“The Stockholm Cosmology”

Exhibition, Liljevalchs Konsthall,

Curated by Joanna Sandell Wright

June 14 – August 18, 2024.

Marc Johnson performance "Sunsum" at Liljevalchs Konsthall within the "Stockholm Cosmology" exhibition

Marc Johnson, “Tempest,” 240 x 410 cm, Woven textile
(yarns: cotton, merino wool, polyester), 2024, exhibited at Liljevalchs Konsthall, within “The Stockholm Cosmology” exhibition. Curated by Joanna Sandell Wright

Marc Johnson (Artist)

with Ama Kyei, Johanna Tengan, and Freddy Houndekindo (Performers)

Abstract: Marc Johnson’s “The Sea is History” series is a dazzling culmination of historical and artistic narratives, weaving together threads of ancestral memory with the tactile medium of textiles. Johnson’s homage to Derek Walcott, coupled with the interplay between Afrosurrealism and Afrofuturism, creates a rich tapestry that transcends traditional historical representation. The artist’s use of human-coral hybrid figures underscores the eternal bond between humanity and nature, further deepened by his masterful employment of Jacquard weaving techniques—thus echoing the colonial past of textile production.

Johnson’s textiles do not merely recount history; they invite viewers into a sensory experience where memory and identity are viscerally intertwined with every fiber. By referencing mythological and natural elements, Johnson fosters a dialogue between past traumas and future aspirations, making his work a profound site for cultural restitution and community healing. The subtle integration of Walcott’s prose within the fabric exemplifies how text and textile can collaborate to evoke histories that are both personal and universal. Johnson’s oeuvre affirms the power of art as a transformative medium, offering new pathways for engaging with the complexities of the African diaspora.

Curatorial remarks: Marc Johnson’s textile series “The Sea is History” performs a poignant interweaving of historical narrative and tactile virtuosity, situating itself within a rich continuum of cultural memory and creative expression that draws from the depths of the Atlantic as much as from the lineage of Afro-diasporic mastery. Using the tactile medium of textile art, Johnson not only honors the literary legacy of Derek Walcott but also reimagines the Ocean as a living archive and a repository of ancestral memory and transformation.

His use of human-coral hybrid forms woven from cotton, wool, and polyester serves as an elegant metaphor for the intertwining of human and natural history—a poignant commentary on the African diaspora’s relationship with the sea. Johnson’s work stands at the confluence of Afrosurrealism and Afrofuturism, employing elements of magical realism to challenge and extend the boundaries of historical narrative. This is particularly timely in an era deeply invested in reconsidering and recontextualizing the histories and legacies of colonialism and slavery within the arts.

The aesthetic intertwining of human and mythological marine forms with text from Walcott’s poetry foregrounds a multifaceted exploration of identity, displacement, and ecological awareness. By incorporating Walcott’s verse into the fabric, Johnson establishes a dialogic relationship between text and textile, where each stitch reverberates with the historical resonances of diasporic journeys.

The series marks a significant contribution to contemporary art’s engagements with the themes of memory and identity. Johnson’s use of Jacquard weaving techniques not only nods to the colonial past of textile production but also invites a multilayered analysis of the socio-economic and ecological dimensions embedded in his choice of materials.

The thematic focus on “returns” merits investigation within memory studies and postcolonial theory, framing the tapestries as sites of cultural restitution, reconciliation, and historical contemplation. By virtue of its layered complexity and vibrant engagement with historical and contemporary concerns, “The Sea is History” establishes itself as a seminal work for understanding the intersections of art, history, and the continual reconstruction of identity within the African diaspora.

“Sun/sum” performance

“Sun/sum” is an iterative dance performance conceived as both research and rehearsal project.

It explores the roots and routes of various Afrodiasporic dance forms. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the dancers gather and compose materials, periodically performing to expose their process and findings in a palimpsest of embodied archives. The title “Sun/sum” references the poem “Red Rising” by Kamau Brathwaite (1930-2020), wherein he uses the word “sunsum” from the Akan language of Ghana, meaning soul or the origin of spiritual life.

Sun/sum” is currently performed by Ama Kyei, Johanna Tengan and Freddy Houndekindo.

Marc Johnson wishes to thank Eleanor Bauer and Will Johnson, Magnus Bärtås, Mieke Claeys, Nele Demeulemeester,  Salad Hilowle, Freddy Houndekindo, Emil Ivedal, Ama Kyei, Marcos Luduena-Segre, Caterina Daniela Mora Jara, Cecilia Roos, Ellen J Røed, Joanna Sandell Wright, Johanna Tengan, Mick Wilson, and John-Paul Zaccarini.

Marc Johnson’s presentation at Liljevalchs Konsthall received financial support from the Buschlen Mowatt Nichol Foundation, the DRAC Ile-de-France, Liljevalchs Konsthall, Stockholm University of the Arts and The Lurex Company Limited (Sildorex-Lurex).