I call this piece “Calatravism”. It’s an abstract collage made from over 30 photographs of the Spanish architect, engineer and sculptor Santiago Calatrava’s skyscraper, Turning Torso located right here in Västra Hamnen. It’s one of my most popular pieces, especially when printed on thick acrylic, like the one hanging right now on display in my new studio.
If I step out of my studio and walk 20 feet to the left, I’ll have the magnificent Turning Torso right in front of me. It’s quite the sight. And where most skyscrapers are often anal-retentively symmetric, towering above us as monuments of our incorrigible hubris as well as physical insignificance, Calatrava’s contribution to Malmö’s skyline has a uniquely asymmetrical, organic, approachable feel to it. Which is likely why I’ve never tired of photographing and interpreting it.
Based on his marble sculpture, “Twisting Torso”, the 190 meter tall building was upon completion in 2005, the world’s first twisted skyscraper and continues to attract visitors from all over the world. I ride my bike past it almost every day and even when it’s pouring down, there’s almost always someone standing in front of the entrance, struggling frenetically to come up with an angle where the entire structure will fit within their smartphone’s screen.
For me, the Turning Torso serves as a consummate reminder, a mnemonic device to keep me bold and daring – and not wait around for things to happen on their own. For an artist, nothing could be more creatively catastrophic than slipping into the role of the passive bystander. Only when I act will there ever be a reaction.
I’ve had a long and amazing relationship with Turing Torso. In late 2014, I was commissioned by HSB Malmö, the cooperative that owns and operates the mostly residential building to produce a coffee table/interview book that would commemorate the 10 year anniversary.
But already back in 1999, just a year or so after moving from Göteborg to Malmö – and way before the skyscraper’s construction began – HSB hired me to shoot footage from several heights of Turning Torso while sitting in a harness of a helicopter.
The transformation that Malmö has gone through over the past two decades is remarkable and certainly noteworthy. Yes, there is still a lot of stuff that needs attention, including the devistatingly high crime rate, thoughtless and therefore mostly unsuccessful attempts at integrating immigrants into society and arguably one of the country’s worst inner-city traffic situations.
But not entirely unlike New Yorkers who live in a city that’s had to redefine itself time and time again, most folks in Malmö feel unapologetically proud of their city. In last week’s interview with a French TV team, I mentioned that it takes time for Malmöites to embrace change. But once they do, it’s nothing less than a love affair with no end.