Birger Carlstedt's The Society Machine is under conservation in EMMA's exhibition space

Birger Carlstedt and Erik Kråkström: The Society Machine, 1964. © Ella Tommila / EMMA
Birger Carlstedt and Erik Kråkström: The Society Machine, 1964. © Ella Tommila / EMMA

The Society Machine was donated to EMMA Collection and it is now under conservation in EMMA's exhibition space. The work has been on display at the Swedish social and municipal college in Helsinki since 1964. Under the decades the relief has collected dirt and it is partly damaged. Conservator Viivi Vierinen is conserving the work from Tuesday to Friday 5th to 15th Nov between noon and 3pm at EMMA. You are welcome to come and watch the process!

The Society Machine is a collaborative piece by artist Birger Carlstedt and architect Erik Kråkström. It was designed for the Swedish social and municipal college at Topeliuksenkatu in Helsinki, a building which Kråkström was head architect for. Both the artwork and the building were completed in 1964. The industrial aesthetics of The Society Machine – saved from the now-condemned building – are right at home with the architecture of the WeeGee house designed by Aarno Ruusuvuori that very same year. Also, it is a unique addition to the EMMA Collection which is in part focused on modernism.

The Society Machine is a monochromatic painted relief originally located in the lobby of the college building next to a lush inner courtyard. It is comprised of industrial wooden casting models which Kråkström collected with his assistant from the Wärtsilä industrial park in Hakaniemi in Helsinki.

Erik Kråkström invited artist Birger Carlstedt to create a work of art using the models. Kråkström and Carlstedt had met each other at Nuottaniemi in Espoo where they both lived, Carlstedt in a villa his parents had built and Kråkström in the vicinity. The Society Machine is an exceptional collaborative piece in Carlstedt’s oeuvre.

The piece will undergo conservation in EMMA’s exhibition space allowing the public to follow the conservator’s work first hand. Over the years the relief has collected dirt and been partly damaged so it will undergo a series of conservation measures, such as surface cleaning, consolidation of loose paint layers and retouching. After the conservation, the relief’s life cycle can continue into the future as a work of art in a public space.

Birger Carlstedt (1907–1975) and Erik Kråkström (1919–2009)
The Society Machine
1964
relief (wooden casting models, paint and particleboard)
EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art Collection

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