Mats Hjelm, Fathers day at the Shrine of the Black Madonna, 2006 HD video, cinemascope, 5-channel sound. Participants: Jaramogi Menelik Kimathi, Holy Patriarch of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church © Mats Hjelm. Courtesy Brändström & Stene

Mats Hjelm

The focus in the works of Mats Hjelm is on the big questions. He is interested in what we sometimes call the universal. In monumental and technically accomplished video installations, the viewer is drawn into an evocative interplay between slow panorama shots across locations devoid of people on the periphery of civilisation, archive material and what is frequently a repetitive musical theme. Sound and image are removed from their original contexts and pose questions about the writing of history and what is of relevance to our time.

This is particularly characteristic of the trilogy White Flight, Man to Man and Cape Atlantis. These works are to some extent a resolution of Hjelm’s own story – he grew up with a frequently absent father who was a documentary film-maker and bits of whose material he reuses. Simultaneously, however, Hjelm is also examining the concept of masculinity. Under the influence of power and violence, history and the present become interwoven by religion and spirituality, cultural forms of expression, political measures and conflicts. It is this theme which also recurs in Deliverance. The hierarchical structure of the story is broken down by a non-linear narrative and it is far from clear where history ends and contemporary life starts. In this way the structure of the visual form calls images of human memory to mind.

Music is the link that helps the works cohere. It represents what is both healing and redeeming. Hjelm is looking perhaps not so much for explanations but for reconciliation as a means of moving on.

Mats Hjelm

Born 1959 in Stockholm. Lives and works in Stockholm.


Graduate studies in Sculpture. Cranbrook Academy of Art [US]

MfA in Sculpture, University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm

Selected solo exhibitions

Vox Historiska Museet, Stockholm

Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck [DE]

BildMuseet, Umeå

Selected group exhibitions

National Center for Contemporary Art, Moskva [RU]

The New Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati [US]

Uniform. Order and Disorder, PS 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York [US]

Selected bibliography

Florian Pumhösl ”Mats Hjelm: Trilogien” Springerin, Austria, 2003-03-01.

Lars O Ericsson ”Ett fullbordat farväl…” Dagens Nyheter, 2002-08-31.

Francesco Bonami, ”Mats Hjelm”, Flash Art, Italy, Mars – April 1999.

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