The project "Our 80s" focuses on certain aspects of Stockholm's cultural and architectural history in Sweden during the years 1985-1989. It’s a black and white analogue documentation and a unique record of a certain period of time, that is definitely past. The photos were taken in Stockholm by teenagers; many of us studied at Riddarfjärdsskolans Department of Photography and had access to both 35mm Leica and 6x6 Hasselblad cameras.
A selection of the photographs will be presented in a group exhibition in September 2015 in Stockholm. A rich photo book with all the pictures from the show, a short feature film with black and white photographs, an anthology with texts and odd pictures and a special edition of the anarchist magazine, Brand with a compilation of highlights from the years 1985-1989 will be produced and presented at the opening night. The books can be purchased as long as the show lasts on the spot, as well as online.
A selection of press photos and articles from newspapers that depict our activities during the years 1985-1989 will be scanned, printed and on display as long as the exhibition lasts. Our own pictures next to the official press images shows two parallel worlds that depict the same events from different perspectives.
We will also organize a weekend of roundtable discussions where we invite friends and guests for a collective flashback. How did we perceive those years in Stockholm that we experienced together?
Years have passed, we are spread out all over the world, but many of us stick together even today. Now we want to celebrate our 80’s where the original images will be presented to a larger audience. To reflect upon a time, in both words and pictures that has been lost, over a city that is in constant transformation, over a generation who fought for better conditions on a difficult housing market that was becoming increasingly harsh, is a matter that does not only concern a gang of former punks and political activists. Our stories and our images are relevant to a wider audience.
The socio-political changes that have created the Sweden that we live in today began in the mid 80’s. The new Stockholm and the new Sweden took shape, with the building commissioner Mats Hulth in the forefront of a new market-oriented policy. Although homelessness was high, Mats Hulth created space for speculation where property owners were allowed to have fully habitable houses standing empty and decaying, while waiting for land prices to rise.
We protested against this and much more; a local perspective in a global movement where we jointly formulated how we wished that our city would look like and how we wanted to live our lives.
The Stockholm police signed an agreement in 1986 with all property owners in Stockholm that meant an immediate evacuation within 24 hours, even without having to contact the property owner, of newly squatted buildings. This agreement did not make things easier for us. Abuse of power, police assault and bugged phones was part of our daily lives as teenagers in Stockholm. Just like the dreaded helipad between the Old Town and Slussen, where the right wing skinheads of Stockholm hung out. They became a daily threat for left-minded youngsters. We ran for our lives, just as we ran towards another time.
Between 1985 and 1989 we squatted six houses in Stockholm. The houses that were squatted were threatened with demolition and in many cases in poor condition.
The property owners had deliberately left buildings to decay in anticipation of market prices to rise. It was pure speculation. Given that the housing crisis, then as now, was tremendous, we protested against the fact that fully habitable houses stood empty. All the houses, except the old Central Hotel on Vasagatan, are still standing today, fully renovated. If that’s because they were squatted by us we leave unsaid, except in the case of Borgerskapets Enkehus on Norrtullsgatan 45. This house was up for demolition but thanks to us that it is still standing today.
Protesting against the 1980s housing policy and the new spirit of the time was a full time job. We dreamed of a joint community centre where we could live and work together. But what had been possible in other European cities proved impossible in Stockholm. On 14th of January 1987 police chief Curt Nilsson made a declaration in the daily newspaper, Expressen about the police's inability to fight against terrorism due to a lack of support and resources.
Shortly thereafter the police force had access to helmets, bulletproof vests, machine guns, tear gas, extra long truncheons and sniper rifles. But Curt Nilsson was still not satisfied. The Stockholm police's anti-terrorist command saw us as guinea pigs on which to test out their newly invented strategies. Since there weren’t any terrorists in Stockholm to practice on during the years 1985-1989, our group became their main target. It became common practice to abuse, beat and cage youth with visions of a different, more vibrant city.
After 1989 no more houses were squatted by our group of friends in Stockholm. Building commissioner Mats Hulth’s market policy became even more extreme and public housing was sold off to the highest private bidder. Cheap public housing units were turned into expensive condominiums. People who didn’t want to buy or own their apartment felt compelled to take large loans to buy anyway.
Wealthy people began to dominate the cityscape, while alternative culture and people from our movement sporadically spread out into the forgotten crevices of the city concrete. Today, Stockholm is one of the most segregated capitals in the world.
The squatting of Skaraborgsgatan 8-10-12 in 1985 on Södermalm in Stockholm celebrates it’s 30th anniversary on Sunday, 6th of September 2015. Skaraborgsgatan was the point of departure for a group of people that stayed together through thick and thin during the second half of the 80’s.
Our analogue black and white images from the 80’s creates a unique record of a time that is definitely past. The photos were taken in Stockholm by youth from Stockholm. Many of us studied at the Riddarfjärdsskolans department for photography and had access to both 35mm Leicor and Hasselblad cameras with 6x6 format. Years have passed, we have spread out all over the world, but many of us stick together even today. Now we want to celebrate our 80’s with a photo exhibition where the original images, still in mint condition, from the 80’s can be presented to a larger audience.
Along with our own pictures we want to make a selection of press photos and articles from newspapers that depict our activities. Our press archive with articles from daily media with images and articles about actions and demonstrations will be scanned and printed. The press archive will be available as long as the exhibition lasts.
Our own pictures next to the official press images shows two parallel worlds that depict the same events from different perspectives.
A rich photo book with all the pictures from the show, a short feature movie with black and white photographs, an anthology with texts and odd pictures and a special edition of the anarchist magazine, Brand with a compilation of highlights from the years 1985-1989 will be produced for the exhibition. The books will be presented at the opening night and can be purchased as long as the exhibition is in progress. Thereafter the books can be purchased online.
We also want to organize a weekend during the show with roundtable discussions where we invite friends and guests for a single flashback. How did we perceive those years in Stockholm that we shared together?
About squatting houses
Squatting means that people without formal tenure for a building settles in it or use it permanently. In Latin America, Asia and Africa an increasing part of the population lives on occupied lands, known as favelas. Some countries, like the Netherlands, have partly legalized squatting.
The origins of the European squatting movement are located in the post-war period, but is mainly related to the early 1970’s. In the Kreuzberg district of West Berlin lived upwards of 20,000 people in an alternative collective community of homes, shops, day-care centres and workshops. The premises were often squatted demolition sites. This formed the background to the BZ-movement (after the German "besetzt" which roughly means "occupy"), which spread over Europe; in Holland under the namekrakers and in England squatters. The symbol for squatting, a "N" with an arrow inscribed in a circle, became commonplace. Germany and England have had a particularly lively movement that in some places more or less permanently occupied entire neighbourhoods or areas of land. On 24-25 April 1999 a squatting championship was organized in Leipzig, where nearly 1000 activists held hundreds of houses in a short time.
The squatting of the former barracks area, Christiania in Copenhagen is by far the longest. In the spring of 1971 the first 20 squatters took 170 buildings. Today the area has a resident population of almost 800 people. The authorities have on several occasions tried to evict the squatters, but so far without success.
In Holland squatting was legalized in the early 1970’s. The legal text stipulates among others the following reasons under which squatting may occur:
First: No one has lived in the property in the past year.
Second: The property has not changed hands in the last year.
Third: Property does not have any other use, such as warehouse.
In Sweden, there have been several waves of squatters. A synonym for squatters has been "husnallar" (“house teddy bears”) who were active in Gothenburg.
Houses squatted by our group of people in Stockholm between 1985 and 1989:
1985: Skaraborgsgatan 8-10-12
1985: Drottninggatan 14
1986: Borgerskapets Enkehus Norrtullsgatan 45
1986: Luntmakargatan 61
1987: Tavastgatan 26
1988: Klevgränd 1
1988: Ultra huset
1988: Kindstugan 9
1989: Central Hotellet: Vasagatan 38
1985: Skaraborgsgatan 8-10-12
The buildings on Skaraborgsgatan 8-10-12 in Stockholm were in strong decline after standing empty since the late 70's and were scheduled to be demolished. In fear of squatters the former Vice Mayor, Mats Hulth personally broke the house's toilets. This did not help much and the night between September 5 and 6 in 1985, 30 young people entered the houses on Skaraborgsgatan in order to squat them.
The aim was initially to protest against a housing policy that allowed the old, genuine houses of Stockholm to decay, be destroyed and torn down in order to replace them with luxury housing. During the squatting time, which got a huge response in the media, some 40 young people settled in number 8.
Skaraborgsgatan 12 was so badly run down that the floor was missing on several levels. The houses had no heating, electricity or toilets, which put our ingenuity to the test. Electricity was partially provided by tapping into adjacent buildings mains, our water had to be fetched in pounds and stoves provided some heating. In regard to the toilet issue we had to rely on good neighbours. Throughout the three months we stayed there, we lived in this alternative way. We tried to reach out with our message: that old houses in Stockholm should be preserved and be for everyone, not just for the rich. We pointed out the need for alternate solutions to the housing crisis and the lack of venues for young people. When the cold came in earnest, we left the house.
A year later, the house renovation was complete and we squatted it again. This time it was a quick one-time manifestation. The houses were preserved but the renovations were expensive and the tenants who moved in had to pay high rents.
1985: Drottningatan 14
During the squatting of Skaraborgsgatan, there was a one-day manifestation in the last house in the “Klara” neighbourhood. The house from the 17th century would be demolished to make way for the ministry of foreign affairs. The campaign was successful to the extent that the public was made aware of the fact that the demolition frenzy in the old newsprint and bohemian district continued, despite the fact that the story from the 1960s should have taught politicians and decision makers that the residents of Stockholm are keen to retain the houses that are centuries old. The historic building was demolished, despite our protests.
1986: Borgerskapets Enkehus, Norrtullsgatan 45
One late spring evening, we went into the house, barricaded all entrances and moved into the empty rooms. The house was fantastic, a dream for a community centre with its many small and larger rooms. In the morning we woke up to the sounds of a massive police force that took us by surprise. After a few hours we found ourselves overpowered and chose to give up and walk out of the house.
Despite our peaceful exodus, we were brutally treated and beaten up by the police and taken in for interrogation and preliminary investigation. The indictment was later dismissed and the house escaped demolition. Later on, the house was filled with artists studios and an exhibition space.
1986: Luntmakargatan 61
When we went in to the Luntmakargatan 61, we were prepared that the squat would not last long and that the police would not respond kindly to our campaign.
Despite this, we chose to go into yet another house that had been left empty, to decay and subsequently to be demolished. Police raided the house in the early morning and attacked us with an incredible amount of tear gas that was shot into the house, even though we signalled that we surrendered. We were caught in a nightmare behind barricaded doors and windows, with no possibility to escape. Several squatters were severely beaten. A year later, we stood in the Stockholm District Court on charges of trespassing.
1988: Klevgränd 1
The house consisted of small apartments, some without modern facilities, with toilets in the corridor. It was emptied of its tenants for many years and would be turned into overnight housing for MPs. The squatting took place when the renovation was finished and it lasted only a few hours before the police arrived.
At the trial, AB Stadsholmen, who owned the house, claimed up to 10.000 dollars, a demand that was dismissed by the district court. The squatters were fined for trespassing.
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