An interview about the far right and making political art in Sweden

Yesterday I was approached by a French student who wanted to interview me about the Swedish far right and the rise of our racist party (SD) and how it affects me as an artist. Here is the interview (slightly edited to fit this blog).


I have seen the interview about you in Fier Panda, and I have seen (or I suppose) that you are against the far right, is that true?

To me it’s not even a question whether I am for or against the far right movement; if you have a sense of common decency, if you are empathetic and have a conscience, it is not an issue of “for or against”, you are automatically on the side against oppression and inhumane values. I never took a stand, it just comes natural for me to feel empathy for people in need. However I belong to no political party and I wish to be free to think outside the political palette.

We do have problems in Sweden which are sadly abandoned by our leading politicians and instead hijacked by our far right party (SD). The silence of the ruling (humane) political parties is unfortunately a highway for the far right movement and their extreme opinions. They are being loud about all the issues which are neglected by the sitting politicians and manipulate the people to think that they have all the answers. Of course they don’t.

The present situation of refugees and immigrants, the shortage of available apartments in our the bigger cities, the decline of our health care system, crime and violence in areas where there are a lot of immigrants are all very complex and difficult to solve. But I am sure the solution is not found in the narrow minds of the far right. It is not “we against them”, it is about adjustment, knowledge and finding a balance where we can help people in need, without feeling overwhelmed. To save people in a lifeboat you can’t help more than the boat allows.

I don’t have any answers, because I am not a politician, but I have an idea of how to start solving our issues. Simply by acknowledging them without being scared of sounding like we share the values of the far right. Life is not colored in black or white – but found in the complexities of the grey-scale. To walk on any extreme political path will get you nowhere, unless you want history to repeat itself.

“The Racist” by Mia Makila, 2007

Has Sweden had a climb of racism these last years like in other countries of Europe – for example France or in Germany?

People feel intimidated and threatened by whatever they feel is invading their sense of identity and security. I think it’s a natural instinct from a very primitive part of our brain. Fear will always make you defensive and reactive instead of being open minded and focused on making smart solutions. SD and the far right are using this fear to attract people’s attention to their (shady) agendas. They reinforce fear in people to get their selfish values normalized.

It is very difficult to talk about the real problems Sweden are facing right now, without sounding like a racist. It is, once again, the dangerous nature of thinking in terms of black and white, or in extremes. Then there are no middle ground where people can meet and unite.

We DO have big problems with unfamiliar and hard-to-handle elements of immigrated cultures (child brides, genital mutilation of young girls, gang violence etc), we DO have issues with a declining health care system, we DO have problems with a higher rate of rapes (especially gang rapes). The question is how to approach these issues.

We have to stop censoring ourselves and each other. We need to be open and honest about difficult matters, without being labeled as “racist” or blaming an entire religion or race, as soon as we are trying to approach uncomfortable topics. Sharing knowledge and being open-minded to new approaches should be considered as healthy and productive, but it is only possible without censorship. Political correctness is a nice concept but works like a straightjacket in a fruitful discussion.

“Chain of Fools” by Mia Makila, 2010

Being racist won’t ever lead to any good results, this goes without saying in my opinion. Being racist might feel good because it justifies your fear, rage and frustration – but it is a mental cul-de-sac. It will get you nowhere if you want to come up with a lasting solution. Short term solutions, sure – just look at Hitler’s Germany. But for solutions of quality, you have to add more dimensions to your motivation than only fear and frustration.

Swedish racists are talking about the problem of segregation between immigrants and Swedes, but the real problem is in the segregation between the values of Swedes themselves., just like the Americans. A divided people.

“The Little Man” by Mia Makila, 2016

Have you made artworks to attest of your political position?

Yes, last summer there was a wave of gang rapes in Sweden, especially at music festivals around the country. Being a victim of domestic abuse and sexual trauma, I made a few pieces about rape. I feel like the politicians are betraying women when they keep silent about these issues. I don’t care if the sexual predators are Swedes or immigrants, it is a big problem and the politicians are being too quiet about it. I feel like our politicians have let us down. And I feel powerless when I think about these matters.

I do have a problem with the “self-proclaimed victim and enraged, emotionless and indifferent male” whether he’s white, brown, yellow, black, purple, a Christian, Muslim, Jew or if he’s a freaking trekkie. That is a problem we REALLY should discuss. Why are these men so angry? Why do they feel like victims? How can we prevent this phenomena to go on? If we find a good solution to this issue, I think we wouldn’t have many problems in the world. But I think it is a very difficult question to answer. I would want to deal with it more in my art though. To dig deeper.

“The Bones of Rape” by Mia Makila, 2016

Has many Sweden artists reacted to the growth of SD? And the rest of the population?

I think the political cartoonists have had a distinct upswing these last few years, but I don’t know about the artists in general. I am sure it has colored the art world in some way. People are scared of the development in the world. What is going to happen? Is this only the beginning of something much worse? What will happen in the upcoming election (next year) and how would Sweden become if SD turns out to be the predominant party? We are making fun of Trump’s administration, but I am not sure it is as funny as we think it is. I am deeply concerned. I think many people are. The SD followers and the racists are having their moment in the sun, with all the far right politicians coming out in the arena in both Europe and in the US.

And the last question, do you think the ideas of the far right and the ideas of artists can be compatible?

No. Never. And they shouldn’t be. Art is for unifying people. Far right ideas are about distancing, isolation and separation. Art and far right ideas are like oil and water. I see it as a positive thing. We need artists now more than ever. Art can present solutions and ideas not found in words or thoughts. Art can work as ice breakers and get people together to start talking in a constructive way. And I think we are all dying to do that.

Art is the language of tolerance. Far right people use the language of intolerance.

The sweetness of my second youth

Reconnecting with my body, especially through meditation, is an extraordinary experience. I am exploring the sensations of pain, pleasure, touch, rest, relaxation, anxiety, tension and release as if my body was just handed to me and I wrapped myself in it for the first time.  Where have I been? Where do I disappear to when I’ve been dissociative and lost within myself? Meditation is helping me heal and to stay connected between mind and body. But it’s a foreign feeling. I feel young. Like I am a teenager, discovering myself in a new, adult body. I guess I am overcoming the Lolita thing in many ways. I am so done with her. I’m growing up and I am enjoying the sweetness of my second youth.

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“Felicia and the Fellatio” by Mia Makila, 2013 – dealing with bodily trauma in my art has helped me a lot to reconnect my mind and body

But there are some dark emotions that goes with the sweet. There’s a lot of anger and disappointment towards myself, when I think about all the danger and discomfort I’ve put myself and my body through. I forgave myself a long time ago, it’s not about blame or guilt. It’s simply a reaction to becoming a whole person again. To understand the value of my body, mind and heart. To acknowledge what I like, dislike and what makes me feel good or bad. I didn’t have the freedom to do that in my past. My body has never really belonged to me until now. When I was I child it belonged to the Doctors and my parents for the various examinations and treatments for my eczema that I had all over my skin. In my adult years it belonged to the men. I was acting like a good girlfriend and thought it was my duty to serve them whatever my body could provide, but I never asked my body what I myself wanted and needed. And I ended up in abusive or negtlective relationships which both traumatized me and my body in many ways, and I had to split them apart in order to survive. Then the destructive disconnection followed.  the self-abandonment. The dissociative states and the self-destructive compartmentalization in order to avoid any cognitive dissonance.

This new self-discovery and self-compassion is so healthy, even though it also opens up these places of anger and sadness. It’s part of the healing process and I have to go through it.

Sexsomnia

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Me, sleeping, 2010

I recently read about a phenomena called “sexsomnia” (a condition in which a person will engage in sexual activities while asleep) that has rapidly increased amongst men, especially men accused of rape and sexual assault. The accused men claim they suffer from sexsomnia – but they use it in order to avoid going to prison. They can’t be found guilty or being held responsible for their rape or sexual abuse if they weren’t aware of their own actions. This is a very sad and troubling social development. Either there’s a severe epidemic of sexsominia spreading – but only man to man – or it’s a tragic trend. It’s affecting me deeply because I use to live with a man who would only want to have sex with me while I was asleep. I often found myself being in the middle of an intercourse while sleeping in my own bed at night. Always from behind. I heard his breaths and grunts as he was handling me as if I was nothing more than a fuck doll. Once I woke up this way, I felt confused and strange. Like I didn’t know if it was a good thing or not. We hadn’t been sexual together for a few years, the only times were were intimate was when I was falling asleep, waking up or sound asleep. Never during the day. Never when I felt sexy and ready. Always when I was in my most vulnerable state – relaxed, unprepared and kind of out of it.

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Even though this made me feel confused while it was happening, I let him do it to me. I didn’t fight or push him off. But it didn’t feel right and I wasn’t enjoying myself. My pussy wasn’t even wet – my mind was in a totally different place. My friends label this as ‘rape’ – I didn’t see it that way at the time, but now I see how I was sexually abused while I was asleep and thinking I was in my safe place, with the man who was supposed to protect me, not cause me any discomfort or abuse. When I confronted him the next day I asked him “What were you doing to me last night?” and he answered with a smile: “Oh, yes – wasn’t it nice?”. “But… I was asleep” I said and he shrugged his shoulders and simply answered: “Well…so was I”. And that was that. He never asked me if it was OK to do that, and I was too confused to tell him that it wasn’t. We weren’t having any intimacy or sex when I was awake so I thought, at least I’m having sex, even if it was in some twisted way. I wish I could have left him before we became sexless. As soon as a relationship dies that way, it’s probably gonna stay dead anyway.

I used to live with a man who suffered from sexsomnia, but he loved his disorder and embraced it. I have a feeling that it’s probably exactly what most men who claim they suffer from sexsomnia also does. What a lovely and convenient disorder for a man – but what a nightmare for his woman who can never be sure of what happened to her while she was asleep – in her own bed at night.

“THE BONES OF RAPE” BY MIA MAKILA

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“THE BONES OF RAPE” BY MIA MAKILA, 2016 [digital]

Detail studies:

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The anatomy of a broken sexuality. Rape is a complete murder when it comes to the victim’s spirit and sexuality, but yet it’s treated by our laws as if it’s a minor crime. Rape is not only a violent attack, rape can be many things – even having sex with your partner when you don’t feel like it but that is ignored or when a ‘no’ is not enough for someone to leave your body alone. This piece was difficult to make, but it felt important.