Svarvargatan 2, SE-112 49 Stockholm +46 (0)8-651 84 26 Newsletter MORE


Populus Tremula
Benj Gerdes & Jennifer Hayashida

Populus Tremula is a 16mm film loop originating from artistic research into Swedish “Match King” Ivar Kreuger (1880 – 1932), whom The Economist in 2007 called “the world’s greatest financial swindler” and who was the founder of Svenska Tändsticksaktiebolaget (the Swedish Matchstick Corporation), today called Swedish Match. Between 1917 and 1932, Kreuger capitalized on shifts in global financial markets to control over 200 companies and establish matchstick monopolies in at least 34 countries; he borrowed money at low rates on U.S. markets and in turn loaned these funds to countries that granted him market monopolies, thereby initiating, according to some scholars, practices currently enacted by the IMF and WTO. Populus Tremula consists of contemporary footage shot in two extant Swedish Match factories in Vetlanda and Tidaholm, Sweden. Both factory locations have been active since the 19th century, and while the manufacturing process is now almost fully automated, beyond the removal of human labor, it has changed little since the early 20th century.

While the film follows the linear progression of match manufacture from timber to shrink-wrapped package ready for export, a series of superimposed textual interventions point to the ability of both capital and the nation-state to legislate and assert the monopoly capitalist’s desire, as in the case of Kreuger, to not only exploit natural resources but to appear to surpass the power of nature through myth. The conjoining of text and image is here intended to posit conflicting historical and ideological conjectures in an effort to indicate ideological fissures which in turn may spark, or tremble, present-day possibilities for contestation. Populus Tremula & Strike Anywhere are part of series of projects by Benj Gerdes & Jennifer Hayashida entitled “Room of the Sun.”

Aspect ratio 1.33:1 (4:3)
Prod. format 16mm
Duration 00:09:14
Language English
Color Color
Year 2010
Rent this work for public screenings

About the artists

Benj Gerdes

Benj Gerdes

Benjamin Gerdes is an artist, writer, and organizer working in video, film, and related public formats, individually as well as collaboratively. He is interested in intersections of radical politics, knowledge production, and popular imagination. His work focuses on the affective and social consequences of economic and state regimes, investigating methods for art and cultural projects to contribute to social change. Gerdes’s projects emerge via multiple articulations from long-term research processes conducted in dialogue with activists, trade unionists, architects, urbanists, geographers, and archival researchers. Prior to coming to the Institute for Futures Studies, he was based at the Royal Institute in Stockholm, where he conducted research and led a professor group in fine art and moving image for 5 years.

Jennifer Hayashida