Inspiration: Paintings, photo and a drawing of "The Nigger Pettersson" (Jean-Louis or Pierre-Louis Alexandre ), 19th Century


27 silver gelatin photographs presented as slide show

Royal Art Academy, Stockholm, 2005

The dark-skinned sailor Jean-Louis or Pierre-Louis Alexandre (1844-1905) got off a boat in Stockholm in the middle of the 19th century. There he married Christina Elisabeth Eriksson, who later comitted suicide. Alexandre got the nickname Nigger Pettersson. He earned his living as a dock-worker and a model at the Art Academy. There he came to embody ideas of non-European peoples. He acted as savage and moor with naked torso and weaponry. In this way the Nigger Pettersson became a projection surface for exotism and ideas about far-off places.

In Stockholm today, there is a dark-skinned art model whose name is Amon Byekwaso. He works in elderly care in addition to his model work. Most often he poses nude. According to rumours, he´s often hired because of the different way his dark complexion reflects light. What do the conditions and production of exotism look like today? Can employment on the basis of skin color be motivated above all by color and form? How do the connections between skin-color, ethnicity and culture appear in Sweden 2005? The 19th century genre-paintings have similarities with today's film, fashion and music industries; where dark-skinned is portayed in a series of symbolic types: Pimp, Rasta, Gangsta etc. Do established roles from a collective imagery limit choices related to identity, like the moor or the savage? Or are they languages for communicating ideology, origin or lifestyle? Together Amon Byekwaso and I have, with the Art Academy as a background, related our ideas of contemporary ”black” personalities and their contexts. Which historical repercussions does this have? What possibilities does the art space offer as a structure for play and rolegames? What relevance does this have for further production of meaning? In the exhibition I show documentation from our collaboration.

Martin Karlsson, May 2005

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