Maja Gunn

In the masculine ironworks, bare female breasts dangle in the old ore bins. Three children appear in photos, inspired by idols from the music world. The space where angular chunks of ore were once stored to await crushing now serves as a testing ground for an exploration of what clothing does to us human beings – how our style of clothing affects our view of ourselves and of other people. Maja Gunn’s art is an exploration of how clothing affects our image of people and how clothing can challenge and transform gender roles – and thereby society as a whole. “Children at play try out different roles, and they seek out role models that they can identify with and imitate.” Because we are all unique, Maja Gunn’s works portray the value of all children getting opportunities to discover idols that they can connect with on an individual level. Role Models are three new works created for Avesta Art that relate to issues such as ethnicity. Here is the versatile African-American artist Beyoncé with her characteristic hat, reggae icon Bob Marley from Jamaica, and pop star Michael Jackson, also African- American, with boldly cut clothing and a hairstyle that inspires. Gender identity is a central theme in Maja Gunn’s work. “Gender is an illusion that we dress up in, a social construction,” she says. Her installation at Avesta Art invites visitors to clothe themselves in a woman’s breasts – and to experience what wearing another shape means when it comes to the looks and judgements of others. Gunn has herself, both theoretically and through real life staging, researched today’s domineering views on heterosexual norms and the idea that women and men must dress differently. One example is the project If you were a girl I would love you even more, in which she let men dress in clothing that is traditionally perceived as womanly and feminine. The men, who initially had a strong opposition to wearing these clothes, gradually became more comfortable. Her work was documented in the dissertation Body Acts Queer: Clothing as a performative challenge of heteronormativity, and in June last year, she completed her PhD at the Swedish School of Textiles at the University of Borås. “Clothing expresses norms. Clothing tells us who we want to be – how we perceive ourselves and how we want to be perceived. It is part of our communication with other people. We are influenced by design and design is influenced by society. If clothing design is changed or if the clothes break with the heteronormative, there is the potential to influence attitudes – and that in turn can affect the entire society.” Feminist theory and engagement in queer perspectives characterize Maja Gunn’s work. But she points out that design requires transboundary analysis. Product design and people’s attitudes are also influenced by factors such as class, ethnicity and age. High up on one of the crowns of the blast furnaces of the smelting house is Maja Gunn’s Collection L (L for lesbian). Seven lesbian and bisexual women were interviewed about identity, clothing and sexuality. Their stories inspired clothing that they themselves wear in Hans Gedda’s beautiful portraits. From the waiting in the ore bins to the freeing process of the blast furnaces. Can our conceptions and prejudices follow the path of the iron? Maja Gunn was born in 1978 in Hallsberg, grew up in Ludvika and now lives in Stockholm. Before pursuing doctoral studies in Borås, she obtained degrees from Konstfack and Stockholm University. She has worked for fashion design companies such as H&M, Marc Jacobs and Diane von Furstenberg. As an artist, she has exhibited at Liljevalchs, the Swedish National Museum of Fine Arts, Dunkers Kulturhus, the Röhsska Museum, the Stockholm Metro and the Royal Armoury. She now divides her time between art, research and teaching.

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