Suddenly It Happens!

Artist Afrang Nordlöf Malekian’s work departs from the history of the lottery tickets and Public Art Agency Sweden’s print archive. He puts a selection of nine prints from the collection in dialogue with newly produced works in the form of lottery tickets, dream poems, sound works, and performances. In the performance and exhibition Suddenly It Happens!, the artist looks at the exploitation of people’s hopes and dreams in the capitalist system. The juxtaposition between lottery tickets and print archives is based on Grafikens Hus’ collaboration with the Penninglotteriet (State Lottery) between 1995 and 1998 when 75 print artworks were commissioned and reproduced in miniature on lottery tickets.

The Public Art Agency Sweden hosts an extensive archive of prints from 1960-1990. These were previously on display in schools, workplaces, and public offices, making them accessible to hundreds of thousands of people through everyday interactions. Print as an accessible art form has also enabled more people to have art in their homes – a way of “democratizing” art. Today, there is a growing number of prints in the Public Art Agency Swede’s archive – a consequence of the privatization of public services. There is simply far less wall space for displaying public art today.

Afrang Nordlöf Malekian selected prints in the archive that seem to convey dreams and longings for a non-capitalist world. The artist approaches the print collection as a place filled with hope for a different life, one that is far from increasing consumerism. For the artist, dreams of possible living conditions are found within the prints. They haunt the collection like ghosts, waiting to bloom in another existence beyond capitalism, where democracy flourishes.

Lotteries have always been a playground with people’s dreams and fantasies as game tiles. In the exhibition, the ideas of “luck” and “waiting” are seen as concepts of what is yet to come. As the artist writes in one of the poems: “what a beautiful dream about the day when it is our turn”. But do we really get happy when dreams come true? Or has society taught us that happiness is found in the consumption of dreams? Afrang Nordlöf Malekian portrays this through the work Grafiken lott (The Chance of the Graphics), where made-up lottery tickets play a key role in the exhibition and alludes to the promise of happiness: to realize a dream through winning the lottery, which in this case is illustrated as being able to have art in one’s home. In The Promise of Happiness (2010), theorist Sara Ahmed discusses the expectations of being happy by society. She describes this as a duty, where living one’s life is merely accommodating society’s acceptability. According to Ahmed, not choosing to be happy is an act of resistance.

Migrational perspectives permeate the artist’s work and are seen in the selection of prints from the archive as well as within the exhibition itself. He is interested in the stories of people who migrated to Sweden in the 60s and 90s, many with socialist aspirations. The print archive of the Public Art Agency Sweden is clearly influenced by Sweden’s socialist past, but the experiences and perspectives of migrants, especially the working class, are absent from the archive.

The philosopher Jacques Derrida coined the term “Hauntology” in his book Specters of Marx (1993), merging ontology, the study of being in general (what exists), and the concept of haunting. He argues that what exists yet is not allowed to be present will haunt and disturb as long as it is excluded. Derrida was also interested in the idea of the ghost as a being that, through its hauntings, is both present and absent simultaneously, disrupting time and space. Like Derrida, Afrang Nordlöf Malekian is interested in these disruptions and the idea that absence also means a strong and pulsating presence. This can be expressed as dreams that haunt us with a longing for a bygone era, in music from a migrant’s childhood, a former telecommunications office in Sundsvall, or the print archive of the Public Art Agency Sweden. The absent voices within the collection thus haunt the archive and, by extension, our collective history. This absence haunts the stories manifested by the graphics collection.

A ghost is haunting the archive—the ghost of anti-capitalists’ dreams.

In collaboration with Grafikens hus and Public Art Agency Sweden.
Curators: Macarena Dusant, Didem Yıldırım, Annika Enqvist