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American Swedish Institute celebrates August Strindberg

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Merriam-Webster defines an iconoclast as someone who “attacks settled beliefs or institutions” which translated from the Greek “eikonoklastēs” means “image destroyer.” During a career that produced over 60 plays and 30 works of fiction and cultural analysis, Swedish writer August Strindberg was considered “a bold experimenter and iconoclast throughout” the 19th century whose works attacked the mores of Scandinavian society.

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Ironically, the American Swedish Institute’s new exhibit, “Images of Strindberg” demonstrates the playwright’s use of his image “to systematically build his brand in Sweden and around the world through carefully curated photographs and writing.” Running from June 12, 2014 to October 26, 2014, ASI’s exhibit forms the feature attraction of their annual Midsommar Celebration on Saturday, June 14, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Produced by Fotografiska, The Swedish Museum of Photography, from their 2012 exhibit, this collection of 32 framed photographs and modern prints contains many of what today are called “selfies” or self-portraits of the artist. As a result of his fascination with and manipulation of his own image, Strindberg became “one of Sweden’s most well-known individuals – a celebrity, before either the word or the concept had been invented” according to Museum curator Maria Patomella

Besides the selfies, the exhibit includes original artworks and examples of Strindberg’s poetry, scripts, and plays and forms one part of a summer-long celebration of Strindberg’s work. Other shows include a live-action performance of a dancer’s life by ASI Artist-in Residence Sally Rousse June 11-July 13, 2014 and her non-linear re-imagination of Strindberg’s life amongst the Turnblad Mansion’s nooks and crannies in “Kom Hit!” at 6 and 7:30 p.m on June 24 & 26, July 1, 3, 8 & 10, 2014.

More directly theatrical, Theater Coup d’Etat director Peter Beard ‘s performances of scenes from Strindberg’s plays occur at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, July 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30, 2014. In the fall, the Theater’s production of “Miss Julie” in the Mansion Ballroom concludes the festivities.

Characterized variously as a “woman hater,” “madman,” and “Titan” by his detractors, these images “provide an opportunity for admirers of his work to explore new sides of this complicated man while opening the door to new audiences and a younger generation right here in Minnesota,” said ASI curator Curt Pederson. Whether he was a narcissistic iconoclast or brilliant self-promoter, Strindberg remains an enigma to the present day. Why not decide which for yourself this Saturday or later on this summer?

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