Two chairs in front of a video projection on the wall

Lisa Tan, Notes from Underground, 2013. Installation view Moderna Museet 2020. Photo: Åsa Lundén/Moderna Museet

23.10 2020

Notes from Underground

In the collection you can take part of the work “Notes from Underground” by Lisa Tan. The video explores the boundary between personal and cultural history, in a winding mental voyage through artistic works and geological eras. Read the introduction to the artwork here.

23 October 2020–

Lisa Tan’s video is underpinned by American philosopher and activist Susan Sontag, who spent time in Stockholm in 1968 on the invitation of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, after a series of articles criticising the Vietnam War. In ”Notes from Underground” (2013), taking its title from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, Sontag is engaged as a dialogue partner in the artistic process. But she also becomes support for the estrangement Tan experienced as a newcomer from the USA to Sweden at a time of growing polarisation, where an explicitly anti-immigrant party had been voted into parliament.

In the interview sampled in the film, Susan Sontag stresses our responsibility to highlight and offer other perspectives in the darkest times. The work references a scene from ”Duet for Cannibals” (1969), one of two films Sontag wrote and directed in Sweden. Existential questions are raised on how individuals choose their own actions, as actors Gösta Ekman and Adriana Asti walk among Siri Derkert’s concrete reliefs in Östermalmstorg Metro station. Other passages show Tan’s own editing and research, including on the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, which is near where she grew up. The cinematic narrative is shaped by vertical and horizontal movements – via rail tunnels and lift shafts, through cavern systems and the topographical sound graphs created by Sontag’s voice.

Lisa Tan uses photography, video and text in her practice, and is a professor at Konstfack University. Her work focuses on issues of belonging, loss and representation. The video work is part of a trilogy, extrapolating from the authors Susan Sontag, Virginia Woolf and Clarice Lispector.

You find the room in the Collection on floor 4

Map of Moderna Museet

Published 23 October 2020 · Updated 3 November 2020