Under the Mirroring Surface (2018)

Adam Kraft

About this exposition

In my work I experiment with interventional urban commons, through practices of altering and re-purposing existing structures. The work is both informal and transgressive in its methodology, with the core intention to investigate and participate in the shaping and making of the social city. Art and research can provide keys to accessing such a city in the making; a space where we can challenge the preconceptions of what is possible, and to imagine alternative strategies for the creation of realities. This article presents a theoretical frame work together with a number of strategies practiced under the Lefebvrian concept of the ‘Right to the City.’
typeresearch exposition
keywordsRight to the City, undercommons, Récuperation, invisibility, de-imagineering, Underground
last modified07/05/2018
published inVIS – Nordic Journal for Artistic Research
portal issue0. VIS Issue 0

comments: 1 (last entry by Andreas Gedin - 02/02/2018 at 15:27)
Andreas Gedin 02/02/2018 at 15:27

On Under the Mirroring Surface by Adam Berglund. Peer review, Andreas Gedin.


In general

First I would like to tell that I find this extensive research project in Fine arts rich and stimulating. The projects pronounced purpose is to challenge and question the use and ownership of cities. I understand it as a singular huge project or artwork in time and space, though it consists of different, differently entitled art works. The relevance of the project is both to be found in Berglund’s discussion about it, but there are also (not discussed) poetic values as well as playful aspects in the way that it deals with secret unauthorised events like children’s games: looking for secret places, building huts in the woods etc. (Think also about Jules Verne!) Maybe this aspect could be developed further under the sympathetic, political and artistic “production of imagination“, a main focus of Berglund’s project. (Which echoes “All Power to the Imagination”, from the streets in Paris May 1968.)


The project has a political purpose, but it is also political by making projects that are not aimed for an economical art market. But they obviously aim for a symbolic art market, they are to be subjects for research and to be exposed and discussed, like here, right now. But, what is, by the way, the political consequence of this economical circumstance? Here we find one of many “paradoxes”, as Berglund puts it, or rather contradictions, as I would like to put it. In this approach I agree, in my review, with the use of deconstruction: to lay bare contradiction without denying the function and relevance of the project as a whole. Anyhow, the awareness of these kinds of paradoxes, or contradictions, is a very good starting point for serious research.



The artistic method seems to be both a strength and something to look closer into. The strength is that it has been developed and tested during years and that it works very well. But it could also be fruitful to reflect upon the fact that a method, which works, can hinder an artist to try new methods.



The art projects exposed are obviously already fully developed, but the essay seems to be an early version, in this research project. But the projects could be further worked on in any case; post-production is still an open possibility. Berglund points out the importance of imagination in different ways, and in my imagination I see the possibility of a more extensive narration, a film for example. It could be a mix of fiction, essay and documentary. Except for existing documents from the projects the narration of them is of great importance, something Berglund is fully aware of. But what differs literature from, in this case, documents of artistic actions, is of course the performance and the concrete results: something actually took place, as opposed to the fiction of fiction. A film or any kind of a more open narration could also include and embrace aspects like the “paradoxes”, political complexity, humour, poetic values etc. that is not fully developed in the current presentation. It would for example be very interesting to see the “paradoxes” really scrutinized. It is probably a painful task, if performed honestly, but also very fruitful because an effort like this has a potential to deepen the research and could develop the projects political, ethical and esthetical potentials.


I will not discuss if these projects really would liberate people and change “current conditions”, or not. The relation between art and political action is to complex, and general. But as a researcher Berglund have to contemplate how he will label his work. And this question connects to the concept ‘de-imagineering’. It seems like the concept is tried out, maybe for the first time, in this essay. Fair enough. And an answer to the following question might help to develop the concept: What differs ‘de-imagineering’ from ‘‘re-imagineering’?


Where are we?

We” are in cities in Western Europe. Maybe there would be other different and important angels of the rights to the city if some projects were to take place elsewhere in the world. No surprises. But is this a problem?


Experiments & Failures

This safe position of the researcher, included in the “we”, also highlights the fact that when these activities are to be inscribed in a research context, and that the outcome seems to be known when the “research” begins. For example: 1. the artist plan to build a hut in a non-space. 2. the artist builds a hut in a non-space 3. The result is contemplated and told to the artistic research community. Or, in what way have failing relevance in this research project? I am not totally convinced that these projects are “experiments”, as said. It would be interesting to know more about experiments and failures; it would also help to focus more on the process (not only on the actual making). Again, the “paradoxes” can be here used to take the research process further and deeper.


Who are we?

The identity of “we”/“our” in the text seems to be taken for granted. For example: ”a space where we can challenge the preconceptions of what is possible”, “our own power”. As a reader I am included and addressed as if I agree with the political analysis, and hence with the art project. Maybe I do not? This also indicates that the analysis of the power structures in the society/cities might not be fully developed. Who is, for example, the artist? Personally I would avoid identity politics in this discussion, but it would be interesting to try to imagine groups of people who find themselves neither being a part of this “we”, or as included in the neo-liberal politics which seems to be the target of the project. This remark leads to another important question: if there is no defined “we” understood as a large group of people, you end up in an individualistic strategy. Even if this individualism is to be spelled “anarchism”, there is an important question to bring up, and that is: could Berglund’s’ projects be regarded as a kind of privatisation of the common? To put it bluntly: can he be regarded as a singular/private/artist/entrepreneur who privatize the common to enrich his symbolic capital? And if so, what does it mean in the long run?



Berglund’s exposition share a weakness common in Artistic research, namely extensive references to other artistic works. The Situationists are present, and it would be interesting to learn more about the relevance of them, or the lack of it. When it comes to their concept ‘Récuperation;’ “the activity of society as it attempts to obtain possession of what negates it”, I would like to add a Marcuses concept of ‘repressive tolerance’, in short that the state for example allow attacks at the state in order to disarm these activists, because it would strengthen them if they were fought. Further, the kind of secret mission Berglund works with is not unique but belongs to an existing genre, or genres, like private planting, hacktivism of fashion, etc. I also come to think of the – often photo based – genre of “non-space” (“Non –lieux”). Another important specific reference to art works is Western (2002) by Hans Schabus, a video documentation of him rowing his sailing boat ”Forlorn” through the Viennese sewer system, a video very close to the one presented here, but with a bit different concept.


Design and ease of use?

I did not find any reasonable way to print the project from the website except for as one long page with a stripe of diminutive text. The video was easy to access. It would have been interesting to see more documentation of the projects, and also reactions on them in media, if there has been any.


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