At the Venice Art Biennale 2019 – Purvis Young

Venice, Italy – May 17, 2019

It’s high time to resume writing here – the place where I write only about other artists – exhibitions, artists, fairs, art articles, reflections on what I see.

I spend the month of May here in Venice. I came on May 1 to set up my SPAR – Silk Peace Art Road – installation at the beautiful Palazzo Mora of the European Cultural Centre – having been invited to participate in the “Personal Structures” exhibition.

This exhibtion as well as the Venice Art Biennale opened on May 11 and while I was working on setting up SPAR, I also walked around the Mora Palace to see the works of other artists (more to come…) and came upon a room of extraordinary beauty that dragged me in and gave me the immediate “this-is-something-special” feeling.

It was the room next to the reception where the Skot Foreman Gallery had filled the walls, collage-style, with the works of Purvis Young.

Skot and I got to talk and he told the story about Young and their friendship. Here is what came out of that happy encounter…

This blog changes as of September 1, 2018

As of September 1, 2018 this blog will no longer contain posts about my projects, works, exhibitions etc. and also not contain copies of newsletters I send out.

That will all be found on my new comprehensive photo homepage under some of the new menus there, among them “Journal”.

This blog will be devoted to posts that focus exclusively on other artists, their works, and thoughts and/or on my travels to fairs and other spaces of art where I want to share positive experiences about somebody else’s work.

Most likely, there will also be fewer posts here in 2018-2019 since I am engaged completely in the SPAR – Silk Peace Art Road – project that you can read the first description of here on this blog but follow on the new platform under the SPAR menu.




Facebook’s “political” and “nudity”: Two stories about art censorship

For the sheer fun of it, I had created an image of President Donald Trump as a pastiche on Andy Warhol, a little “old Warhol-style.” It took me about 15 minutes and there was nothing political about it – it was merely a fun exercise.

Here it is:


I posted it on my Instagram account and it was liked at least as much as most other stuff I post there. Then I got the idea to use it as an ad with a CTA – Click To Action – for people to take a look at my Instagram profile – a frequently used method to get people interested in who you are and what you do and then, perhaps follow you.

I designed it, put a few words on my ad, defined the audience to be reached and chose to promote it with US$ 20. And sent it off. It took twenty minutes, or so, until Instagram – which is owned by Facebook – sends me this message:

“Your ad was not approved because your Page has not been authorized to run ads with political content.” This is followed by two links, one on which I can appeal – which I did at no avail. The other tells me how to complete the authorization process (to publish ads with political content in the future.

But I do not use Instagram for any political purpose, also not for the foundation I’m directing, The Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research (TFF). Have never done so. I use it exclusively for things related to art – my own and somebody else’s. So, I did not try to be authorized to do ads with political content.

Let me make it clear: Instagram/Facebook did not prevent me from having this image on my feed. What they prevented is that it is used as image in an ad that aims to promote my Instagram account.

My problem with this is that Facebook decides to categorize this image as “political” and not as art. This means that any image of a politician – irrespective of the text and context – is “political.”

Now, if such an image of a politician re-done in Warhol-style is political – what could not also be judged as “political”?

Another problem is: What do the people at Facebook know about art and about politics? And is this at all decided by humans or does Facebook/Instagram use some kind of face/image recognition, alternatively AI (articificial intelligence) that “catches” such an image and automatically, without a view to purpose, text and context, deems this political?

I wonder because anyone with the minimum of knowledge about art would be able to see that the image itself is not political but, as I said, a quick exercise in artistic re-production, pastiche or – if anything – a caricature or poking fun of Andy Warhol.

We seem to live in times where across-the-board, digitally manipulated political correctness can be used anywhere by corporate and other interests (and governments) who are afraid of being “misunderstood” by someone somewhere.

I may not have monitored it all, but in my view there is far too little discussion about this type of clear-cut censorship of the arts. After all, it’s no small audience; as of June 2018, Instagram had reached 1 billion monthly active users worldwide.

• •

Here is another image – related to Facebook’s bizarre definition of nudity.

It was shot at Art Basel 2018, the world’s most important and largest art fair. It’s from an installation in one of the almost 300 exhibiting galleries:


Same procedure as above. Here is what I got back this time:

“Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow our Advertising Policies. We don’t allow ads that depict nudity, even if it is not sexual in nature. Keep in mind that, except for statues, this applies to all educational and artistic forms of expression. How fix: We suggest using a different image or video and checking that the destination link is compliant too.”

So nudity, even it not sexual in nature, is prohibited! There goes a large part of Western art history – since it includes “all educational and artistic forms of expression”!

When you click the above link in the Instagram message it goes to Point 8 which deals with Adult products or services. But surprise, surprise! That point deals exclusively with ads for contraceptives!

This is how Facebook sees an unacceptable “suggestive” content for contraceptives in an art installation…

Take a look at my image. The figure playing the violin is a wax model, a dummy or whatever you’d call it, with a blond wig. It’s not at all a photo of a nude woman.

The context is perfectly clear, she sits a podium, there are works of art around and there is a person who walks around to perceive and judge about it as a piece of art.

To Facebook, this is nudity and nudity related to contraceptives at that! Just read Point 8 above.

Now, have fun and read also Facebook’s Point 9 about Adult content. Have a look at the pictures all of which are deemed ‘non-compliant’ – for being explicit artistic, showing a woman in a sexually suggestive pose, provocative and alluding to sexual activity.  Oh my!

One wonders in what century Facebook people live? Or whether they’ve asked some religious sect to advise them?

If it wasn’t so sad – and so important – for both art and freedom of expression, I would laugh my sure non–compliant ass off.

You would too. Please share. This is a policy non-compliant with any reasonable definition of art and it is implemented in bizarre ways – either by ignorant human fools or wrongly programmed AI.

It must go! As simple as that!


SPAR – The “Silk Peace Art Road” Project



Lund, Sweden –
March 8 to July 16, 2018. No longer updated here.
But all about the project on my photo homepage launched on September 1, 2018 here.

Jan Oberg, Oberg PhotoGraphics, has been invited by the Global Art Affairs (GAA) Foundation and the European Cultural Center to exhibit at Palazzo Mora in Venice in the context of the Biennale 2019.
This exciting opportunity stimulated the development of a bigger idea that combines Oberg’s work for peace and art photography with a focus on the Chinese-initiated Silk Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the largest and most visionary in today’s world in terms of linking people and cultures into cooperation rather than confrontation.
In various ways the project – with the Road as metaphor – stretches from China over Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Iran and Syria to Venice and seeks to promote cooperation and peace in the process.
The “Silk Peace Art Road” – SPAR – project is made public at this very early development stage where only little funding is secured to encourage you to share co-operative ideas, contacts you may have in China and along the Silk Road or to potential partners, artists, sponsors, art institutions, etc.


Summary in 7 elements

1. To stay in China for some time and then travel along the Silk Road.
2. Make use of selected existing archived materials such as photos I’ve taken in China 1983, Myanmar, Somalia and Somaliland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Aleppo in Syria and Venice which are all situated on the:
3. Old Silk Road and on the new Silk Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that China initiated and which my work will evolve around, and:
4. Combining some of the old photos with new ones and various other materials and artefacts into a completely new multimedia creation (one big or several smaller related to each other), and:
5. Exhibiting it all at Palazzo Mora, Venice, in 2019 in the context of the Biennale (May 11-Nov 24) and documenting the process on Instagram, my blog and perhaps also, later, in a book.
6. The project seeks to explore relations between art, the emerging new world order, and history in the future as well as the interactions of cultures, people and expressions, and finally:
7. It will build synergy between my two ‘lives’ as academic peace & future researcher and art photographer.

[175 words]

Continue under the project logo


Point by point

1. Stay and travel in China and along the Silk Road

The project starts out in China. I had applied for a residency scholarship to stay and work for minimum 3 and maximum 6 months at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, but it was turned down in early July. The residency at Swatch would, naturally, have tied me to be in Shanghai only.

Nothing is so bad that it isn’t good for something. I shall now get more time to explore China on my own and develop more diverse relations with artists and art institutions elsewhere in China, rather than only in Shanghai.

It will permit me to also travel along at least parts of the Silk Road that I either have experienced earlier or have never visited.

I formulate it now as “less Shanghai, more China and more Silk Road”.

Continue reading “SPAR – The “Silk Peace Art Road” Project”

Update 2018 – Past, present and future dreams


Oh, how time flies! It’s about two months since I posted here and we’re already well into 2018.

I have an excuse, an acceptable one, I think: I’m working fulltime for peace!

But, first – here the three main points in this belated New Year greeting:

• The last two months devoted to peace

• 8 short videos to inspire you

• Dreams and plans including Lund, China and Venice.


Walking on two legs but still looking for the right balance

While I am a photographer who experiments with what “peace photography” could be, I’m also a professional peace and future researcher and director at The Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research, TFF, in Lund, Sweden.

And, so, there are periods during which I have to devote myself to international affairs. It’s not entirely voluntary, I must say, because I really feel I need the artistic activity, the “flow” and the intuitive exploration of the world around me – to balance my research life which is more disciplined, methodical, and – supposedly, at least – rational.

And I would add, there is much much more positive energy in working with art than working with international affairs.

My main occupation is to argue against most of the horrific (nuclear) weapons and wars (can’t know about or cover them all…) and other violence and argue for the simple, logical principle embedded in the UN Charter, namely that peace shall be brought about by peaceful means (Article 1).

Think about it: That is what all the UN member governments have signed once upon a time. And completely ignore every single day.

So I have two identities or persona. I walk on two legs and I cannot always find the right balance.

The shadow of certain world events throws itself over the fields of art and photography where I’d like to spend much more time.

So to solve that impossible equation – two fulltime jobs – what do you do?

Well you study management and you develop practical, daily working methods, you work basically all the time – which is possible when you love what you do and you don’t do it for money (all I do with TFF is unpaid, we’re an all-volunteer foundation). While I have little income, I live a rich life. I don’t complain – just I need 48 hours per day at least and living till I’m 120. That’s all…

Continue reading “Update 2018 – Past, present and future dreams”

McArthur Binion at La Biennale 2017

I have been ignorant about this great artist – found him at the Biennale in Venice in 2017.
So complex and sophisticated, yet so simple and beautiful. Incredible variation in image from far away and very close. Magic. Enjoy.
Here is my 1-min video
More about him here on ArtNews.

Dirk Braeckman at La Biennale

At La Biennale 2017
The very “different” and moving photography by Dirk Braeckman at the Belgian Pavilion at Giardini.

Here a little movie and a link also to his Venice homepage.

“shoot” # 64


The Exhibition, the Biennale and Global Art

What is happening in Lund and in the wider world?

Lund, Sweden
November 10, 2017

Welcome to the re-designed, easier-to-browse Shoot” # 64 newsletter from Oberg PhotoGraphics.

“Shoot” wings into your mailbox infrequently and carries a variety of themes.

The present exhibition is “Three In One”: a few earlier photographs in new editions; 25 unique documentary photos from the liberation of Aleppo in Syria last year and, third, unique multimedia photo collages.

All in all 113 works that created a lot of positive reactions on Night Of Culture in September and Art Night in October.

The studio is open at any time; all you need to do is to set up an appointment on +46 (0)738 52 52 00 or write to: janoberg@obergphotographics.biz.

Continue reading ““shoot” # 64″

Walk Around # 4

As if you were there…Enjoy!
More info on the link. Welcome!

Walk Around # 3

Ultrashort video:
Walk Around # 3

Oberg PhotoGraphics studio – October-November 2017
Make an appointment on +46 738 525200 or janoberg@obergphotographics.biz

Walk Around # 2

The video Walk Around # 2
My studio in October 2017

Open anytime but by appointment only on
janoberg@obergphotographics.biz or +46 738 525200

Walk around my studio # 1 – Oct 2017

My “Three-In-One” exhibition with 1) some earlier photographs in new editions on on other media, 2) 25 documentary photos from the liberation of Aleppo, Syria in December 2016 – much suffering and much hope – and 3) multi-media photo collages.

This short video – posted on Instagram – takes you around one of the rooms of my studio where there are, at the moment 113 numbered works on the list.

My studio is open anytime but by appointment only on either +46 (0)738 525200 or janoberg@mac.com.

You are very welcome online as well as ‘live’.

I’m in the process of updating and re-designing my photo homepage. It is not yet ready but there are works to see anyhow. Here.

And here a glimpse of Art Night on October 21, 2017: