Beyond what we know part 2

In my previous posts, I wrote about Ludovico Einaudi’s compositions and Patric Modiano’s book “Nätternas gräs”. Today I thought I would dedicate the post to a work of art that contains an entire world and that also seems to point to something beyond what we can know.

It is about the very strange and odd work of art The Secret of the Kullahuset by the Swedish artist Sten Eklund (b. 1942 d. 2009). The work revolves around a fictional story about the botanist JMG Paléen, who in 1849 set out on a hike in Sweden. Somewhere to the north, he discovers, according to his diary, a strange area up on a mountain plateau. The area consists of a larger area submerged in the rock and he finds there buildings, greenhouses with crops, mining, an open pit, etc. The whole area is also within a strange magnetic field which seems to affect the vegetation but possibly also the activities in the area itself. There are no people in the area, but the Palé gets the feeling that they have just left the place.

Palé does not understand much of what he sees but decides to study and depict it like the botanist that he is. He makes accurate and detailed drawings of objects and the environment. The pictures bring to mind 19th-century panel works and make up most of the artwork itself. These are 47 colored etchings with depictions of everything from the Kullahuset itself and the open pit to small mutated flies and cultivated weeds. Because they grow weeds in the area in low greenhouses that are cold instead of warm. He also depicts what he calls “wagons”, a kind of large boxes and cradles which, however, lack wheels. Nowhere does it appear how these “wagons” could transport anything.

He depicts a kind of screens that he suspects are used for the absorption of solar energy. However, the screens mostly look like cheap table tops full of small holes in a grid pattern and we don’t understand how these could generate energy. Everything in the area seems functional but without any code for how it could work.

The artwork in its entirety was published in book form by Bonnier’s publisher in 2016 at the initiative of Lotta Lotass. In the book, we also get to see photos of some of the Palé’s collected material that was shown during the exhibition – minerals, plant parts, etc. as well as a model of the hill house itself. It is an enigmatic work. I, as an observer, find myself in the same situation as the Paléen himself – through his careful studies and depictions, I can observe the entire area, but I still do not understand anything of what I see.

It is as if the whole work points to something beyond. It awakens feelings in me that are difficult to grasp. The work reminds me of walks in the forest when I came across enigmatic walls or house foundations. It reminds of some dreams. The depicted objects make me think of the 1940s when masonite was launched as a miracle material. But it also raises a deeper sense of unease. Possibly it can be compared to a short story by HP Lovecraft , a master of merely hinting at the uncanny to let the reader figure out the rest for themselves. But Sten Eklund’s Kullahusvärld is far from a gothic horror novel. Here everything is open and visible in the sunshine in the middle of the mountain plateau, but everything is still so completely incomprehensible, enigmatic and therefore also so disturbing.

Few works of art have captivated me as much as Sten Eklund’s The Secret of the Kullahuset . Like Einaudi’s compositions and Modiano ‘s novel Nätternas gräs, the secret of the Kullahuset is a seemingly endless world to step into. A world completely freed from answers.

Mattias Kvick is an Author and Illustrator

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