The Society Machine

The Industrial Age from the Perspective of Art

curated by Lisa Rosendahl

Malmö Konstmuseum, Malmöhusvägen 6, Malmö, SE

The Society Machine examines the image of contemporary Sweden, beginning with industrialization, the cultural transformation which served as the foundation for the world-famous Swedish welfare state. Works by approximately thirty artists are exhibited in dialogue with objects from Malmö Museer’s historic collections. Together, they portray a society fundamentally changed, today in the midst of its next large-scale transformation.

The term industry is used in the exhibition as a prism through which different images of society become visible. From Malmberget in the north to the limestone quarries in the south, we are confronted with clear-cut forests, slag heaps and prefabricated housing units. Industrialization cleared the way for mine shafts and factories, but also for more existential sink holes. Furthermore, the exhibition sheds light on how art has been inspired by the aesthetic possibilities and materials of the industrial age, which time and again have challenged the limits of art.

The modern Swedish welfare state was made possible through a trade-off: industrialization lifted the country out of poverty, while the environment, human bodies and consciousness in return were colonized by the pursuit of productivity and efficiency – for better or worse. For decades Sweden was hailed internationally as modernity’s success story. But what kind of society was really created?

Today we are entering the fourth industrial revolution, a time when the digital, biological and physical worlds are fusing in a way that once again will transform humanity.  The Society Machine raises the question if the era of the conveyor belt is truly past, or if the logic of industry has simply been displaced from the factories to instead exist within us.