The debate on Vita Havet and reflections from Vice-Chancellor Maria Lantz

4 June 2021

Due to all the news articles that have followed the one published in DN on 2021-02-01 with the headline "No, the Vita Havet exhibition at Konstfack has nothing to do with racism," we have put together a compilation below. It consists partly of some texts in which our Vice-Chancellor Maria Lantz comments on the events and partly of links to some of the articles, as well as TV and radio reportage. There is also a summary of the results of the work environment investigation that has been carried out, with a brief commentary from the Vice-Chancellor.

Konstfack 2021-05-03
The issues in the wake of the Vita Havet [White Sea] debate are numerous and complex. Among other things, the debate resulted in a work environment investigation, the results of which are summarised below. "For me, at the moment the most important thing is to learn from the events that occurred during the spring, to utilise what we have learned to improve ourselves and Konstfack. Together with mutual respect for our different perceptions, self-improvement through knowledge and understanding is the basis of academic values."

/Maria Lantz

The investigation has dealt with issues relating to employees' actions in relation to freedom of expression, secondary occupations, trust issues, defamation and victimisation. Among the things that is stated regarding the employees' actions is that everyone who has participated in the debate in the media has done so as a private individual (not on behalf of the Konstfack in its capacity as a public authority). This has not violated the legislation, nor has it caused "significant damage to the trust the public has in the public authority," or constituted defamation. Questions about discrimination, the exercise of power, etc. do not apply when employees act as private individuals. However, in their roles as civil servants, every member of Konstfack's staff is expected to be able to maintain public trust on the one hand and freedom of opinion on the other based, on their own judgment and the rules and guidelines that exist in the workplace.

Based on the applicable legislation, the investigation does not support the argument that any person has been treated an abusive and discriminatory manner. Experiences and views on what has transpired differ according to how different parties have perceived the situation. The intentions of the actions of various parties differ from the actual results. "A petition, similar to that made by the Article Authors in the present case, is strongly discouraged, as the Vice-Chancellor of Konstfack has already expressed".

The investigation finds that in this matter Konstfack has acted correctly based on internal policies and fulfilled the requirements imposed in accordance with applicable legislation and regulations from the Swedish Work Environment Authority. The conclusion of the investigation is that in light of the legislation, there is no need to take action at the individual level.

At the same time, Konstfack should continue to work with work environment issues, especially at the organisational level. Statements and actions may be perceived as offensive and be offensive even when there is no intent to victimise someone. Both employees and students should be made aware of issues related to discrimination and also abusive behaviour in general. Konstfack should therefore "continue the work of developing an 'ethical compass' for the organisation's employees, to address complex situations and matters similar to the ones currently at issue". It should also better anchor the core values for civil servants in the work of the organisation, so that employees can adhere to their purpose and objectives.

 

And what happens now? (2021-02-18)
Certainly Konstfack doesn't mind a public debate. However, in the stream of articles published recently, fragments of certain important internal processes and conversations have been highlighted and taken out of context, as so often happens. Nevertheless, we hope that this experience can lead to reflections and thoughts about our common goal – less biased recruitment, inclusive education, and true anti-racism. However, the views on the means and tools for achieving that objective may be different, the analyses and solutions are not predetermined, and the debate remains open and unfinished. And as in any debate, we hope that the participants will maintain their integrity, courage and intellectual independence.

Debate is also good, not only because it provides us all with new knowledge, new insights, perspectives and arguments but even more importantly because it demands especially when we think differently and have different perspectives, both respect for each other and for freedom of expression. It is vitally important that one feels confident and secure when engaging in dialogue and speaking openly about specific issues and proposals, whether it be at Konstfack itself or outside of the institution. It is in the interaction with the opinions of others that we can learn more about each other, increase our own understanding of other arguments and as well sharpen our own.

Many people are asking the question, "so, what happens now?" In addition to my desire for a calm working environment and a respectful continued discussion, we will of course continue the efforts already commenced for an anti-racist environment at Konstfack. It is equally without question that the school and its environment must be a place where everyone feels welcome. Among other activities in this regard, the next skills development session will again be about inclusion, exclusion, and minority stress. This summer, the Vita Havet exhibition space will be given room dividers - a new gallery will be added and a lounge will be set up. Signage systems and an orientation map are in production. This is all based on the students' desires and the efforts of the OSVR work group: Our Spaces/Our Rooms. Some individuals have expressed impatience and protested that "Konstfack isn't doing anything." But we are; in many different ways and together.

To facilitate the dissemination of information to anyone who wants to know more about how we at Konstfack continuously work with the issues of equal opportunities, discrimination, racism and broadened recruitment, I provide a link here to informative texts under the heading Commitment and Core Issues.

Maria Lantz, Vice-Chancellor

 

Vice-Chancellor Maria Lantz 2021-02-02
Issues of racism at Konstfack have long been discussed — among them the question of how racism is seen in visual and artistic expressions - and in our environment. Our work to address these issues intensified in 2016, when a group of students mounted an exhibition and published a text raising questions about exclusion and colonial structures. They called themselves Brown Island and described themselves as a separatist POC collective. Their name was selected to express what it could feel like to be racialised at Konstfack, like sailing around in a sea of white people.

Based on this perspective, questions about treatment, architecture, signage systems and the aesthetic framing of art have been discussed at the management level, on boards and councils, and in lectures at the school. Through our efforts to think and listen, we have begun implementing changes in the spatial environments at Konstfack. This has brought with it the question of a name change, but mostly as a starting point for how we should proceed, rather than as an absolute necessity. This gives us reason to reflect on any blind spots we might have, but it also gives reason to examine our history more closely.

Sara Kristoffersson’s reporting in Dagens Nyheter about the history of the name of Konstfack’s largest gallery is based on written sources.  These can be found at the City Museum and in Konstfack’s own archives. But rather than immersing ourselves solely in Konstfack’s history, over the years we have also reflected on the matter from other perspectives, such as the place of the colour white in modernism – and in contemporary art spaces.  What is the intention of these spaces? How are they furnished? Who feel at home in these spaces? What do these spaces do to us? And above all:  How do we act together in the spaces we share.

Over the last year, Konstfack has devoted a great deal of time to these issues, focussing on joint lectures and competence development regarding treatment, language and prejudice. All with the aim of increasing our understanding of deep-seated and often invisible racism.

These efforts continue. Last autumn, a report on democratic structures, name and premises changes and pedagogical proposals was submitted by the working group called Our Spaces/ Vår Rum, which I appointed in my capacity as Vice-Chancellor. Here, parts of Brown Island’s work has been taken forward in order to be able to concretise certain aspects within the limitations of the school’s conditions. Our conversations are good and constructive, and things are changing — gradually. We no longer send out messages saying things like “Welcome to enrolment at Konstfack! See you in the White Sea at 9 am”. Because who understands what that place is - if they don’t know Konstfack? Instead, we say “...see you at Konstfack in the White Sea exhibition space…”. Today there is information about all the names that the assembly rooms bear; the White and Black Sea, Zickerman, Mandelgren. How did these spaces get their names?

In the library there is currently an exhibition of literature proposed by the working group. At the next competence development opportunity, we and our invited lecturers will talk about our internal thought systems when we orient ourselves in relation to each other, as well as about bias — invisible bias. And so our work continues... These examples of small actions and changes, together with everything else we are working on, help more people than those who grew up with Konstfack in their sociocultural environment to feel comfortable on the premises. More changes are underway; things will be rebuilt, new will be furniture added, a map for orientation will be put up.

The collision of different opinions is a good thing — not something to be feared. The important thing is that we can talk about these opinions at school – and we do. The question of a name change remains relevant. But not because everyone is expected to agree that the “White Sea” has racist connotations. Perhaps it is simply time to create a different affinity than the colours black and white, as our two seas are currently called. No decisions have been made. The world is changing, and we are changing with it.

 

At DN.se, SvD.se, etc you might have to create an account to be able to read all the articles.

Därför fördummas debatten om rasism på Konstfack (Expressen 2021-06-03)

Webbinarium, rapportsläpp - Stormen på vita havet. En fallstudie i identitetspolitik. (Tankesmedjan Tiden, Facebook 2021-05-25)

Vittnesmålen från Konstfack präglas av rädsla (Fokus.se 2021-06-02)

Sara Kristoffersson: Debatten om Vita havet visar att känslor och ängslighet trumfar det sunda förnuftet (Dagens Nyheter 2021-03-03)

Alla stirrar sig blinda på identitetspolitiken (Expressen 2021-02-27)

Rektor Maria Lantz besöker Kulturveckan för att prata om hur debatten har påverkat Konstfack (SVT Kulturveckan 2021-02-25)

Lars Strannegård: Brown Islands debattlust är precis vad en högskola behöver (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-25)

Nu sprids uppropen mot rasism på konstskolorna.pdf (Dagens ETC 2021-02-24)

Rasmus Landström: Därför fastnar debatten om rasism i ständiga symbolstrider (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-23)

Erik Helmerson: I debatten om rasism får de högljudda tolkningsföreträde (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-21)

Därför är tonläget så högt i Vita havet-debatten (Sveriges Radio Kulturnytt i P1 2021-02-19)

Satir: Problematisk belysning på Konstfack (Arbetsvärlden 2021-02-19)

Debatten om Konstfack: De banaliserar en antirasistisk kamp (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-19)

Debatt om Konstfacks utställningssal "Vita havet" (Sverige Radio P1-morgon 2021-02-19)

Kom igen, ni förstår kritiken mot 'Vita havet' om ni anstränger er.pdf (Dagens ETC 2021-02-18)

Kalabaliken på Konstfack sammanfattas (Sverige Radio P3 Klubben 2021-02-18)

USA:s kulturkrig är inte vårt, Konstfack (Expressen 2021-02-18)

Den verkliga vänstern får skämmas över "antirasisterna" på Konstfack (Proletären 2021-02-18)

Behöver vi prata om vithet? (Podd, Svenska Dagbladet 2021-02-17)

Therese Bohman: Konstfack visar att de inte är till för alla (Expressen 2021-02-17)

Namnbråket på Konstfack skymmer verkliga problem (Aftonbladet 2021-02-17)

Henrik Bredberg: Ett hav av kränkta känslor. (Sydsvenskan 2021-02-17, även publicerad i Helsingborgs Dagblad)

Interna förslaget på Konstfack: döp om Vita havet till Havet (SVT Kultur 2021-02-17)

Hynek Pallas: Professorer ska inte tysta kolleger som tänker fritt (Expressen 2021-02-17)

Adam Cwejman: På SR och Konstfack måste alla rätta sig i ledet (Göteborgs-Posten 2021-02-17)

Rasismdebatt på Konstfack: Krav på att "Vita havet" byter namn (Aftonbladet 2021-02-16)

Josefin de Gregorio Holmström: Rasistbråket får varnings­klockorna att ringa (Svenska Dagbladet 2021-02-16)

Studenterna om utställningsrummet Vita havet: "Är problematiskt" (SVT Kultur 2021-02-16)

Interna förslaget på Konstfack: Byt namn på "Vita havet" till "Havet" (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-16)

Mattias Svensson: Även små revolutioner kan vara kvävande (Svenska Dagbladet 2021-02-16)

Konstfacks utställningsrum "Vita havet" skapar konflikt (SVT Kultur 2021-02-15)

Inslag i SVT:s Kulturnyheterna (SVT 2021-02-15)

Per Svensson: Det vi nu ser på Konstfack är en utstötningsritual (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-15)

Konstfacks rektor efter debatten om Vita havet: "Det här kommer vi att ta tag i" (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-14)

Lärare på Konstfack: Debatten visar att något viktigt är på väg att hända (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-12)

Sara Kristoffersson: Nej, debatten har övergått i häxjakt (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-12)

Intervju med Sara Kristoffersson, Maria Lantz och Cassandra Lorca Macchiavelli - cirka 4 minuter in i programmet (Kulturnytt i Sveriges Radio P1 2021-02-10)

Brown Island: Sara Kristoffersson avfärdar en komplex dialog som förs på Konstfack (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-05)

Sara Kristoffersson: För att hitta rasism lämnar Brown Island verkligheten (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-05)

Sara Kristoffersson: Nej, Vita havet på Konstfack har inget med rasism att göra (Dagens Nyheter 2021-02-01)

 

Read more

STORMEN PÅ VITA HAVET - En fallstudie i identitetspolitik.pdf (Tankesmedjan Tiden)

Brown Island - Floating in the White Sea.pdf