Colonial Surfer - STNC is a project about the contemporary globalized world and power structures within the surf industry and its realm. Surfing is not just a sport but also culture (producer and distributor). In current discussions you hear about the post-colonial but the situation today is better described as neo-colonial. Surfers do travel a lot and sometimes to places unknown to other tourists. The way surfers behave and represent themselves in the adventures search of perfect waves has a lot in common with ancient colonizers and their roles. To surf maintain and conserve already existing structures. History.

Editor: Kristoffer Svenberg

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A backpack get placed on Charles de Gaulle airport in France as a deliberate act and an attack.

Charles de Gaulle is one of Europe’s most supervised airports. A person puts down and leaves a backpack in the airport. Before leaving, the person photographs the bag. This action shows the surveillance cameras that everything is intentional and that the backpack is not forgotten. The bag is closed and locked with a padlock in the zipper opening. This means that it can not be easily opened. The backpack is meant as an attack in the airport.

Studies of art, photography, postcolonial theory and my own experience of traveling as a tourist in Asia are behind my decision to perform the action. I am convinced that the action is worth doing for a number of important reasons. Placing the bag like this at Charles de Gaulle airport can scare, shock and hurt individuals. A part of the airport may be blocked by the security guards and people on their way to or from their flights might be disturbed. The ethical problem of exposing other people to my actions is included in my calculations.
I justify the action with theories of how the system itself is so much more violent, wrong and destructive.

The contents of the backpack are pictures. These images consist of scanned material from travel brochures and travel commercials printed on photo paper and then cropped to 10x15cm format. Nothing but a large number of these pictures lies in the bag. The selection is made to represent a typical representation of the world through a European travel commercial perspective. The backpack contains something that the tourism industry generates. Images that constitute the current world order.

The security system, the structure, and the strictly disciplined architecture are tangible. I’m up in this with intentions about it as art. Flying with the bag containing only pictures is part of a performance work. Passing the bag through the X-ray machine at the airport worries me. Perhaps I will face suspicion and questions. I’m afraid to be remembered, or that security staff should notice this as something strange so that I can later be linked to the Charles de Gaulle airport attack and seized as a terrorist.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Drive-by shooting - It's a matter of a power relation.

From a discussion on STNC Facebook page:

Drive-by shooting - It's a matter of a power relation.

EP: Hmm... I'd like to understand that thought. Does it parallel with the aboriginal thought that photographs steal your soul?

STNC: It's about the position and role. Who is mobile and free and who is getting frozen solid. Anyone who can move more freely, such as a surfer who travels the world, has the advantage in matters of representation when holding the camera. From such a free-floating position, it is easier to control the representation of the 'other', the influence of photography and the performative power. It is also very much about his/her own identity by consuming the environment as an "aesthetic surface." The power lies in the ability for geographical movement but manifests itself through pictures and stories. Whose stories are told through these images and why? What is the purpose of the image photographed from this tuktuk ride? In general it is very often photographs that manifest the photographer's role and identity.

EP: Yes, agreed. Just as in quantum physics the presence of the observer alters the outcome of the atom's movement.

STNC: Yes, that’s a way of putting it. But somehow that is also problematic. Since we need to find ways of getting everyone able to be observers alike. Not just the free traveling surfer. In Surfers are The New Colonialists I am observing the surfer and the surfers gaze. I do this to find ways of challenging very unequal perspectives.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Open Letter - Feel free...

In Europe from the 1600's to the early 1800’s traveling as "leisure" changed its form from a previous focus mainly on opportunities for conversation and discussion into then becoming more of an eyewitness observation. This development can be linked to the romanticism and its interest in landscapes and worshiper of recreation and personal enjoyment. Later in history photography made a strong entry, and traveling found its conceptual position as tourism. Travelling did then become picture. The project Colonial Surfer - STNC is about to seek out and generate a problematizing discourse within the globalized surf culture.

In 2010 I worked as a missionary for a Christian surf organization. I did this as a form of critical 
role-play and as an art performance. The organizations name is Surfing The Nations and has its base of operations on Oahu, Hawaii. The Same place as the colonizing English missionaries discouraged and forbade wave surfing in the 1800s. Surfing The Nations is an American organization but with a surprising over-representation of Swedes. STN:s (not to mistake for STNC) main focus is to bring people into religious conversion within what they call the 10/40 window. Countries that are located 10°-40° north of the Antarctic Circle. Countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and more.

I perform as a “modern” Christian missionary in Sri Lanka. There is no one on site who knows anything about my intentions of my actions connected to my art practice. And my role could very well be described in other ways than an artist. I am there as a surfer. I am there as a missionary. I am there as an anthropologist. I am there as a tourist. I am there as a journalist. While none of these roles are completely true.

I am part of the same problematic situation as other tourists in the area. I get up in a particular group and my actions can be seen as anthropologists fieldwork, or as a researching and investigative journalist. But I am not there in the first place looking for something as a journalistic scoop. I see a symbolic importance in my role as an artist in this. And I do use the missionary role to demonstrate the neo-colonial political charge. 

A strong reason for why I am working with the surf culture as a subject is because of its in the contemporary very idealized position. Surfers role are extremely romanticized while the general consensus is that surf culture is an apolitical movement. That is something I don’t agree with. And because of constructed idealization and romanticism about surf culture, it gets difficult to tackle and problematize.

I usually bring those words into discussions: The less political you feel, the more political you are. What I mean is that the norm is the most political since it constantly, everyday influences us to who we are and will be. And the things that are as normalized as we can’t even see them effect us a lot. Surf culture is not, in a certain "western" context, a contemporary subculture, but rather a strong dominating male norm culture.

When I bring cultures around surfing into an art context I do put a (deconstructive) queer theory perspective on them. I am obviously playing a kind of role when I act as a missionary. But to me it seems in Sri Lanka like the others in the ministry group are playing their roles as well. And the local residents of Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka are playing their part to do businesses with our rich and privileged traveling group. I see this as a problematic unfair identity game of power and resources.

Feel free to invite STNC to organize seminars and discussions!

Best regards, Kristoffer Svenberg STNC.

Contact: info[at]


Happy Memes

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Saturday, October 29, 2016

By the temptation to analyze he sinks.

The surfer, “the horizontal man,” looks for meaning on the surface, more precisely in the series of waves that form the surface—one after the other after the other, now left, now right, higher and lower. As Baricco puts it:

If you believe that meaning comes in sequences and takes the form of a trajectory through a number of different points, then what you really care about is movement: the real possibility to move from one point to another fast enough to prevent the overall shape from vanishing. Now what is the source of this movement, and what keeps it going? Your curiosity, of course, and your desire for experience. But these aren’t enough, believe me. This movement is also propelled by the points through which it passes … [The surfer] has a chance to build real sequences of experience only if at each stop along his journey he gets another push. Still, they’re not really stops, but systems of passage that generate acceleration.

Unsurprisingly, if the diver is the person who reads Proust, Baricco writes, the surfer is the person browsing the internet.

More importantly, by introducing the figure of the surfer, Baricco develops Jameson’s notion of depthlessness from an experiential register to a modality of engagement. In order to stay above water, after all, the surfer needs to develop the skills that keep him on his board. One of these skills, one similar to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the rhizome, is to perceive the ocean as a “trajectory” rather than either a territory (implying a mapping) or a telos(suggesting direction). (Indeed, Deleuze himself introduces the figure of the surfer in his “Postscript on the Societies of Control.”) Here the surfer stays on his board by choosing one wave after the other, regardless of the corals he scratches with the tip of his board or the direction the waves take him in. He literally lets the waves carry him—he “lives in the moment.” The second skill is the ability to constantly keep moving. If the surfer slows down or is momentarily stopped “by the temptation to analyze,” as Baricco puts it, he sinks.

He must progress, advance, experiencing each wave not on its own terms but as the medium, the catalyst for the next encounter, which is to say that each experience is experienced not in and of itself but in anticipation of the next experience, the next wave. What Baricco suggests, thus, is that the experiential registers of depth and depthlessness prescribe different modes of engagement: in the former you focus on one point in particular whilst in the latter you let your eyes scan over the surface; in the first you look for the special, in the second for the spectacular: the next wave, the next thrill. Though Baricco’s metaphor of the surfer is both limiting and reductive and certainly does not define all art from the eighties and nineties, it manages to put into words a sentiment often shared between certain artistic traditions and their audiences: the act of looking for a hint, not of what lies beneath, but rather of what lies ahead of us—the spectacle, the thrill, the controversy, the next wave we can ride and then the next, and the next.

By invoking the figure of the surfer, someone whose concern is not only to stand on the water but to avoid falling into it, going under, this duality is made manifest: to speak about depthlessness is to speak about the extinction of depth, not its nonexistence.

To return to Jameson’s case studies, Van Gogh’s A Pair of Boots implies another mode of engagement than Warhol’s Diamond Dust Shoes: in the former we are invited to look for traces of an experience; in the latter what we are left to see are points for discussion.

Vincent van Gogh’s A Pair of Boots (1887), Jameson wrote, expressed both, through its “hallucinatory” use of color, the artist’s “realm of the senses” and, through its use of “raw materials,” a world “of agricultural misery, of stark rural poverty, … backbreaking peasant toil, a world reduced to its most brutal and menaced, primitive marginalized state.”5 The painting, in other words,conveyed individual ideas, sensibilities, and social realities which continued beyond its borders. In contrast, Andy Warhol’sDiamond Dust Shoes (1980) communicated neither an authorial voice, nor a personal attitude or affect, nor a sense of the world it supposedly represented. The black-and-white photograph, with its shiny, isolated aesthetic, Jameson suggested, could allude to glamour magazines just as well as to a memory of the artist’s mother, to shoes left over from Auschwitz or the remains of a dance hall fire. If Van Gogh’s painting of peasant shoes pulled the viewer into another world of poverty and misery, Warhol’s photo of pumps pushed the spectator out back into his own.6 As Warhol himself is alleged to have said: “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”

Extract from: The New “Depthiness” -  Timotheus Vermeulen

Friday, August 12, 2016


Thursday 11 August 2016

"The mayor of Cannes has banned the wearing of burkinis - full body swimsuits - on the beaches of the French Riviera resort famous for its annual film festival, officials said on Thursday."
- The Telegraph

Sunday 14 August 2016

"A second resort town on the French Riviera has announced a ban on full-body swimsuits - or 'burkinis' - at its beaches. (...) Anyone found breaching the order, in place until the end of August, faces a €38 (£32) fine."
-Sky News





Surfers who are staying and living on beaches with their neighboring regions are in some ways akin to The Occupy Movement. Yes, I mean the one that started in New York - Occupy Wallstreet, which then spread around the world. Surf culture has an even further and wider dissemination. And I can aesthetically from a rather romantic perspective compare it with the world's global occupy protest movement. However, there is a substantial difference. The surf culture is occupying in favor of capitalism and globalization. It doesn’t protest or work against unequal structures. The movement is rather about surfing on these unequal structures. 

In comparison, if we take a basis of a tourism industry in a fairly unexploited tourist site, but still populated by surfers. Surfers often live in tents and bungalows when there aren’t any hotels near the break. In these “camp” sites there are no protest banners or political placards like at the Occupy movements spots. Rather there are surfboards lined up in different ways. You can see advertisements for various small eateries and restaurants. And the area is flagged, here and there, with global surf company commercials. It is an advertisement that often tends to be very stereotypical, sexist and American, European "normative". 

The restaurants and places to stay are in the early stages mostly locally owned. But when the tourism exploitation by poor areas increases, it begins to attract international rich companies. Hotels and restaurants from the USA, Japan, European areas and Australia are then dominating a lot of the popular spots for surfers. And it goes as far as that places are getting fenced and proclaimed: Private.

It’s not rare that people express dissatisfaction with this kind of exploitation. But at the same time, it is almost seen as natural and inevitable. To get the best access to the surf than at these sites, surfers do pay to stay at the expensive hotels. I'm not at all opposed or against that those areas develop and become richer. I am critical on how the power relation is between tourists, wealthy businesses, and the local citizens. These areas get colonized by the tourism and surf industry. It is a massive and dominant cultural imperialism that finds its way through a traveling surf, “backpacker” culture to "remote" parts of the earth. 

Surf culture is today by no means a subculture with challenging perspectives on the world order. It is rather part of the norm, an ideal and a standard culture in the market economy. It is used in advertising for just about everything possible. Such as fast food, soda, beer, communication, training, sweets and whatever. It reaches a wide audience and it is no more norm breaker alternate-radical than IKEA. 

When we travel as surfers, we must ask ourselves about who we are, how we are privileged and how we impact the places we go to. And it's not about that we are supposed to spread stories in those areas about how we as great good tourists are helping or giving something back. The root of the problem is about how we are dominantly speaking, spreading our stories and culture. Thereby we get other voices and perspectives silenced and shut. This wave of dominance needs to be broken to create a better more equal world. And it has to be done through challenging and breaking free from colonial power structures and chains that extends far back into history. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Hang Loose! Enjoy Poverty! Please!

What does the sign that this guy is doing in the picture mean? A positive way of reading could be to say that this guy is breaking the surface in the image. A image of him as a poor. But the one in control here is the one who’s behind the camera.
And this is rather a sign that says Hello in a more specific way.
It’s a surfers sign. And in this case it's about the surface. Being above or under the surface.

A young kid  doing the hang loose sign from his perfect position as a poor.

Traditional. As used in the Hawaiian Islands, "Hang Loose or "Shocka" is used as a non verbal expression; or greeting. To tell the receipiant, that every thing will be OK, Relax, Stop looking at me w/ that stern look on your face. / from Urban Dictionary

Sunday, July 12, 2015

We Are Greater Than I

“We are greater than I.” Yes, I can agree on that. I guess we all can agree on that. But when this WE, is a way to narrow norm, it’s not just that great. What WE are in this video is not just anyone. Let me be the party crasher. Let me be the troll. But this video is very much about an “I”. Even though there are people from different areas in the world, girls and boys in this commercial there is an obvious I. Try to read the pictures more carefully and tell me what you see. I am a man in this video. The “I” is a white western man. The “I” is a successful white muscular western man setting up standards about the norm. The norm in this video is that I, and if there is a greater we in this video, that we, or us, are working on worshipping that I. We are that I. We are worshipping that I.  We are greater than I. But I am the norm in this surf video. I am the norm that we are surfing on, or trying not to get whitewashed in. I am the direction in this commercial. I am not free.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What do Adolf Hitler & Surfers have in common?

Surfing is a sport lead by and dominated by people within a privileged minority. The mainstream representation of a surfer is a white, rich and privileged man. Today surfers from former colonial powers and rich countries are surfing in the areas that used to be their colonies.

Some years ago I made a surf video that was showing at an art gallery. The video was built up by material from already existing mainstream contemporary surf movies. As a postproduction work I was editing those videos into a result that was showing everything from those flicks except the surfing and the waves. Left was something like a lifestyle material. This was made up mostly of portraits of surfers, surrounding landscapes and spectacular exotic images from different countries and cultures. Since surfing as an activity is taken away from the production it feels a bit abrasive. Through the concentrated form in the film, you get an idea about how this picture material is political.

The references I got from art critics was that it looked very similar to Leni Riefenstahls Triumph des Willens. I got told that the material was very much like the propaganda for Adolf Hitler and the Aryan race.

Cause if you deconstruct and analyze the filmed material from a typical surf video you get to understand that it is very similar in language as the propaganda used by the Nazis. A lot of photographs and filmed sequences from Leni Riefenstahl has the similar picture language as well. This was Adolf Hitlers favorite photographer.

This picture is taken from the surf organization Walking on Waters website. Christian surfers traveling the world while trying to bring people into conversion.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

STNC Critical thoughts on volunteer work

Partiet (med Navid Modiri) - Flippa ur

The guys in this video might not be surfers, but they are somehow surfing the world. The pictures in the music video are from a volunteer trip.

The volunteers are acting something out, while the locals are getting pictured in poor situations. The main characters in the video are presented as playful and without any big worries. They are leading something as a story while the ”others” are passive.

One of the volunteer guys is carrying around balloons and give them away to people. This is like a tragic joke. Or maybe a clever visualization by how this is not about helping at all.

Cause if you look on the structures here. The volunteers are privileged and rich. The work they do here in this area won’t change anything really. The only thing you get out of this is that the wealthy volunteers are framing themselves as ideal, happy and fortunate.