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Last year brought hatred, fear and war on many fronts. It’s easy to feel sad and cynical in the aftermath of 2016. But there’s hope in art. Glorious hope. Joakim Sjunnesson tells us about two life changing events he experienced in London.

3 min read

London. December 2016. The weather is mild and the rain is just occasionally threatening our well-being. My partner and I are in town for a long weekend to meet friends and hang out, as part of our Christmas gift to us. Some culture and art plans are made. We have booked tickets to go and see Kate Tempest perform her latest poetry album "Let Them Eat Chaos" and to see the large exhibition "Walhalla" by the German artist Anselm Kiefer. Our expectations are high but not enormous. 

When we enter The White Cube gallery in Bermondsey to see Kiefer we get a physical chock. The big space of this gallery, made up of polished concrete and brushed steel plates, looks like a death chamber. The German artist shows us a sort of post war situation. His art is often themed around the Wagnerian grandiose sentiments of the north-European myths, tainted by the Nazi era. Here this mirror of history and future apocalypse is more sharp than ever. Kiefer brings us a twisted image of Walhalla, the hall of the gods in Germanic and norse legend, in paintings, sculptures and very large installations. It’s about death and the end of the world. It’s very dark but it’s so overwhelmingly beautiful and impressive with it’s huge paintings and gigantic rusty sculptures. The whole entirety of the art fills you with awe. 

I stand in front of one of the paintings for fifteen minutes crying silently. Especially this painting, which is easy to connect to the bombings in Aleppo, help you see light in the tunnel. A cathartic light. Pristine hope. We both leave feeling overwhelmed. Empty. Cleansed. Destroyed bodies and minds put back together forming new better versions. Filled with feelings we roam through the streets of London. 

Waking up the next day the effects are still there. We smile a lot. Later that evening it’s time for the poetry of Kate Tempest. A packed Roundhouse in Camden. When the beat start and when Kate enters rapping out here words I’m flabbergasted. She is the Martin Luther King of our time. We both stand absolutely still, hypnotised as she creates magic with us all in the audience. Her poetry is about the struggles of people. Current social inequality. Beauty. Sex. Joy. Loss. If feels like she truly understands the human condition. It’s so beautiful and thoughtful and it leaves us with a huge sense of hope and belief in people. In life. It’s too much. 

After Kate leaves the stage and the crowd slowly disperse, we stand soaked in tears hugging each other and two other strangers. The four of us, along with everyone else, are one. 

2017: I’m ready for you. I’m ready to love you.