No Man Is An Island
“No Man Is An Island” is the title of John Donne’s famous poem and inspiration for the exhibition at one of Stockholm’s premiere museums, Artipelag.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Artipelag opened two years ago, designed by Johan Nyren, and is fast becoming a “must see” attraction. It’s aim: a vision of art, music, furniture and sculpture inspired by the archipelago. The creators behind it…Bjorn and Lilemor Jakobson, the couple famous for creating the company BabyBjorn–(baby carriers and other innovative baby gear…are we surprised?)
Remarkably, they took on this project while in their seventies! Their mission: to bring the extraordinary beauty of Sweden’s countryside to the public’s attention. Its location is in Halludden, just 20 minutes outside of Stockholm, and I can tell you, (because I went there this week), it’s a little piece of wilderness heaven. I still can’t decide what the coolest thing about it is, the architectural structure itself or the gigantic open windows giving you a view to nature outside (with the artwork), or the combination of acoustical inspired jazz and artwork…or maybe the lunch buffet (seriously), everything is prepared from scratch (oven baked turbot with prawns and butter fired sourdough bread!?!?).
The buffet getting set up…
This stone, worn smooth by inland ice, was preserved in the building–a special request from Bjorn.
Here’s what Bjorn had to say about his vision: “I want people to come here and experience the nature. There are so many beautiful trees, ant-hills and moss-covered stones to look at–and rocks to sit on with views of Baggensfjarden bay. I think I could talk about this place until the cows come home.”
I agree. I don’t even know where to begin (or stop), the archipelago in Sweden consists of 30,000 large and small islands wrapping around the country, some rocky, some lush, some relatively abandoned, some teeming with tourists. Take your pick. Ferry there, fly, canoe, make a raft–like the youth group at my church did out of recycled bottles–and row from island to island, (I’ll pass, but okay, it’s possible).
Pictured below: the large artwork by Evert Lundquist and the smaller pieces by Ebba Reutercrona (husband and wife). Notice how much care goes into the hanging of each piece to create the right visual effect and feeling.
Another artist included in the collection is Prince Eugen (1861-1947). Born to a Duke who later became King Oscar II, he was fourth in line to the throne, however, he was much more interested in landscape painting than reigning and devoted his life to art.
These next two paintings are by Bruno Lilejefors (1860-1939), one of the most influential Swedish wildlife painters of the late 19th century.
The sculpture below is outside, near the entry. Vegetal elements and bones in a kind of bronzed collage make up this unique piece. We viewed it while listening to the jazz improvisation of Madeline Jensen–a sometimes melodic, sometimes hiccupping scream of a caterwaul interpretation (to put it nicely). Her archipelago is obviously one of extremes.
But that’s just it, that’s what Donne is trying to say, what this exhibit is trying to show…it’s everyone’s archipelago. Nature is a mirror in which to see ourselves, our connections, our relationships. While we may feel like an island, no person ever is, because no matter how small we feel, our life ripples outward, creating the currents that move all of us along. It’s kind of remarkable to think about. And why on the back steps of the museum, leading out to the promenade, the Milky Way is depicted on the steps–not only are we not an island, we’re not even a universe, we’re a multiverse, 1 of 10 to the 500th!! (That’s a 1 with 500 zeros). It’s hard to grasp. That’s why it’s a good idea, every now and then, to turn off the lights, drive out of the city and stare up at the heavens. It’s all there, we just sometimes forget we’re a part of it. But no man is an island.