ART- 12 m
DIRECTOR Johanna Billing
PRODUCER Public Art Agency Sweden , HER film
In Purple is a public art commission that stems from the activities of Mix Dancers, a group of self-organised women who for 12 years have run a hip-hop/afro and dancehall dance group and accompanying dance school, the Mix Dancers Academy for young women and girls. The group is based in Råslätt, a suburb of Jönköping in central Sweden. In a physically demanding and choreographed parade the group move slowly through the housing area’s pedestrian paths and greenery, accompanied by the sound of a lawnmower, birds and maintenance vehicles, collectively carrying a number of large heavy sheets of purple coloured glass. They pause between movements, shifting step by step. A small mistake could cost them the panes of glass. The window glass reflects and echoes the pink, green and purple from the surrounding concrete facades made by artists Jon Pärson and Lennart Joanson, who in the 1980s painted 80 000 square metres of building surface to soften or humanise the brutalist architecture. The lens of the camera places everything on an equal footing; gesture, environment, sound, movement and architectural motifs are weaved into one experience.
The film project came out of a several year-long collaborative process between the group and the artist. It looked to incorporate the views, hopes and concerns about the future of Mix Dancers’ platform, as well as their choreography, interest in music and video production and narrative agency in visual appearance and media. Having grown up in the same city, Jönköping, and with a background in dance and music, Billing shared experiences of trying to establish alternative platforms where cultural initiatives have little or no investment. All these aspects shaped and informed the public performance to raise questions around precarious working conditions for non-profit organisations and associations in the area. The group harnessed the colour purple and glass as a leitmotif to speak of the complexity and vulnerability of Mix Dancers’ invisible position within this place, the purple paint of their windowless basement walls, their lives, and the responsibility of ‘passing on’ their role to the young women and teenage girls who will eventually need to take over as teachers and leaders when they leave for other paid jobs. The physical act of handing over weighty panes of glass embodies the burden of expectation placed on young shoulders, questioning the continued workload and voluntary labour through successive generations.