Peter Johansson

Peter Johansson, Musique Royale, 2004

Peter Johansson, Musique Royale, 2004

Things work well in Sweden. Bureaucrats deliver their services on schedule and national flags are taken down at sunset. This is a country where individuality is not much celebrated; where, instead, people are educated to agree with each other, to find sensible middle-of-the-road solutions; where neutrality is a virtue, and where nothing much can change that outlook.

Things are pretty safe in Sweden. All is regulated to fit the norms and prefab thrives. In terms of Sweden’s own industries, not only the cars but music, fashion and design are safe too. H&M does not deliver the most cutting-edge fashion statements but works as a safe substitute. The same can be said about IKEA, which is certainly not known for its exclusive design but rather as a brand capable of delivering inoffensive and practical solutions. Early on both H&M and IKEA found ways of producing merchandise more cheaply than their competitors. Mass production and low prices were competitive tools inherent to both companies’ structures. Both were founded during the 1940s, the decade in which three of the four members of ABBA were born.

As a group, ABBA sold a total of 300 million albums and became the most successful Swedish musical export ever. When the then crown prince Carl Gustaf married Silvia Sommerlath in 1976, a party in their honour was thrown at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. ABBA were invited and ‘Dancing Queen’ was written and performed in honour of Silvia.

ABBA danced us through the 1970s and into the ’80s, only to reappear in the late 1990s when their songs were remixed and sold all over again. Even today, ABBA are still appearing, in various forms, in the listings of music releases. The musical Mamma Mia!, telling the life-story of an ABBA character and featuring ABBA songs, continues to sell out at a London West End theatre.

Peter Johansson’s (b. 1964, Transtrand/Salen, Sweden) Musique Royale for International 04, hosted in a Swedish prefab house on the South Lawn at the Pier Head, played ABBA’s Dancing Queen night and day. The house was painted bright red. It had a kitchen and a bathroom, but no furniture. It landed on this piece of ground and with it came the music, all in one sturdy package. In the tradition of the ready-made, this mass-produced object highlighted notions of consumer culture and identity. Its prefabricated origin alluded to the premeditated packaging and delivery of experiences. As a sculpture, this shiny music-box worked as bait, luring us inside.

Friday night and the lights are low, Looking out for the place to go, Where they play the right music, getting in the swing You come in to look for a king. . .

Peter Johansson at Liverpool Biennial 2004

Musique Royale, 2004
Mixed media installation
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2004
Exhibited at the Pier Head

Supported by

The Swedish Arts Council
The Embassy of Sweden
IASPIS (International Artists Studio programme in Sweden)