This project’s theme is how our world is changing: the West declines, the East and South rise. It’s inspired by history’s largest cooperative project, China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) or the New Silk Roads, which was launched in 2013 with an investment of US$ 1000 billion. It now involves no less than 150 countries but is still largely ignored by Western mainstream politics and media.
The aim of the SPAR project is to make an art-based contribution to peace through intercultural dialogue with visitors at different places and ongoing art creation with Chinese and other artists.
Its content is:
A) A 6-meter long, 4-panel + wall multi-media installation. The panels contain Oberg’s old and new photos from China in 1983, Myanmar, Somalia and Somaliland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Aleppo in Syria and Venice. See the works that sit in the installation’s panels here and the picture and video below.
B) 10 smaller collage paintings, all related to China and created in 2020. See the SPAR Combines here.
Its inspiration is politically rooted in the mentioned BRI and China’s rise. Its main artistic inspiration is Robert Rauschenberg’s multiyear project, ROCI – Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange 1984-1991 + ROCI Research Guide + Part 1: “Art Has No Borders – MOMA” + Part 2 + The Rules According To Rauschenberg – TATE + Copperhead Series – Thaddaeus Ropac.
Like him, I believe that art is a universal language and a most important vehicle for dialogue among cultures and that it can contribute to a better and more beautiful world – particularly when it invites participation and not only invites viewers to see some finished works.
Its potential was documented in Venice; read here about the Venice Future Dialogues based on my interaction with hundreds of visitors.
Its process has these dimensions:
a) create dialogues with audiences where it is shown (like in Venice), perhaps serve as a backdrop to seminars and public discussions;
b) lead to co-creation of artworks with local artists where it is shown and, over time, expand the installation with new works;
c) open opportunities for Jan Oberg to give public and/or university lectures related to peace and global change issues;
d) make its tiny contribution to peace between the – at the moment, cold warrior – West and China.
e) do these things in China but also on its way back to Europe via capital cities of countries participating in BRI.
Its history started with Jan Oberg’s travels in China in 1983 and 2018 but, more concretely, with the SPAR Installation being seen by over 300 000 people from all over the world in Venice in the context of the Venice Biennale 2019. It opened at The European Cultural Centre’s Palazzo Mora on May 11, 2019, as part of the global exhibition “Personal Structures – Open Borders.”
After Venice, it should have been shipped to China and shown at a new museum in Shanghai. But then came the Corona pandemic. China opened up again in 2023, and, as of writing, I am working on getting it to China, with the very kind help of the Chinese Embassy in Stockholm. I hope for early 2024.
Its financing consists mainly of my own funds, friends and others who support me in doing SPAR and volunteer work by others who assist me practically and contribute to it artistically without receiving any payment. There may be government or corporate funds involved for limited and specific purposes – like covering exhibition space costs, insurance or paying for SPAR’s transport – but never to an extent that would reduce my freedom or control of SPAR.
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SPAR’s formal status is that it is a synergetic project between the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, TFF, and Oberg PhotoGraphics running since 2018 and for as long as it takes for SPAR to realise its aims.
It is my most important project since I established Oberg PhotoGraphics in 2009. It was announced in the spring of 2018 and officially launched on this homepage on September 1, 2018.
Updated August 2023
If you have any views or questions, please send them via Contact.
And here, I give you a short intro to the installation