Johan Linderberg Torekov Pizzeria

Designer Johan Lindeberg and Torekov Pizzeria

Late afternoon a few days ago, Charlotte and I enjoyed what could possibly have been the best pizza in all of southern Sweden. We were curious to see how designer and photographer Johan Lindeberg’s cooperation with the owners of Torekov Pizzeria had played out.

I don’t know if I’ve ordered a pizza straight off the menu in this part of Sweden. Back in the day, when I was living in Gotland and DJing at Burmeister in Visby, they served an incredibly yummy pizza with Parma ham, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and Mozzarella cheese. It was perfectly spiced and I missed nothing on it. So, obviously, that fond pizza memory is the recipe I benchmark against. Ever since I tend to add and subtract from the standard Swedish pizza menus in order to at least get as close as possible.

Fortunately, the owner of Torekov Pizzeria, Yakan Selim, obliged my request for a tailor-made pizza and it tasted damn close to the one I remember enjoying so many times at Burmeister.

“Bur” was both my workplace and preferred hangout on my off-days in the summer of 1992. Bacillen, Einar, Pierre, and a few others would usually meet up there for a pizza before heading into the Vietnam War-themed Saigon, possibly the coolest bar I’ve ever guested (and had my own key to).

I’ve never been to Napoli and have therefore yet to experience what an original Margarita tastes like, but it’s definitely something that’s on my list for 2021.

Pandemic vs Climate Change

Pandemic vs Climate Change

Here’s a new piece for the Resurfaced series. I don’t do much political art, but this project felt important somehow. If not to you, at least to me right now.

Sometimes I feel like a hostage. A victim of hijackers or kidnappers where the culprits are the established media. I don’t think I have an unhealthy ingestion level, but what I do listen to and read, tends to put a large emphasis on two main headline topics: the pandemic and the climate. I find this to be even more true now that Trump is off-center stage.

Granted, both are extraordinarily important issues, regardless of whether or not you believe in all or just some of what the media broadcasts 24/7. If you don’t believe in either, well, there you go.

Like the next guy, I am easily seduced or hypnotized by big fat headlines. And so, I often forget that the media’s business model is fundamentally about generating engagement – just like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, Snapchat, Google, and every other social media outlet out there. The more eyeballs they attract, the more advertising money they rake in.

The main difference between traditional media and “SoMe” is that because traditional media has been around a lot longer and has content produced by a team of purportedly unbiased reporters and journalists, it continues to enjoy a higher level of believability (if not authoritativeness).Folks in my generation still tend to rely on old-school media brands to get their lion’s share of “indisputable facts” and opinions. And since it’s no secret that many – including your’s truly – choose news sources that reinforce rather than challenge opinions, you don’t need a degree in behavioral psychology to grasp how we find ourselves in an echo chamber, shutting out all and any opposing views and thoughts that question our opinions or facts. We become hostages of the media and eventually victims of Stockholm syndrome. Feeling mushy about a media brand is dangerous stuff.

industrial art

Industrialized

This piece stems from a visit to an abandoned workshop or factory somewhere. The photo doesn’t have a GPS tag…and neither does my memory. It’s another installment in my Resurfaced series.

I am continuously fascinated by these rough, unfiltered industrial environs and how often I discover mesmerizing readymade shapes there.

I’m increasingly cognizant of how the rational work of architects, engineers, and technicians – unintentionally or, perhaps subconsciously – can often add something more than just the obvious functionality; an aesthetic dimension.

There’s something liberating about not at all knowing or, even caring, what purpose an old pipe like the one above had, what fluid(s) flowed within, and what the residue still lining its inner chamber consists of.

The vast complexities of industrialization are hard for me to comprehend. I’m trying to grasp this in order to better understand how difficult it is to make significant changes to improve the planet’s health.

When I saw the container ship stuck in the Suez Canal the other week, it reminded me of how complex a world we have built for ourselves. It’s both frightening and fascinating. Not entirely different from the ongoing pandemic.

A list of the products within the 18,300 containers stacked on the Evergreen Marine would have likely had a Made in China tag.

According to this official statistics site, there are over 25 million factories in China where nearly 200 million people work.

There must be an abundance of abandoned factories there…

Vejbystrand Illustrations

Thoughts and Views From Vejbystrand

Here’s a bold statement coming from 57-year-old likely suffering from delusions of grandeur: I believe my most significant artistic contribution has yet to be created. Brash as it may be, it is nonetheless a mantra that keeps my creative fire burning. The great mystery is in what shape this artistic contribution will take and if it will be a participatory, collaborative venture or a singular artistic expression. Perhaps a combo. Until I figure out or arrive at a conclusion as to how this will manifest itself, I’ll continue to execute creative ideas that appear more or less randomly on my radar screen and drawing board.

Here’s a collection of illustrations themed on Vejbystrand and inspired by travel posters from the 1930s. After bouncing around the idea or concept for the illustrations for a few years,  last fall, I decided to use 10 of my favorite photographs from the village as the basis for the project. They are now printed and on display at Strandhugget, our local restaurant here in Vejbystrand.

Khao San Road Bangkok

The Serpent

Once in a blue moon, something other than an old movie catches my attention while randomly scrolling on Netflix’s site. A few days ago, I came across a miniseries called The Serpent. The series has an intriguing plot, it’s beautifully shot, has good acting, and really groovy music from the 1970s. Best of all, it takes place in Southeast Asia, primarily in the Thai capital Bangkok. Highly recommend giving it a watch, especially if you, like me, traveled around Asia in the 1980s and came across dubious “gemstone agents” and other shady characters while crisscrossing the continent carefree with a small stack of traveler’s checks in your money pouch and the yellow bible, South East Asia On A Shoestring in your hand.

Like most westerners that sought out adventure and something different culturally, especially after having done the Eurail or Interrail thing, Khao San Road in Bangkok was the “hub” that we passed through at some point or another. After roughing it in India, Indonesia or Nepal, this a westernized version of the Orient – where you could stock up on just about anything you needed: food, clothes, visas, fake ID cards, tattoos, and knickknacks to send home. You could also make (CCP) phone calls here and the post office wasn’t too far away.

My first time on Khao San I stayed in a room at a guest house with wafer-thin walls and a shared shower for about $1/night including a banana pancake and coffee breakfast. There were a lot of travel agents on Khao San and if you weren’t into Bangkok’s many tourist attractions, you could stay put in the area until it was time to leave for the next adventure north, south, east, or west. I usually chilled out three or four nights before getting tired of the crowds and nagging tailors and pushing onwards.

The shot above was taken sometime in the mid-2000s when I was on Khao San Road to research for yet another travel story about the area’s (in)famous backpacker scene.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Shot the Hong Kong night skyline for a travel magazine a while back. It was my second visit to the former British colony yet I was still taken aback by the city’s intensity and variety.

I think I shot this with a Canon 1D Mk III or a 5D Mk II mounted on a Gitzo Exact Mountaineer tripod, which I to this day consider part of my go-to tools for serious projects. It’s lightweight, sturdy and reasonably fast to extend.

Herman's Pseudonym Mark One

Herman’s Pseudonym (Mark I )

Another Easter begins. The above piece, “Herman’s Pseudonym (Mark I)”, refers to a Qigong instructor I was taught by a few years ago named Herman. He was good, but I found it peculiar that he demanded to be called “teacher”, like a pseudonym. I haven’t called anyone teacher since middle school and don’t understand why using his given name Herman could have rendered my impression of his teachings any differently.

Still way too much mysticism and cure-all fairy dust spread by Qigong “masters”. At its core, Qigong is basically a series of movements and poses which improve the circulatory flow of blood oxygen, and joint fluids.

While the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine kerfuffle continues to unfold, there’s still no solid news on when and where inoculations will be offered for my age group in this part of Sweden. Very confusing. I wouldn’t mind flying over to New York or even L.A. just to get my jabs.

I’ve been exposed (but not completely unshielded) to potential infections for more than a year without getting sick. I did have a few days with some respiratory issues last summer. But as it was the only potential symptom from the virus, I didn’t feel inclined to get tested. Later, in early fall, Charlotte and I tested negative for antibodies. Go figure.

I’ll continue to be careful, but the pandemic is becoming increasingly strenuous.

needles

Childhood Art

In my childhood house on Alfred Street in Los Angeles, the walls were covered by literally hundreds of paintings. Far from all, but many had religious motifs and were often dark, gloomy portraits of Jesus in various stages of crucifixion. The artworks in our home had been collected by my father during his tumultuous gallery years and when he abandoned the family in 1969, these dreary paintings loomed on our walls for many years to come. Unsellable and obviously a painful reminder of my parent’s relatively short-lived marriage and its dramatic dissolve.

I mention this as it might explain why I am so much in love with colorful, nonfigurative, and semi-abstract motifs in my own artwork.

Tokyo

Tokyo

A collage of photographs from a traditional wedding, a shopping street, and a Buddhist shrine in Tokyo. Japan is high on my list of places I’d like to return to once travel is possible again.

Swedishness

Passive-Aggressiveness

By far my all-around favorite country, Sweden is nonetheless also home to really imaginitive passive-aggressiveness. This collage is dedicated to all of us that often forget to put that little plastic separator on the conveyer belt between our food and the customer waiting behind us at the local grocery store. The condescending, authoritative look you get – often with a snarky smile – as he or she evenhandedly places the separator at just the right distance to your last item, is priceless. Would make for a great exhibit idea.


Le Chaos du Fromage

Brain fog. Long covid. Quattro Stagioni. Kim Jong-un. Musk’s exodus to Mars. Arthritis. Superficiality.

There are so many things I still don’t understand. Especially Quattro Stagioni. How can you mix four kinds of cheese together on a pizza and still expect to be taken seriously?

But on a more serious note, how can NK’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, clearly a textbook megalomaniac with official joviality, be allowed to govern over so many millions of people and be given inherited access to a military arsenal which could easily annihilate most of South Korea and possibly even Japan and the US?

Then there is art.

uknown

Unknown

This new piece bears the title “Unknown” because I wanted it to symbolize my embrace of the process in which it was created. I seldom know beforehand how anything I do is going to turn out. I don’t pre-visualize what the end result of what I write, film or photograph will be. I might have a rough clue or expectation, but mostly, when I’m finished, it’s an intuitive feeling, a voice (or, a deadline), that tells me I can’t take the process any further.

By accepting and enthusiastically welcoming the unknown, the puzzle, maze or riddle never gets boring.

Society is too focused on predictions.

coup in myanmar

Somewhere over Mandalay
This was my view as we left the city of Mandalay. It caught my attention this morning after reading about the continued terror against civilians following the military coup in Myanmar a few weeks ago. Sadly, the world watches passively on the sidelines – perhaps avoiding a confrontation with China. Chicken shit politics, I say.

Where is the UN?

If there is any tangible benefit from our endless traveling for the last 25 years, it’s feeling sincere empathy for the people we’ve met around the world, especially when they are in trouble.

The nature of war is to slaughter. Alas, the nature of the soldier is to unequivocally obey the orders of his or her superiors. But it is a learned nature, not a natural one. Emotions are systematically amputated. through threats of physical and mental reprimand and punishment.

Only once such obedience has been instilled can soldiers beat and execute civilians without remorse or regret. All they have to do is wave the flag of duty and obedience. No different from any other era in human history. We have not evolved much, despite high-flying thoughts of ourselves and our in essence superficial accomplishments.

Quotes

Life Quote

These skulls were captured near a place in Cambodia called “the killing fields” where millions of people were murdered during the brutal regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. I’ve published this image before, but when I saw it just now, it reminded me of a quote I like to recite. The image illustrates it perfectly:

I believe in life before death.

Now, does this mean I don’t believe in life after death? Or, just that whatever happens to us after we die should in no way be confused or conflated with what being alive is like? I haven’t given it much thought.

The quote was “given” to me by an old friend and whenever I’m at a crossroads or ambiguous about taking “a plunge”, I try to remember his quote.

The Scream

The Scream of Approval

I’ve not posted about it before, but about a month ago, I was accepted/invited to join the Swedish Artists’ Association, a society of artists of which Eva Bonnier, Bruno Liljefors and Carl Larsson were members.

I’m reminded of Groucho Marx’s quote about joining associations: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

Initially, I was dubious about joining. Would it be a club for mutual admiration? Or, would there be some tangible benefit? Perhaps my art would have some kind of seal of approval because I was a member. We’ll see.

The new piece above is called “The Scream of Approval” and represents how I sometimes feel when the over-analyzing gets to me.

FLUSHED

Knox Flushed

Here’s a new piece called “Flushed”. It’s dreamy and has several ingredients that I used because they somehow reminded me of a recent interview I heard with Amanda Knox. Amanda is the American exchange student that was accused of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher from Great Britain. Knox was definitively acquitted by the Italian Supreme Court, but after watching the documentary (Netflix), I couldn’t shake off an inkling that she and perhaps all involved in the case, were concealing something. That her plea of complete innocence was at least partially disingenuous. As someone close to me pointed out, Amanda Knox is super manipulative. It’s as if she’s flushed some evidence down the toilet. Metaphorically speaking.

Hyderabad

Hyderabad

From an early morning walk around downtown Hyderabad in southern India. Like in any big Asian city, walking around in the wee hours, before shops have opened for business and pedestrian and street traffic has yet to become overwhelmingly intense, meeting locals is easier.

Hyderabad is the joint capital of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states, and I spent about a week in rural areas of Telangana filming a demonstration of device-to-device wireless technology.

I’ve been to India a few more times after this scene was captured and have always enjoyed my visits, regardless of purpose or assignment.

Palm Tree Pearls

Palm Tree Pearls

“Palm Tree Pearls” is a new piece for my “Resurfaced” series. A collage of images shot in Southeast Asia during my lastest visit. Superimposing or blending photographs that individually have little emotional pull on me but that together create something interesting continues to fascinate me. The Resurfaced project has forced me to look at my world differently. To see the uniqueness in the mundane and discover compositions within compositions within compositions. The base image for this piece was a string of LED lights wrapped around the trunk of a palm tree. If you look carefully, you can see the inverted lights to the right in the painting.

volcano Guatemala

Volcano Climbing

I’ve gone cage diving with Great White sharks, ballooning at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, walked with lions in South Africa, and gone jogging in Death Valley California during a balmy 55C/131F morning. All exhilarating adventures that provided an adrenalin rush and a story to tell. But of all the more or less precarious things I’ve done so far, climbing up and down from the ridge of  “Volcan de Pacaya” was definitely among the most treacherous.

I remember it being unbelievably steep and that there were no marked paths or signs after ascending from the tiny village below the mountain. But it wasn’t so much the walking on hot, edgy, razor-sharp lava rocks or, jumping over narrow streams of lava, which was not easy for a novice volcano climber like me. Instead, it was the gentle rumblings from within the volcano’s opening just a few hundred meters above that gave me the heebie-jeebies. What if there was an eruption while we were up there?

New Art

Resurfaced: Travel Art

I’ve heard of a shop in Moscow where one could buy souvenirs from several famous destinations to give the impression to your guests and neighbors that you’d actually been there.

In the film Total Recall, customers of a virtual travel agency offered a neurological implant that could provide a wide range of false experiences.

Perhaps in the future, virtual travel will be the most reasonable way to travel. The most guilt-free, risk-free and cost-effective way to experience places in real-time. Hundreds of people would wear body cameras and have microphones streaming live video and audio from places like Paris, London, Moscow, Rio, Tokyo, and Mallorca.

Above: the piece to the left is called “Arrival: Val d’Orcia” and the one to the right is titled, “Arrival: London”. More of my resurfaced series here.