Man kan ju inte isolera sig/You Can’t Isolate Yourself


Embroidery, mouline thread, cotton sheet 140 x 250 cm. The work is part of the Malmö Art Museum collection.
When the The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights (RFSL) founded a branch in Umeå in the 1970s, it was the organisation’s northernmost location and represented not only Västerbotten and Norrbotten, but also parts of Ångermanland and Lappland—an area covering a significant part of Northern Sweden. 

During its first years, the branch received large numbers of letters from people throughout the region who were reaching out for support, community and kinship. The correspondence was sent to a private apartment belonging to a couple in Umeå, who answered phonecalls and responded to the letters. The phrase “Man kan ju inte isolera sig bara för att man är som vi” (You can’t isolate yourself just because you’re like us) was repeated in the many answers. 

In Karlsson Lundgren’s work a selection of words from the meticulously handwritten letters have been embroidered by the artist on a standard one-person bed sheet, transforming the sentence into a banner, a quiet protest alluding to resistance, domestic labour and the persistent work of activism. With a soft approach, the words are an encouragement to—without making any clear demands other than the simply human—break the isolation, allow yourself to be seen, step forward, and claim space.

Installation view, Bonniers Konsthall, 2024. Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger.
You Can’t Isolate Yourself, details. Photo: Conny Karlsson Lundgren.
Installation view, Västerbotten Museum, 2016. Photo: Conny Karlsson Lundgren.
Installation view, Ystad Art Museum, 2022 Photo: Olof Nimar/YKM.

Man kan ju inte isolera sig was created as part of The White House, a project initiated by Konstfrämjandet Västerbotten and Västerbotten Museum, Umeå.Special Thanks: Jan and Bengt Åke, RFSL Umeå. Exhibitions: Västerbotten Museum, Umeå SE. Ystad Art Museum, Ystad SE. Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm SE.

 ©MMXIV Conny Karlsson Lundgren