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Book review: Johannes Heldén on the journey to an unknown planet

When I think of Johannes Heldén, I think of words that, taken together, is a little too hip: ekokritik, antropocen, the digital humanities, ”the archival turn”, the AI. His art and poetry of he goats, of all of the cells that usually generate konstnärsstipendier and humanities researchers ' approval. A onlineverk as ”Evolution” (2014), samskapat with Håkan Jonson, where an algorithm were presented diktrader and construct a continuous poem in real-time, is a typical example of such that can get a certain species of scholar to frantically started to write articles about ”omkullkastandet of författarsubjektet”.

recent years have Heldén has been moving increasingly in the direction of issues tangential to the climate crisis. In the last two, related to the poetry – ”Astroekologi” from 2016, and the newly released ”First contact” – embodied a world of artutrotning and radical ecological changes. This incorporates the visual and conceptual elements in poetry that connects to the nordic science fiction poetry, with characters that Åsa Maria Kraft and Øyvind Rimbereid.

takes place on a spaceship that departed from the earth in the year 2037, on board which there does not seem to be a lot more than a diktjag (periodically plunged into kryosömn), a cat and a förvildat ecosystem, which after a few centuries mutates into new, unknown forms of life.

at Least it seems so – it is not entirely clear on what the plan of the poem moves. In their so characteristic way spinner Heldén up to a sensually heightened and alert naturlyrik, in which the boundaries dissolved between the elements and the digital, high tech and manipulated:

Gränsupplösningar tematiseras active, and the poem is driven to a point where you no longer know what is memory, fiction or documentation; virtual or real – or if diktjaget even exist (and if it is not the cat that creates the text: ”is a cat running this account?”).

in his ability to make us to sensually perceive fictional place: through clarity of the images, crispy unit is in the details and the sounds. It is enjoyable and fascinating, not least in the last, most beautiful part when the ship arrives to an unknown planet. He suggestive up sentiments reminiscent of those in the science-fiction-artist Simon Stålenhags pictures: post-industrial landscapes draped in a blue, drömmigt dis; melancholy, depopulated landsbygdstablåer with elements of spaceships and other high technology. I understand that people love it, and that Stålenhag has sold film rights to one of his art books to Hollywood is not surprising.

at the same time, there is something so aesthetically finkalibrerat, polished and avpolitiserat over their visions of the future that is approaching the outrageously banal. If the art possesses a special ability to envision a dramatically altered future – a buzzword that is so often repeated in relation to these works – is it reasonable that the science fiction genre and also trying to meet the real challenges of the imagination as the klimatförändrade future sets (where food shortages, forest fires and the refugee crisis seems more likely than landings on exoplanets). Of course, it is easier to suggerera until naturtablåer and spacecraft in the atmosphere and dunkelljus – the question is whether it is more than kitsch.

Read more of DN's reviews of current books.

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