LANDMARKS OF THE UNDERGROUND 地底下的标志
Text: (Will follow in Chinese) Torsten Jurell. From the book "TUB-3, 14 Stations on Hjulsta Line". 2011.
TO BUY MY potato I go to the market in Caochangdi. It's a village on the outskirts of Beijing, and it's thronging with crowds of people buying their food. I choose my potato with care. Then I set to work with my potato peeler, cutting the prints for my series of graphics of the blue underground railway line in Stockholm - TUB 3. Potato prints are something that many of us did as children but, sadly, certain types of artistic expression are looked down on. And potato prints, it would seem, rank lowest of them all - not even worthy of mention! Like our subterranean railways (the "tube" lines), potatoes (tubers!) live most of their lives under the ground. Yet both potato prints and underground railways are ultimately about communication: a communicative process, a journey which gives rise to all sorts of unexpected opportunities.
When I moved from Gothenburg to Stockholm, it was the lines on the underground map that shaped the city's geography in my mind's eye. Even today, when I'm above ground I still have difficulty in finding the quickest route between certain places. The underground map illustrates a linear progression between all the different stations, neatly lined up like a string of pearls. Above ground, I am reminded time and time again that there is no need for me to pass by the stations one by one to get to where I want to go. But my "inner map" remains stubbornly straightforward in its simplicity.
Mingling with people in the underground, deciphering the codes, learning how to look at other people without seeing them, is a wonderful way to travel.
It happens now and then that I snooze between stations. But I always wake up in time; I can feel when the train starts to decelerate. Sometimes I can sense where I am simply because I have memorised certain slight inclines in the track or the length of some stretches where the train picks up speed. When I look through the window, I see an abstract world. Colours, patterns, the shape of a metal box. It's the structure of the station walls rather than the nameplates that tells me where I am. Suddenly the wall is covered in brightly coloured tiles - I've arrived. Then I take the escalator to the world above only to find that - despite the firmness of my conviction - I've chosen the wrong exit! It happens every day, whether I'm travelling in my home town or in Beijing.
Some people also look down on the underground railways. It's not so much the mode of transport that they disapprove of, but mixing with people who are different to them.
In the underground I am private yet exposed - part of a travelling collective. I like that. From my home to my studio I take the "green" line, but over the past couple of years I have often chosen a shorter route with the "blue" line - TUB 3.
The "blue" line belongs to a more recent phase in the history of Stockholm's expansion. Its two terminuses, the stations at Kungsträdgården and Hjulsta, link the city's centuries-old centres of administrative power with the suburbs, and with the workers, tradesmen, civil servants and academics from all corners of the world who create, build and shape our day-to-day lives.
The underground is perfect as a vehicle for communication. That's why, when I decided to depict "14 Stations on the Hjulsta Line", it seemed the obvious thing to do to use the potato as my means of artistic expression. The series of prints is a tribute to Lu Xun and Ando Hiroshige.
Beijing 9 May 2011