Marina Fokidis' text on Ylva Snöfrid


Who are you and how many of you are there…?

Formerly, the artist’s name was Ylva Ogland. Actually, her first name was Ylva Snöfrid and her last name was Ogland, but she was called Ylva Ogland.

Ylva lived in the what seemed to be the real world, while Snöfrid lived behind the mirrors, in the so-called mirror world, (a world which is often described as less than real).

Snöfrid has been always there, since Ylva’s childhood, acting as her mirror twin.

Later, she became a part of Ylva’s “art” (“art” as per what “artists” do).

For many years, Ylva brought Snöfrid into the world through rituals and ceremonies, through objects and publications, through food and elixirs, through painting her again and again and again and again… Until they were finally fused into one.

We welcome Ylva Snöfrid, who is here now.

We used to be divided into two entities, and we were something else: Ylva Ogland the artist, painter, mother, lover, and friend on the one hand, and Snöfrid, her mirror twin on the other. Now, we have gone through a transmutation. And we have amputated Ogland. And a third phase is beginning What happens when the “artist” and the “art” are brought closer together? When they become essentially one?’ Ylva asks, perhaps rhetorically.

This is what we are set to see in the present, and in the future

There must be a magical element to accepting the duality of the human soul, and the duplexity of human thought. Only then, perhaps, can the ambiguous relation of image and reality truly make sense, and even pose a profound challenge to the “hegemony” and its heroic narratives, its singular truths, and its prevailing patriarchy. In her writing, philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler often refers to the idea of identity (gender and desires) as flexible, free-floating and uncaused by any other stable factors. By constantly questioning the practices of art and the identity of the artist–as well as herself in every sense–Ylva embodies Butler’s proposition. 

‘The body is the shelter,’ the Oracle said (speaking through Ylva Ogland and Rodrigo Malea Lira), the first time we all met in Athens, and then Snöfrid appeared under the Shadows of Athena, in the form of a drink. This was the Acropolitic Mirror Vodka, which was eventually dispersed into many, many, bodies–primarily those which would allow her to enter them. And “art” became everybody’s asset. Now, both entities meet in one body, unbound, stronger, and–as this age seems to call for–set on continuing to challenge our conceptions of normality and question why these norms still prevail over other modes of being. The body as such appears here as a tool for the advancement of social and political thought, and as a refuge for the inseparableness of Ylva and Snöfrid, of matter and spirit. A forceful unity, as the last resort for resistance, has come to be.

Welcome to the awareness and the embodiment of the unconscious–the unconditioned.

Plato writes “those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed by the masses.” The allegory of the cave–as narrated by Socrates in Plato’s Republic–describes shadows as the prisoner’s reality, a manufactured reality different from “true” reality. Those living in the cave cannot grasp that the shadows are cast by people and objects passing or being moved in front of the sun. Yet, some of them manage to flee this prison and look directly at the sunlight, and achieve some hope of collective change! They are the ones who face life in its entirety, and do so at their own peril.

But how…?

Everything originates in life. That which is said, or remains unsaid and is concealed, and that which is accepted, or unaccepted and controversial–all these opposing forces converge in Ylva Snöfrid’s work. Painting and the body are equal mediums of expression. They are the agencies of meaning, and the shrines from whence the “prophecies”–which are now contained in unity–are spread. Through the completion of the osmosis between the seemingly real and the seemingly mythical, the metaphor becomes a process of transportation (metaphor derives from the Greek word metaphora, which means transfer), and the allegory transforms into everyday reality. The essence is carried over to form. A kind of art practice, which can be extended into a way of life and of being together! 


Ylva Snöfrid at the premier of her one month performance at CFHILL, March 8h, 2018.

Ylva Snöfrid at the premier of her one month performance at CFHILL, March 8h, 2018.

Ylva Snöfrid at CFHILL, 2018.

Ylva Snöfrid at CFHILL, 2018.

‘I am a servant of my own artwork and of the process of making and nursing it. I have a responsibility to remain unaffected by the system, instead I am creating my own system…’ Ylva Snöfrid claims.

Her skilful transition from the land of Faerie into “ordinary life”–reminiscent of the way in which the heroes of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream migrate from the Athenian hill of their mystical experiences back to their “ordinary lives”–offers a genuine possibility of mobilisation from the existing configurations of discourse and power towards a new set of hitherto unforeseen possibilities. The notion of subjectivity comes to the foreground as a driving force, but the subject here–as Butler has aptly put it–‘is neither a ground nor a product but the permanent possibility.’

“These things seem small and undistinguishable

Like far-off mountains turned into clouds…

Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me

That yet we sleep, we dream

(Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Fluctuating and open to the constant transformation that occurs through the unification of multiple singularities, Ylva Snöfrid has no doubts about her waking state, much like the heroes of the play (as is made evident at the end of the piece) do not house any doubts about their waking state. Despite their initial oscillation between certainty and doubt, they all know that they are awake; the task is to share their experience with “the rest,” all those who might have been conditioned to eternal sleep.

Where is here… Where are you… Where are we all… Today, this week, these years, all our lives…?

We are in the Painter’s Studio in the Shadow World, in Athens, a space of simultaneous possession and dispossession.

‘An artwork as a living organism or vice versa, a living organism as an artwork where everything is ritualised: sleeping, eating, cleaning, cooking, painting, crafting furniture, stretching canvases, home schooling,’ Ylva Snöfrid admits.

The Oracle, Sibylla, Xenia, Rodrigo, the Keeper are also present right now, as the family forms equal parts of this extensive process. There is no excess here, and as a consequence, there is no waste. Everything is in the making: the immaterial becomes paintings, the paintings become furniture, the furniture becomes tools, the tools become life–an ever-present possibility of a life that is “better” than the one we think we know! Knowledge and senses fluctuate freely within the shadows and beneath the cracks: the painter’s studio meets the Old National library and the Academy of Athens–just across from it–which reside in their neoclassicism, in dialogue with an enduring crisis that is seemingly without end, without final judgement, and without justice, for that matter. 

This is not Ylva’s first time in Greece, but rather a return. As a child, she often visited the country with her family, following her mother’s passion for ancient ruins and the ghosts they house. Then, in 2009 she brought Snöfrid and the Oracle [JS1] in the ritual of brewing illegal vodka in an old copper distillery.

In a beautiful, dimly lit courtyard–which would later become the primary space for Kunsthalle Athena–we exchanged ideas, and hinted at power structures and their discontent, at alternative ways and state of minds, at independent institutions and their possibilities. With their initial guidance to the realms of self-realisation, Kunsthalle Athena and South as a State of Mind were gradually born.

Now, following those painters who brought the subjectivity of the artistic position to the foreground of representation, Ylva Snöfrid renders her body available for further reflection, and towards the advancement of mediation between ideas and reality. The long-term return project in Athens clearly draws inspiration from one of the most seminal paintings by Courbet: The Painter’s Studio: A real allegory summing up seven years of my artistic and moral life (L'Atelier du peintre. Allégorie réelle déterminant une phase de sept années de ma vie artistique et morale.)

While Velázquez and Goya had already brought the artist into their compositions, Courbet went a step further by bringing the “whole world” of the artist into his canvas, and also including the “artist” as a subject in the middle of it. As the foremost advocate of realism, he believed in painting real people going about their everyday activities, atin a time when real and idealised were notions primarily related to means and access in terms of material wealth, and thus to information and knowledge. “It’s the whole world coming to me to be painted” Courbet describes, “on the right, all the shareholders, by that I mean friends, fellow workers, On the left is the other world of everyday life, the masses, wretchedness, poverty, wealth, the exploited and the exploiters, people who make a living from death.” Through this manifesto, a painting of his own studio, he defines a new role for the artist in society. On the left, he places his ordinary models: working people, includinglike a priest, a prostitute, a gravedigger and a merchant. On the right, his friends and acquaintances, who supported and influenced him, including the French poet Baudelaire. Courbet himself, the artist, is depicted as sitting in the centre of his studio, which is also the centre of the canvas.

Ylva Snöfrid advances the position of the artist even further, extending “painting” as a medium and process beyond the limits of the framed canvas. The studio of the artist, the Painter’s Studio in the Shadow World, becomes the “artist’s manifesto”–a work that challenges private authorship as it is created by whoever is present along with the circumstances of this togetherness. “Painting” the whole world and “being” in it are two processes that collapse into each other here. For Ylva Snöfrid the quest is no longer to make us–the spectators–realize that there is an artist sitting in front of the canvas, or a mirror-twin sitting in front of a mirror. Neither is she looking to represent her reality or to call upon it and make it appear occasionally. Now, reality has entered art in a more permanent way. In her dual role as subject and mediator, Ylva Snöfrid’s challenge is to entice us, as participants, to follow her; to join her in entering this world between her body and her paintings, and possibly, to see both the shadows and the objects that cast them., along with her.

We are also in Stockholm, at the Painter’s Studio in the Shadow World, which does reflect “allieurs” in a manner sensitive to each respective locality. Here, Ylva Snöfrid stands in front of this series of empty canvases, which are waiting to be “informed” collectively by shared intimacies and coexistences.

Will you enter?