photography SANNA LINDBERG
The first really cold day at the tail end of an unsettling year. It’s been a tough 10 months, a soul-breaking year for many - me very much included. On my bike from Södermalm, the wind smacks me in the face. I pay homage to my oversized puffer jacket, roll past the Christmas lights at Stureplan, and turn right on Linnégatan. These are not my hoods, and I wonder what awaits me amidst the brass and fur of the swanky side of Stockholm. Punk? You’ve got to be kidding me.
These days, the air is thick with tension, accompanying us all, everywhere. Keeping our distance from one another, and at times from ourselves. So it was a shock. The neon lights. The stark concrete. The raw, bare bones of art being carved out right before my eyes – right here on this power-positioned passageway. As I step into the Misschiefs Takeover space, that tension does a runner, racing back to street level, where pandemic paranoia plagues passersby. Within these walls, there is only the unedited, unmanipulated, undoctored, unveiled pulse of female fluorescence. An outburst, an explosion of blood and angst and pure brilliance. The real mother-effing deal. Finally, here in Stockholm, smack-dab along the currencied corridors of power and prestige.
And with any great anything in life, there is a person. A mastermind behind this pulse-raising, art-in-action platform. There she is, at the back of the space, perched between a coat rack and a giant hand-tufted carpet shaped like a placenta (Kött och Blod/Flesh and Blood, Maja Michaelsdotter Eriksson). Paola Bjäringer. Swedish-blooded, French-souled, and a pioneering spirit of the highest rank. Born and bred in Paris to Swedish parents, gender studies in London blew open the path that Paola now forges. A path paved by gender, design, and sociology. The absolutely contemporary, like right-this-very-moment kind.
And forge she does, in the most fantastically un-Jante way imaginable. Stationed on Linnégatan, at the last working laundry factory in Stockholm, where royalty and top hoteliers once had their linens cleaned and pressed, Paola occupied space in August of this tumultuous year, bringing with her 10 Swedish female designers – all selected for the punk nature of their work. From this industrial space on this ever-so prestigious street, artists work daily, conjuring up original pieces for all the world to see – and buy. No basement atelier, no back alley studio for these trailblazers. Gorgeously exposed, these women work at the crossroads of design, craft, and art. Everything created within these walls has a usable nature to it, and each artist makes three pieces during their time onsite. A design gallery-cum-artist studio, Misschiefs Takeover offers Stockholmers the extremely unique opportunity to purchase contemporary design pieces directly from the artist herself. With absolutely no middle man – all profits go directly from buyer to creator, flesh and blood.
Misschiefs, as the name implies, is a punk movement and iron-clad collective. Fierce, smart, rule-makers, these women forefront change in the here and now, inventing new ways of creating, communicating, and coming together. Rare currency in the regularly divided, keep-your-distance COVID-19 world of right now. Paola’s original intention was to take her 10 Swedish Misschiefs on tour, and feature one local on-site artist in each city. First stop was Stockholm in February of this year, and as bags were being packed for next stop Milan, COVID-19 arrived. Misschiefs stayed put, but Paola’s immense drive to enable the intersectionality so lacking in Stockholm’s art scene - impelling many Swedish artists to seek refuge abroad – was still as wildly fervent as ever. And a rescue mission quickly followed.
One connection led to another, and Paola was offered the opportunity to bunker down on Linnégatan. A refuge and a boiling pot of creativity and cutting culture, Misschiefs’ Takeover features the original 10 with an additional 10 takeover designers – performance artists, painters, fashion designers, poets, sculptors, musicians, and more – with around eight working onsite on any given day. A rotating roster of guest artists camps out on main stage – visible from street level – for a week at a time. Making their art in real time, fancy folk racing by outside get the chance to see the creative process in action. Do they linger? Painter Hanna Stansvik tells me they most certainly do. Working on her largest canvas to date – enabled by the gigantic working space – she recalls how people made their way through the door and right up to her canvas halfway through the week to say how they’d been watching with fascination as her art came to life, something they had never before experienced. And in the short time I’m here, I watch Hanna sell a piece, the buyer returning to those frosty streets with a warm piece of punk-rock gorgeousness hot in hand. The future unfolds, right before my hungry eyes.
What connects each Misschief to one another? Paola explains that each women is entirely uninterested in pleasing the masses, and has a feminist way of making art. Each piece calls into question the overpowering masculine forces at work in not only the art world but society in general. Reappropriating, readdressing, and reestablishing a new world order - that’s the energy I sense here. And underneath it all, what really connects each to one another is Paola. Mama Misschief herself, she knows the intimate ins and outs of each and every work of art on site, every woman’s story, each baby perched on hip as mothers, sisters, and freedom fighters create a new world - one full of color, magic, and interconnectedness. Paola, the tireless matron, the eloquent gallerist with piss and vinegar for blood, holding space for her Misschiefs as they work their work, fight their fight, and spread their magnificent light. Brush hitting canvas, sound hitting microphone, yarn hitting loom, needle hitting thread, pen hitting paper, plastic hitting metal, steel-toed boot hitting concrete floor. Paola is there for it all.
As my time to head back home approaches, Paola urges me to stay for the evening’s live performance. Live? In November 2020? As my mind processes an all-new definition of punk, Grebnellaw emerges. And my heart is blown open. The most contemporary commentary on life today, complete with hand sanitizer, digitally manipulated face masks, and live singing, fills this former royal laundromat, and us lucky few come alive - together. Grebnellaw: red as blood, white as winter.
Energetic and electric, I ride the same bike through the same streets, feeling anything but the same. A forgotten feeling courses through my veins. I recognize this feeling, a long-lost lover returning to my door. What is your name after all? Hope, you say. Ah, yes, I remember you. And there you are, on Linnégatan. Is this where you house yourself these days, as the world twists and writhes in the grip of a pandemic, stuck between what was and what may be. This is where you are writing a new story? So happy we meet again. And from what I can tell, you’re fiercer, stronger, and more ravishing than ever.
So Stockholm, this is your chance. To lead the way towards a new kind of creativity. To cut a trail through the bullshit and shine a light on the brilliance. She goes by the name of Misschiefs, and luckily for you, her Takeover is staying put for a few more months. Make your masked way to Linnégatan 4, cutting past the tinseled storefronts and tension of today, and meet hope in the flesh.
Oh, one last thing. When I first said hello to Paola, she spoke of her great inspiration, French designer Matali Crasset, whose Permit to Build furniture piece greets newcomers at the door. Paola so lovingly told me, “One woman can change everything.” Well Paola, isn’t that true. And right now, in Stockholm that woman is you.
Misschiefs Takeover Part One rounds up on 27 November 2020. Part Two will be held in the same space - on Linnégatan 4 in Stockholm - and is due to finish up some time in February 2021. For the low-down on the Misschiefs’ movement and the Östermalm Takeover, head to misschiefs.se and misschiefs.se/takeover
“My soul is greater than the market economy.”
- Nachla Libre, artist and poet.
Don’t miss out on Misschiefs’ Takeover christmas market 18-19-30 December at Linnégatan 4
No more than 10 visitors at the time, 550m2