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Mormor, Hitler och jag
Carl Johan De Geer

About the artist

Carl Johan De Geer

Carl Johan De Geer was born in 1938 in Montreal. He grew up in several different cities, including Copenhagen, Brussels, and Warsaw (where his father was a diplomat) before returning to Sweden. In 1951, De Geer moved to Stockholm and has lived there ever since. He studied graphic design at Konstfack Stockholm from 1959-1963 and even made his first short films together with his classmate Håkan Alexandersson, who was also on his path to becoming an acclaimed film and TV director. For over six decades, he has been active in a multitude of different and widely dispersed artistic fields. From film, painting, and photography to poster art and textile design, scenography, writing, and music, playing with bands like Blå Tåget.

Respected for always exploring a radical and innovative look at both form and content, with unparalleled productivity and appetite for experimentation, De Geer has had a special ability to preserve and make visible the often trivial and overlooked aspects of visual art, often with the camera directed at the self-perceived experience as a reflection of social and political changes in society.

His artistic versatility showed early. In the mid-1960s, he was a freelance photographer for magazines such as Se. During the late 1960s, he was among the contributors to a satirical magazine Puss. Perhaps the most radical and provoking of De Geer’s works was his 1967 painting of a burning Swedish flag with the words “Skända flaggan” (Dishonour the flag) written on it. The painting was shown in an art gallery but was immediately confiscated by the police. In 1970, he was a co-founder of the textile collective 10 Gruppen. Simultaneously, he wrote books and played the trombone in several groups in Stockholm.

In the early 1970s, interest in film took over. Inspired by the absurdity and confusion of the artistic freedom of the ’68 movement, De Geer and Alexandersson transferred it to a new and different form of children’s film. The TV series Tårtan och Doktor Krall (1973-1974), followed by Privatdetektiven Kant in the 1980s, had a provocative childishness in both form and content, that many adults distanced themselves from. Nevertheless, over the years it has become one of the icons of children’s film in Sweden. Jag minns Lena Svedberg (2000) and Jag minns Håkan Alexandersson (2006) are poignant portraits of colleagues who have passed away. The feature films Buljong (1995) and Med kameran som tröst, del 2 (2004, a follow-up to the photo book of the same title from 1980) are autobiographical films with their own narration. Autobiographical, but in a different sense, is the acclaimed, award-winning, and perhaps De Geer’s most radical film about the relative who became closest to him: Mormor, Hitler and jag (2001) –  which delves into the relationship with his grandma and her Nazi sympathies.

The fact that De Geer was a scenographer for his own films is nothing to be surprised about, but he has also been praised for his scenography for projects like Johan Bergenstråhle’s Hello Baby (1976), Jan Troell’s Bang! (1977), Lukas Moodysson’s Tillsammans (2000), and a couple of films by his first wife Marie-Louise Ekman. A Curtain at the Cinema Zita in Stockholm is one of his works.

In recent years, his works have been shown at Färgfabriken in Stockholm, Bildmuseet in Umeå, Prins Eugen’s Waldemarsudde, and Norrköping’s Art Museum. He was awarded the Illis Quorum, a gold medal given for outstanding contributions to Swedish culture, science and society by the Swedish government in 2017.