There is something promising, something desirable about the Swedish model, especially in times of global economic crisis when the Swedish economy seems to stand as unaffected and well rooted as a pine tree in the deep forests. This is of course not entirely true, but the cliché image is striking. The project of modernisation with technology, social engineering and the promise of a better life propelled the emergence of the Swedish success story. However, a more nuanced analysis of the Swedish welfare state entails the complex understanding of its achievements and its drawbacks.
In The Promise of Happiness Kostis Velonis engages with the mutual relationship between social welfare and cultural modernity based on the belief that architecture and design will improve society, and that behind formal and aesthetic applications there is a plan for the production of happiness. With equal amount enthusiasm and critical investigation, he embraces the two contradictory interpretations of the welfare statefrom one perspective it is understood as a democratic structure, which is liberating on the individual level; from another the individual is understood as controlled and repressed by the state. Sometimes adapting the skillful language of the carpenter or the furniture designer and sometimes splurging into the amateur do it yourself-attitude Velonis' sculptural work both salute and satirize the principles of democratic design that combine politics with domesticity.
"Individual and mass... The personal or the general? Quality or quantity?an insoluble question, because we cannot escape the fact of collectivity, just as little as we can disregard the individual's demand for autonomous life. The contemporary problem is: quantity and quality, mass and individual. It is necessary to solve this problem also in architecture and the crafts." --From the Swedish functionalist manifesto acceptera (1931).
Kostis Velonis holds a three month residency at Iaspis in Malmö with Signal
as the host institution (Oct-Dec 2011)