Portrait of Annika von Hausswolff
Photo: Emelie Asplund

Annika von Hausswolff divides her time between HDK-Valand and Moderna Museet


She is one of our foremost artists and is in the public eye right now as the subject of a retrospective exhibition at Moderna Museet. But Annika Elisabeth von Hausswolff is also an adjunct professor at HDK-Valand and an advisor to students in the graduate programme in photography. “I enjoy being part of their artistic process,” she says.

After being postponed twice due to the pandemic, Annika Elisabeth von Hausswolff’s retrospective exhibition Alternative Secrecy is now on view at Moderna Museet. “I’m grateful that it’s finally going to happen in its entirety,” says von Hausswolff, who has been splitting time between her work on the exhibition and teaching on Zoom. Since 2016, she has been an adjunct professor in HDK-Valand’s department of film, photography and literary composition. She teaches classes in criticism and advises students in the graduate photography programme from their initial ideas to their finished projects. 

A man is watching pictures in a gallery
Installation image from the exhibition ”Alternative Secrecy” Moderna Museet, 2021. In the image you see the installation SPÖKE, 2000.  Photo: Åsa Lundén/Moderna Museet
Photo: Åsa Lundén/Moderna Museet

This autumn, however, her own art will be taking centre stage. She was first asked about putting together a retrospective show for Moderna Museet ten years ago. Back then, she didn’t feel the time was right. But this time she was ready to show and sum up more than thirty years of work as an artist. The exhibition Alternative Secrecy includes photographs, sculptures, textiles and installations. 

“I’ve been going back and forth with curator Anna Tellgren to come up with a strong selection,” says von Hausswolff. “At first I was a little worried that the show would seem disjointed. But standing in the middle of it now, I think all of the works share a common viewpoint that makes the exhibition extremely cohesive. It’s my own expressive point of view. 

Because I’m not inspired by my own world, by everyday life or nature. I find inspiration in pictures

Von Hausswolff believes it’s a privilege to be able to do a retrospective show. It has been satisfying to discover common threads running through her own body of work, and she concludes that the content of her art holds together even though the techniques and materials have shifted over the years and from one project to another. 

In conjunction with the exhibition, von Hausswolff has also been asked to make her own selection of works by other artists from Moderna Museet’s collection. “That was really fun – especially since I’m dependent upon other people’s work in my own art,” she says. “Because I’m not inspired by my own world, by everyday life or nature. I find inspiration in pictures.”

Von Hausswolff made her selections based on what delights her, choosing works that resonated with her personally. The result is a motley collection that adds up to a fair reflection of the artist herself. “And that’s exactly what I think the visual arts are all about: a portrayal of reality through an individual’s psyche,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with collective manifestations of art – music has been very important to me – but you get something unique and powerful when the creator is one author or one pictorial artist.” 

The students are important

In fact, in her work at HDK-Valand, she sees it as her primary responsibility to support the students in developing their own unique way of expressing themselves. “I try to meet them wherever they are in their journey, and I avoid telling them what to do,” she says. “I have no interest in that at all. If a student doesn’t feel that they are allowed to run with their ideas and are given support for them, they have no foothold from which to go on working.” 

Von Hausswolff is happy to be teaching at HDK-Valand. One reason is the school’s choice to give photography a degree programme of its own, unlike many other art schools that combine it with fine art and sculpture. She believes that the history of photography is fundamentally different from other forms of artistic expression and thus needs to be illuminated as a discipline of its own. 

The exhibition in Stockholm comes to a close in February, when it will move on to Malmö for a somewhat condensed version of the show. At about the same time, von Hausswolff will be advising a new group of photography students in Gothenburg in the completion of their final projects. 

She’s looking forward to being able to incorporate some of her experiences from the exhibition into her teaching. “Although the show is made up mostly of photos, which can easily be a little flat, they’ve done a fine job of installing them in this case. I’ve already talked to my students a lot about hanging works in a way that gives the viewer a physical experience, and now I want to pass on to them how incredibly fun it is to have a space at your disposal – to appropriate it and make it your own.” 

 By Åsa Rehnström