Misschiefs is an all women exhibition born out of a concept by Paola Bjäringer. Ten women designers and a guest artist create a functional art object that comes in a limited edition of 3 pieces. It is to be revealed at Stockholm Design Week in a historical building from 1883 , the Bångska Palace in the centre of the very popular Stureplan area of Stockholm. The whole project is very punk in nature with a diverse group of women between the ages of 25 – 83. The exhibition will then travel to Milan, Paris and London. Part of the sales will go to a foundation called The Case for Her which supports women’s reproductive health and menstruation issues.
The producer of Misschiefs, Paola Bjäringer, grew up in Paris and after graduating with an MA in Gender Studies from the London School of Economics returned to start her own gallery, working with prominent French artists. I spoke to Paola about her latest project.
Photo of Paola Bjäringer by Kimberly Ihre.
How did you come up with the concept for Misschiefs?
I grew up in Paris where I had a gallery named Slott, specialising in collectible contemporary design. Having lived in Stockholm for the last four years, I am struck by the lack of representation of a more expressive Swedish design produced today. As an outsider looking into the local design scene here, much of what people see and consume in terms of design is often the same. This phenomenon may be explained in part by Sweden’s tendency to comfortably rest on its reputation as a world design leader. This is indeed the case at a certain point in history, but Swedish design has a new generation of makers and doers who unfortunately, tend to leave the country due to a lack of both demand and a more diverse, colourful, risk-taking type of design. I wanted to show the punk side of Swedish design today, from video art to furniture, glass art or textile. Swedish designers are in fact much more daring than what is commonly known by the public. Also the field of collectible design in Sweden is rather new. I wanted this collection to actively participate in boosting this fascinating area where art meets design, focusing only on Swedish designers. Finally, I have the dream that collectible design and philanthropy will join forces in a more tangible way, especially for the buyers. Investing in handmade objects and furniture meant to last is just like fashion today, we surround ourselves with way too many things that end up as waste. It just has to stop. Locally made objects meant to last a lifetime and be transferred to the next generation are the future. It is my intent that Sweden should logically be on the forefront of this growing market that calls for the individual and collective awakening of the way we think, produce, sell and consume design today. Misschiefs stands for change, and all women know what that means!
How did you choose the participating designers and artists for this particular project?
From the beginning Misschiefs was not intended to be focused on women designers exclusively. But it so happened that in choosing some of the most punk designers in Sweden, the great majority happened to be women! And I don’t think it is a coincidence. Women artists and professionals in general know this, that to make it to the top you more often than not have to work twice as hard. In that process of firing the steam, magic happens.
I wanted Misschiefs to be representative on a multiplicity of levels. Age, for one; the Misschiefs are between 24 and 83 years old. They come and work from different parts of the country, have graduated from different types of schools, and some have parents from other parts of the world. The Misschiefs all master a particular type of craftsmanship and/or artistic style, ranging from jewellery making, glass blowing, wood work, textile, video art and more. Some are internationally known, others fresh out of school. They all have one thing in common, that is to go against the stream, even if they are also well established names in the industry. Not because they are rebels but because they manage to resist the temptation of following what is expected of “Swedish design”. They are all highly skilled, independent, driven and daring. I hope their functional art pieces for Misschiefs will inspire others. There are many Misschiefs out there, it’s just a question of visibility. That of course involves both the institutional level and the industry as a whole, as well as politics.
Unlike most of the presentations for Design Week, Misschiefs is blurring the lines between art and design with only a limited edition being produced by each designer. Why have you chosen to do this?
In 2020, Stockholm the capital of Sweden has no design gallery dedicated to handmade functional art. This has to change. For people to invest in the makers, this city needs locations to showcase them. Some gallerists are starting to show international Swedish contemporary designers doing design-art, the impulse has started. Now we need more physical spaces in town and more representation at the big international art fairs of daring Swedish collectible design, what I call the “real Sweden”. We are not all about light coloured wood and timid masculine strict lines today.
Having worked in Paris for many years, what would be the biggest differences between the two cities in their approach to art and design?
The size and history of the two cities are radically opposed. However Sweden has this fascinating capacity as a smaller country to catch up very fast on specific market segments and become a leader in no time, like for example, in the tech industry or even in fashion! Of course there’s Ikea. But what about tomorrow’s aesthetics? How is Sweden communicating its aesthetic politics today for a better alternative to what was commonly taken for granted yesterday like mass produced replaceable objects and things? The young generation in Sweden are incredibly advanced on many levels, compared for example, with France today. They are queer, they are ecologists, they are multidimensional and multi skilled. They want to change the world and have the tools to do so. The question is, do we have the proper representation for them at home to stop these geniuses from fleeing to cities like Paris, Berlin or New York where they find the platforms for expression and commerce to flourish within their individual characteristics? Let’s make the punks want to stay.
Misschiefs is a nomadic exhibition, where and how do you plan to show it after Stockholm?
The challenge of Misschiefs is to take it abroad, to augment the public reach of the punk message about what Swedish design really is today, and more crucially what it will be tomorrow. Being a project aimed at going back and giving back to women’s health in the world (this project supports The Case for Her), Misschiefs needs constant outside financial support to exist and even more so, to travel abroad. Thanks to a web of contacts made over the years as a gallerist and producer of collectible design, Misschiefs is hosted by talented art professionals in the different locations the exhibition travels to. Most of the Misschiefs collaborators, sponsors and supporters are international women-led companies who have risk-taking at the heart of their own businesses. Again, the fact that they are women is not a coincidence. The family owned Swedish company Bolon is headed by Annica and Marie Eklund who have taken the vinyl flooring company to international stardom. Bolon partners with Misschiefs on the scenography. The same goes for Teenage Engineering, whose main objective is sound electronics brought to an entirely new aesthetic and technique. The Case For Her is a total trailblazer, as well as the Stockholm and Paris based contemporary art gallery Andréhn-Schiptjenko founded and directed by Ciléne and Marina. After Stockholm, Misschiefs will travel to Milan during the world famous design week in April. We are hosted by an incredible woman named Elena Quarestani who has turned her family industrial factory in Milan into a non-profit art center called Assab One. Federica Sala is the art curator teaming up with Misschiefs there with a surprise guest artist who will be revealed soon! Same goes for the rest of the Misschiefs voyage, which will be in Marseille this summer and then Paris during the Fiac in October. And more destinations to come I hope! Avis aux amateurs Misschiefs!
Meet the Misschiefs.