A laboratory of a book, “Atlas” brings to life a parallel world that is deceptively similar to our own. Hovering between fiction and cultural history, we meet a universe of text in an eponymous exhibition. Aris Fioretos is the author of the book behind the exhibition in the Pontus Hultén Study Gallery.
It all started with an obituary. One day, Aris Fioretos discovered that an archivist at the National Board of Health had died at a very old age, leaving no kin. He wouldn’t have given Iris Frost another thought if her name had not been similar to that of a minor character in his first novel. Out of curiosity, he contacted the newspaper and obtained the number to the person who had submitted the obituary. When they met, life proved stranger than fiction. Not only had the deceased read his novels about how the brain, genitals and heart informed the view of mankind that emerged in the early-20th century, but had also commented on them.
The exhibition mixes documentary and fictional material Aris Fioretos’ new book, “Atlas”, fuses essay and fiction. His three previous novels, “Irma”, “The Truth about Sascha Knisch”, and “Nelly B:s Hjärta” (Nelly B’s Heart), are based on historical facts up to 1933. The three protagonists are connected but also independent – like body organs. Stockholm is important as the setting of the story, which is mainly about medicine and major social change. The exhibition is like a cabinet, where some 20 affective states are presented in an architectural model with cut-out figures. The model/table is in three parts, each coordinated with the three female protagonists.
What happens when literature goes three-dimensional? The exhibition “Atlas” is based on the eponymous new book, in which Fioretos traces the emergence of a modern view on mankind in the decades around 1900. Together with gewerkdesign, Berlin, and the sound artist Peter Imig, Aris Fioretos has captured “the entire history of human suffering” in 24 scenes. Part book and part exhibition, “Atlas” offers insights into what one of literature’s most famous doctors (Frankenstein) called his “workshop of filthy creation”.