Sound and Visual Artist
’One of the most interesting and important artists working today’
’When looking at the art of boman, you cannot be passive, but have to actively put yourself in relation to what you see and hear ……. His art deeply affects me and there is no way to escape.’
leif.e.boman (born 1946, Linköping, Sweden) is a Swedish artist who lives and works in Marrakech, Morocco and in Linköping as well.
boman has been a creative artist since the late 1970s. He is also a constructional engineer and an architect. He has become one of the most interesting and important conceptual artists to work in the combined world of audio and visual. A visual artist – visual installations and paintings, composer and stage audio performer. leif.e.boman has also created numerous projects in which earth makes its inner voices heard. His work have been exhibited and performed in many different places and countries around the world such as Japan, Australia, Sweden, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Greece, Morocco, Chile, France, Libya, South Korea and Singapore. Project drives for Swedish Embassies in different countries, UN organisations like UNICEF and UNESCO etc.
‘In my artwork I have always tried not to limit my expression to just the communication of the eye. I have always tried to visit places where dramatic events have taken place. In these places, I have collected the soil, which I have later processed in different ways. Soil from all over the world has in this way been collected in a continuous, worldwide project, which started sometime in the early nineties. The soil has travelled to new projects, meeting other soil and new visual ideas, in a constant exploration of their visual and symbolic aspects. For me there is always something more, in the meeting with a new place, something unspoken. No pain or cunning could be spared to entice it. If there is a message, the first thing one has to do is find a way to hear it. Not until then the attempts to interpret the message can begin.’
Some important work:
The art of leif.e.boman would not be created if it were not for people from different parts of the world contributing unconventional roles with the artist. leif.e.boman works with processes, which are far removed from the romantic elevation of geniuses of the past. His artistic work originates from and constitutes the reality. He moves it, works on it, reinforce it. It is his analytical object, and his building material. He puts his artistic and his compassionate magnifying glass in front of a detail and moves the focus to an overlooked part. Connections are introduced and new ones are created. Art and reality are fused together, shapes change and both become something extraordinary.
He has a great trust in and fascination for the origin of the materials, the objects left behind at theatres of war, materials and events left by humanity, the original building material, clay and straw and the earth with its basic cycle of life and death. boman feels the closeness to people and generations, who lie there. What has been hidden and what has been changed?
When looking at the art of boman, you cannot be passive, but have to actively put yourself in relation to what you see and hear. A few examples:
Forgotten Memories. The installation with 137 missing young men from the war in Bosnia with photos, earth and sounds from the mass-graves, powerful videos with their faces and the extraordinary ‘books of death’, which carries their photos and data.
The Library. In 1996 the library in boman’s hometown was the subject of an arson attack, which is believed to be the cause of hostility towards foreigners and racial intolerance. There was a similar incident during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and the parallels between the two fires are recurrent in boman’s art.
Sarajevo-Wall. Dobrinja in Sarajevo, Bosnia, is one of the Balkan war’s most terrible war tragedies. Here, boman collected the material for a major work. In 1997, with assistance from his Bosnian art colleague Edin Numankadic, boman started to collect the material, which was going to be his own sculptural wall. Boman chiseled out 6 tons of building blocks from the bombed out houses. These tons of war damaged house material were transported through Europe and started a new life as an artistic anti-war manifestation. The artwork brings the war straight into our idyllic every day life. The history of the Sarajevo-Wall is burnt into the stones.
There is another project called ‘Origin of Life – Living Origin’, where soil from 182 countries was collected. There is a metaphorical force in the earth, which enhances thoughts and starts associations to the basic cycle of life and death.
The Earth has a voice
leif.e.boman has never been satisfied with communication of the eye alone in his work. He has sought out places where dramatic events have taken place. And once there, he has literally buried himself in and collected soil specimens which he then continues to work with in different ways. Soil samples from all 192 UN countries and 4 territories have been collected in a continually ongoing worldwide project that had its start in the early 1990s. These specimens have followed him to new projects and meetings with other soil samples and new visual ideas in a constant exploration of their visual and symbolic characteristics.
For boman, the meeting with the place always includes the feeling that there must be something more; something unsaid that no amount of imagination or courage may be spared to uncover. If there is a message, you first have to find a way to hear it; only then can the attempt at interpretation begin.
The shocking events at Ground Zero in New York City stamped September 11 as a token of anguish into our senses forever in an extremely painful manner. The events have been analyzed in every possible way. Pictures, analyses, theories, historical depictions and acts of revenge have been broadcast the world. What remains is a ruin of raw violence’s ashes and concrete dust.
boman started off from four bags of this everlastingly profound symbol and message bearing material, collected at 40,711.89 latitude, -74,012.25 longitudes, to begin a new project. Out of his work with these, boman created the audio work ’ge.nos 0911b’. The derivation of the title can in part be traced to the tragic date as well as from the Greek word genos’ lineage. There is also a linguistic connection with the English word genocide. In this way, a possible connection between incompatible extremes is indicated, the search for lineage and origins, and the annihilation of that which is human.
As always, even the most shocking and dramatic of events is set within the framework of mute earth. But just silent is it, really? Can there be a way to get it to speak? leif.e.boman has worked with a definite conviction that the earth has a voice and he has carried out different experiments in order to find the right technique to register the sounds and voices of the earth project. The different earth samples have their own colors, which clearly differentiate them. Have they similarly different tones? Has a sample of earth its own voice? And if so, what does it want to say?
Art is art and science remains science, even when art makes use of science as one of its tools. In combination with systematic searching and artistic intuition, boman wound up at IFM, the department of Physics and Measurement Technology, Biology and Chemistry at the University of Linköping. There he came into contact with shrewd researchers and a method of analysis with the name Emission Spectroscopy, well established in science but as yet unused in art. It is based on the knowledge that all materials have their unique composition and mixture of minerals and metals. The material is converted into gas and a spark assumes and odd light structure; call it a color. The color can create a picture by reproducing its wavelength as a diagram. boman starts off from these wavelengths and permits corresponding frequencies by an artistic procedure that takes acoustic form. And suddenly out of the earth, ash, concrete dust, water, microbes etc. remarkable sounds can be heard. boman then processes and adapts the audible frequencies into a intuitive piece, not a musical composition. A spectrum of sound created by the earth, the ashes etc. They are the realm of mysticism and metaphysics than to the natural sciences and linguistics. But their existence is quite evident. Based upon their own distinctive natures and conditions, the sounds portray things that could not otherwise be spoken of or expressed. The pain in graves and ruins can never be silenced, even when the people are gone.
The technique 1 was originally developed to ‘listen’ to the 137 young Bosnian men’s mass grave. Using this technique, a choir has been created from the 182 of the samples of earth from all over the world, which has been named ‘Earth Symphony 1-182’. These voices have created a remarkable earth symphony, which together with the samples of earth, are the basis of the project ‘Forgotten Memories’. With this work, a new process had started, which has brought boman’s earth project into new phases.
The installation ‘Forgotten Memories’ including ‘Earth Symphony 1-182’ was exhibited for the first time in June 2002 in Singapore.
This experience is thousands of years old: ’If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.’ (Luke 19:40)
leif.e.bomanphoto: Mark Warford