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Joanna Rytel

My film To Think Things You Don’t Want To is intense. The language is deliberately strong and it deals with the very sensitive subject of racism. It’s a journey inside a white Swedish woman’s head while she gets to know a black man. It’s a journey through the underworld of thoughts beyond political correctness. It’s not a journey through our dark thoughts or the darker aspects of humanity – it’s a journey into our collectively suppressed and sublimated selves. Where ‘self’ is understood to be a complex socio-historical construction.

The storyline is told in diary format and is about the ambiguity of a white woman’s racial thoughts about and desires for a black man. By talking about racism, I don’t try to set us free. I prefer to expose our common fears and our constructed barriers that prevent us from reaching out towards each other. Gradually and boldly I reveal that we are all at the same time abusers and victims of our social preconceptions. Racist assumptions are mixed with exotic assertions about the black man. After seeing the film, I want people to ask themselves what it is to be white.

English title To Think Things You Don't Want To
Keywords Body, Power
Aspect ratio 1.33:1 (4:3)
Prod. format Generic SD-video
Duration 00:21:30
Language Swedish
Color Color
Year 2005
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About the artist

Joanna Rytel

Born 1974. Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden. Joanna Rytel graduated in 2004 from the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. She has developed a complex artistry, which always points out our times most poignant issues of gender, power and identity. She approaches these issues with great integrity, putting the personal at stake, making her form of address accessible to those outside the usual art and film worlds. Considering how loaded these topics are, one might guess that Rytel would handle them with political correctness. Far from it The politically correct answers are left out and the reaction becomes stronger when viewers are deprived of their passive role and become a part of the answer.

Sex, gender, feminism, honour, abortion and racism: Joanna Rytel explores some of the most controversial topics of today. Rytel creates situations of an almost childishly provocative nature: she depicts sex workers at art shows, strips for animals, has birthday parties for aborted foetuses; a distressing method without a safety net.

Joanna Rytel has premiered twice at the Berlinale Shots with her films. 2016 she won the Teddy Award for her film Moms On Fire she also received a Swedish Oscar Nomination,
the Guldbagge Award for best short, with ‘Me seal, baby’.

Joanna Rytel:

My work can be divided in three main characters. One is my interest is in the relation between animals and humans. I have made performances for animals and filmed their reactions. In ‘Animal-Performance’ I play music, dance and strip for monkeys, cows, goats and horses. In ‘Then I´ll take your cat’ I masturbate in front of a cat. I both these works am interested in the animals reactions to human behaviors. In ‘They look like this’ I have photographed animals from behind. Animals are being reduced by humans and I want to make the animals into individuals instead of merely objects by showing that they have sexes. Society denies that animals have an identity in order to justify the use of them as objects, food, keep them in zoo, use them for experiment etc. I am interested in the human ethics that denies ethics of animals.

Another character in my work is in human relations and power structures. ‘A Film Inwards’ is about the desire and obsession to gain a persons love. This film project stress the question of power structures in love relationships. ‘To Think Thoughts You Don’t Want To Think’ is a project about unwanted racial thoughts. The story is in told in a dairy format and is about the ambiguity of white women’s racial thoughts and their desire of the black man. Both of these films are extensive projects. I have also made shorter video work and photos about these issues.

The third character of my work is feminism. I have made an action against the Miss Sweden Contest in 2001. Me and my college went up on stage in live television broadcast and unfolded a banderole with a feministic statement. This caused a huge media effect and since then the Miss Sweden Contest has not been shown in swedish live television anymore. I continuously write feminist texts that I read in performances at various events, both inside and outside the art-context. In ‘For Your Eyes Only’ I made an installation which a professional female stripper dancing exclusively for a female audience. Outside the strip-room there was a video with a female stripper speaking about the difference between dancing for a male and a female audience.