tommy.jensen@sbs.su.se johan.sandstrom@ltu.se

The tones and tonnes of Malmfälten


“You are meters, you are tonnes”, sings Johan Airijoki, singer-songwriter from Gällivare, Malmfälten (in Swedish). Among the key performance indicators that miners speaks to us about, we find that those two are rather salient: how many meters advanced as new tunnels are made (drifting) and how many tonnes of ore are loaded on your shift. In short: “You are meters, you are tonnes”.

Kiruna is part of the region called Malmfälten (in direct translation “the fields of ore”), so it is not really a secret what is commonly seen as fueling the region: mining. Another answer, however, might be: art. Whether it is the mining industry, the harshness and striking beauty of the landscape, the long Winters, the heat in the sauna, the never ending nights (and mosquitos) during Summers, the people, or all of the above, this region has over time produced great art and this also drives the region.

Just recently, Kiruna became the place for the new county art hall, previously in Luleå. In Kiruna, the town hall has always also been an impressive exhibition of art for all visitors to see, apparent now as it is being dismantled along with the art collection (which will travel to the new town hall). Previously, we have told about our collaboration with local Kiruna artist Magnus Fredriksson (see our posts from our art exhibitions, of which Magnus has played a key part, click here for his webpage) and how his art (mainly animations) make use of the local culture and landscape. In our project he took some of the metaphors of the mine and the company and translated them into paintings that not only captured the particular metaphor, but also triggered the imagination further. You are meters, you are tonnes, sometimes the workers underground are spoken of as being at ‘the front’. Magnus took the metaphor to a trench in one of the great wars, with warplanes flying above miners drinking coffee. Of course, the great wars are not an unsensitive issue for the company and for Malmfälten. Iron ore was in high demand. In another painting, the metaphor of the company as a Mother was illustrated, with a naked white woman with three pairs of bare breasts, rolling in on a hamburger-bed, breastfeeding a whole choir of people through an arrangement reminding of gear used when milking cows. In a third painting, of the metaphor of the Dream factory, the factory turns zoo-animals into rainbowcolored mince…

It’s like: you had me at ‘Hello’. We cannot stop looking, and thinking.

We are continuously getting to know other local artists. Unsurprisingly, they not only give us a better feel for the place and the people, but they also many times seem more effective then us in ‘capturing’ labour and power-related issues that we see, hear and feel, and tear the few hairs on our heads to digest, understand and express.