Human Rites

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” In her new exhibition in Stockholm, the artist Ylva Ogland’s long-time fascination with the theatre continues. A meticulous ritual of our lives.

In the theatre of Ancient Greece, the skene was the background building to which the stage platform was connected. This was regarded as the hidden stage. Here, costumes were stored and the backdrops attached. But, most importantly, this was a place where the audience could also move around, more or less freely. Normal life intertwined with art. Very much like Ylva Ogland’s own life cycle, where ordinary, day-to-day activities and her work are one. Always without a regular, traditional studio. Instead, you will find her at home or working at the exhibition venue. Sometimes while visitors are passing by, in a show that is already open to the public –“Even when a work has been delivered, I do not regard it as completed.”



1-ylva-ogland-mirrored-spring-snofrid-et-les-contre-espaces-2011-141Ogland has explored the skene and the ancient theatre before, but at Bonniers Konsthall the setting once again draws attention to the world of the stage. In She in Four Acts, she transforms the entire gallery into a work of art. Walking through the exhibition, a story gradually evolves. The acts – named “the shadow world”, “death”, “birth” and “the real world” – are not the only thing in the exhibition to evoke perhaps Dante, the Greek myths, da Vinci or even TV series. But regardless of old masters and comments on classic works, this is, at its heart, an exhibition of the procedures that build all our lives, whether we like it or not.

And what is this fascination with rites? One might think that Ogland’s anthroposophist upbringing in Järna outside Stockholm, in a community so passionate about enigmatic ceremonies, might have something to do with her fascination for routines in this daily chaos most of us call life. She always works at night – but not as the result of a spontaneous idea after a late-night supper. No, she works every single night. Every project has its own special file in her large archive, containing ideas and the history of every development, step by step. Ogland prefers to discuss techniques and routines rather than ideas, just like Stanley Kubrick, one of her favourite film-makers. Film is important to her, and she immerses herself in one director that she enjoys after another. Just like a… ritual.

Today, Ogland once again lives in Stockholm, after being based previously in both New York and Berlin. But being one of the most celebrated Swedish artists of her generation, she has exhibitions all over the globe and is represented in numerous collections. The world has truly become her stage. And those meticulous rites of hers have created a very personal artistry. Treating subjects that we perhaps have seen before, but in a new manner. Making the ordinary and the insignificant truly grand. That’s the spirit, Ylva Ogland.




Words by Tor Bergman

Portrait by Sofia Runarsdotter

She in Four Acts, Bonniers Konsthall, Torsgatan, until July 26;

Image credits:

#1 The Birth of Xenia, 1-30 (2013) #2 A Reflection of the Combined Memory of the Births of Sibylla and Xenia (2015) #3&4 Snögrid Still-life #5 (Mirrored Spring), Snöfrid et les contre espaces (2011–14) #6 Xenia with Poppy Flowers, Fresh Cut Poppy capsule with Opium Sap, Syringe and Wisdom Tooth”, 2012 #7 Xenia with candle, cut poppy capsule, poppy flower, spoon with heroin and wisdom teeth,” 2012-13 #8 The Birth of Xenia (7)”, 2014 #9 The Birth of Xenia (2),” 2013