Graft the Words, Whip My Tongue
Stockholm-based Johanna Gustafsson Fürst is the third artist to exhibit at the new exhibition space and the first to present sculptures and installations in all of Accelerator’s exhibition spaces. Gustafsson Fürst’s art touches on the connections between social systems and individuals. In the development of Graft the words, whip my tongue, she has been concerned with how power is exerted through language and the relationship between language and body.
About the exhibition
Johanna Gustafsson Fürst’s practice is characterised by dialogue: with materials, spaces, other professional groups, poetry, colleagues and places. The attempt to understand complex contemporary events and social relationships is embodied in her sculptures. She has extensive experience of working in public spaces and her practice is rooted in site specificness, self-organisation and social processes. Consequently, Accelerator has invited Gustafsson Fürst to a dynamic exhibition format that allows change. Gustafsson Fürst visited Accelerator early in its construction process and the exhibition presents new works created in tandem with the development of Accelerator’s galleries.
The exhibition is structured as a two-part drama spanning threat and desire, contraction and movement. In the middle of the exhibition period, several works will take a different form and new works will be added. The exhibition process has involved the production of a publication, which will be released in conjunction with the exhibition’s second opening in March. The publication’s editor Sara Abdollahi and Gustafsson Fürst have invited five writers to address the topic of the exhibition.
Language violence and subject formation
The process behind Graft the words, whip my tongue began in the summer of 2018 when Gustafsson Fürst recently had spent a research period in Lainio in Norrbotten, close to the Finnish border. She describes how she met people who had been affected by the language violence that was part of the Swedification process of Tornedalen that began when Sweden lost Finland in 1809. Finnish, Meänkieli and Sámi were banned from schools and libraries, which meant that school children were deprived of their ability to communicate. Gustafsson Fürst became concerned about how such an experience affects subject formation and the intimate conflation of body and language. In today’s Sweden, certain political parties propose to ban the speaking of languages other than Swedish on breaks in elementary schools and to withdraw mother-tongue education. The discrepancy between such language policies and the encounter with language-loss experiences and the promotion of pluralism has been central to the creation of the works in the exhibition.
Since 1999, Meänkieli is an official minority language in Sweden. Language status is granted by state authorities. The Swedish Parliament, the Swedish Academy and universities oversee and update the system of grammar, dictionaries, education and laws that define a language. Words, dialects and other language elements are processed through these normative systems that define every communicating individual’s identity and position in a society. While working on the project, Gustafsson Fürst often returned to the performative power of language. The title Graft the words, whip my tongue derives partly from a poem byBengt Pohjanen and partly during the work process in which the synthesising of bentwood was reminiscent of grafting, which became a metaphor for how languages infect and disseminate into each other. In the poem Jag är född utan språk [I was born without language], Pohjanen writes
Jag är uppväxt vid gränsen [I was brought up at the border]
i korseld mellan två språk [in the crossfire between two languages]
som piskat min tunga [that have whipped my tongue]
till stumhet [into silence]
Borrowing the words whip and tongue, Gustafsson Fürst chose to create a bidirectional movement. An exhortation for one’s own tongue to whip, to act and at the same time a masochistic prayer for a linguistic challenge.
 The research trip was part of the artistic initiative Residence-In-Nature: a cross-disciplinary project initiated by Åsa Jungnelius where artists are invited to work with a specific locality. Residence-In-Nature in Lainio was organised by Hans Isaksson, Åsa Jungnelius and Lisa Torell.
 From Bengt Pohjanen’s poem Jag är född utan språk [I was born without language], Vår Lösen, 1973:3. Bengt Pohjanen writes novels, plays, film scripts, songs, poems and librettos in three languages: Swedish, Meänkieli and Finnish.
Johanna Gustafsson Fürst
" I am fascinated by how language intertwines our bodies and societies, and, above all, how it feels when language is broken down, and what the consequences are. What does the linguistic violence exerted by governments to maintain and expand the nation state do to us? Although many people are aware that language is changing perpetually and is stimulated by diversity, there are calls for uniformity, through cutbacks in teaching first languages, for instance, and demands that proficiency in Swedish should be a condition for citizenship. "
Editor: Sara Abdollahi
Graphic designer: Jonas Williamsson
Authors: Ida Börjel, Balsam Karam, Negar Naseh, Lars Raattamaa and Loretto Villalobos
In the process of producing the exhibition for Accelerator, Johanna Gustafsson Fürst met with language researchers at Stockholm University who generously shared their research. Stockholm University has long defended and upheld a strong position in foreign-language teaching, language didactics and linguistics. The research, and not least the researchers in language didactics and multilingualism who have been involved in the exhibition, agree that mother-tongue education promotes further language learning. In collaboration with researchers at the university, Accelerator will present a series of talks based on the exhibition’s central issues.
About Johanna Gustafsson Fürst
Johanna Gustafsson Fürst is born in 1973 and lives and works in Stockholm. She has an MFA from the Royal Institute of Fine Arts in Stockholm (2003). Fürst has been exhibited both in Sweden and internationally, and is represented by Belenius Gallery in Stockholm. In 2017, she received the Friends of Moderna Museets’s Sculpture Prize, followed by an extensive solo exhibition.
Johanna Gustafsson Fürst, Artist
Exhibition team Accelerator
Therese Kellner, Curator
Richard Julin, Artistic Director Accelerator
Tove Nilson, Communications Manager
Erik Wijkström, Exhibition Technician