued our walk towards a half-decent Mexican bar nearby the park, discussing current growing neo-Nazi and neo-fascist trends across the Netherlands and Sweden. We also talked about how our current spatial projects strive for anti-racism and decolonization.

Our collective project, Critical Introspections, seeks to continue that conversation – and sees conversation not only as a philosophical matter but also as something that has implications for our practices. Our individual projects all emerge from sites of production: Sara Davin Omar’s Genealogy of Swedish Hydropower, Sara Rossling’s The Nordic Open Call, and Denisse Vega de Santiago’s Fulfilment Center Innocence. By creating dialogue between these three projects, Critical Introspections seeks to show how these spaces of production of art, knowledge, labour, and energy navigate tensions of their own complicity with legacies of colonialism, imperialism and extractivism, and their desire to escape these logics. To engage in critical introspection urges positionality and openness to alter and unlearn previous ways of working. Thus, our collective project investigates our various methods and positions whilst seeking ways for these projects to become mechanisms of activation for decolonization and anti-racism.