The Metamorphosis

“The Metamorphosis” is an ongoing part of a larger project „Negotiating authenticity. In search of an ideal”.
I examine alienation, identity change (conscious or unconscious) and cultural transformation. The word “metamorphosis” refers to “The action or process of changing in form, shape, or substance; especially transformation by supernatural means.” (Oxford English Dictionary).

Project´s title is taken from the novel “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka. I examine an expression of Kafka's feelings of isolation and inferiority and physical transformations, which make us into creatures, stripping us of our humanity. We are unable to communicate, which further isolates us.

In my research I collect folktales, folk-beliefs and a modern representation of local myths and traditions. Myths have always played a fundamental role in a society and some traditional groups consider myths to be true accounts of their remote past although myths are used to imply that a story is not objectively true. I paint a new copy of an existing image, which I allow to change in a process as I add new layers; creating a hybrid of time, characters and places, which I can relate to.

I choose pictures randomly but I often depict modern places. Closely related myths are found throughout the world. Animal masks are frequently worn as part of creating an animal persona that is different from the human self. Some mask forms, bring together myths and symbols to protect us from bad spirits. Masks are frequently integrated into regional folk celebrations and customs but in the process of christianity their meanings were changed. It is generally accepted that the masks, noise, colour and clamour are meant to drive away the forces of darkness and open the way for the spirits of light. Masks are sometimes used to avoid recognition. As a disguise the mask acts as a form of protection for the characters in my works, who wish to assume a role or task without being identified by others.

The forest I depict in my work is both a symbol for a refuge but at the same time it is a symbol of suffering due to human condition.

The purpose of the Swedish forest is to produce wood. Images of the forest I use in my works are based on a real place which I often visit. A small cottage, not far fram the lake of Siljan, and the forest described by H.C. Andersen. The cottage has no electricity or water. It has been built about 1851, about the same time Andersen visited Dalarna. But the cabin was not built for recreational purposes. It was a simple timber cottage where forest workers used to sleep.
I have inherited eight bunk beds and some old work tools. The cabin is surrounded by the forest, which is privately owned. The forest is exploited for profit and utilised for the production of raw material products such as timber, wood and fuel. Forest is controlled by its owners. It does not grow naturally. It is a cultivation. It is a common cause of unsustainable forestry. Intensive forestry is a threat to biodiversity in Sweden and other parts of the world. Forests of nature are defined as forests that have not been exposed to human activity for 150 years.

In Sweden, the primeval forest is estimated to constitute less than 0.5 percent of all forest. When natural forests are harvested and replaced by tree crops, where in principle only one kind of tree grows, many plant and animal species are not able to make it.

Forests are important to humans, animals and life on earth. The forest includes both the trees and the undergrowth, as well as other organisms related to the trees and the soil.
Man destroys and threatens life in many forests. In this way, humanity threatens its own existence.

Research indicates that we feel good being in the wild nature, not only a physical plane but also psychologically; forests, meadows, water and beaches have a positive impact on our mental well-being. How we choose to live and what we choose to buy affects ourselves and other people, animals, nature and the entire ecosystem. In Kafkas novel the feeling of resentment becomes mutual, and the main character becomes deprived of love and human interaction. Like Kafkas main character, we are defined by our ability to work and assimilate. Mental illness is the most common cause of people being excluded from the labor market and millions of Swedes are affected every year. Even though Kafkas character is an insect, he has the mindset of a human being. This further symbolises his detachment from life, his family and his long period of self-starvation, which leads him to his death.

Consumption has slowed down in many EU countries in recent times, but Swedes' consumption has continued to increase. Some people believe that climate change is caused by overconsumption - so in order to save the planet, they believe we should all consume less and waste less.

The metamorphosis in terms of a climate change and mental illness, rapidly increasing in Sweden, is unwillingly acknowledged by those in charge but what is an actual solution to this common social problem? The sublime Swedish landscape surrounding the lake of Siljan, described by H.C. Andersen in 1851 as a poor land rich in beauty, has helped the generations to ignore the painful, shameful and ugly. Myths have had the ability to help understand fundamental events and the deeds of the gods as a result of which the world, nature and culture were created together with all given orders, which still obtains. I examine local myths by creating hybrids in my works since the identification of a narrative as a myth can be highly political. Myths are delineating the psychological and social practices and ideals of a society. The story of Gregor Samsa who wakes one morning to find himself inexplicably transformed into a huge insect is illustrating a man struggling to adjust to this new condition. Like other of Kafka’s doomed protagonists, he errs by failing to act, instead allowing himself to be acted upon. Myths explain how a society's customs, institutions and taboos are established and sanctified.

© Aleksandra Jarosz Laszlo 2020