Lars Norén

Lars Norén

Art as an Underwater Bomb

The unsurpassed Swedish playwright Lars Norén grew up in a home that felt “radically unsafe.” In this rare interview he traces his writing back to his childhood experiences: “They could've locked me in the basement at age 11 because I had so much material.”

The aspiration to fail is one of Norén’s driving forces when it comes to writing. He does not want to simply write the things he knows how to write but rather to seek out the unknown: "Failure, failure, failure. That's what it's all about. To find a way out of what I already know." Moreover, it is his conviction that art should not necessarily be understood immediately but rather detonated after a while — like an underwater bomb.

Norén’s youth was spent in Skåne, Sweden where his family managed a provincial hotel. Though it was full of classical music and great literature it was not a happy childhood and Norén ended up running away from home at the age of 15. When his mother died, he was admitted to a psychiatric clinic, where he underwent drug and electroconvulsive therapy for endogenous depression and schizophrenia. These experiences, combined with classical psychoanalysis through 18 years, formed his life and not least his writings in which he investigates his memories and how to deal with these: “Art is always an echo of something.”

However, Norén feels that art does not only deal with the artist’s personal memory but also reflects society and its wounds. He contemplates Auschwitz and not least Italian writer Primo Levi’s account of life in the concentration camp, considering it to be a crucial point of reference in his oeuvre.

Lars Norén (b. 1944) is a Swedish playwright, novelist and poet, regarded by many as the greatest Swedish playwright since August Strindberg. His plays often revolve around dysfunctional families and the people situated at the bottom of society. Among his many works are ‘Night is Mother to the Day’ (1982) and ‘7:3’ (1999). In 2003, Norén received the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize, known as the “little Nobel.”

Lars Norén was interviewed by Christian Lund in Stockholm in February 2015.

Camera: Kasper Kiertzner
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Marina Abramović & Ulay

    A Living Door of the Museum

    Standing naked in the main entrance of a museum, facing each other while the audience passes sideways through the small space. Legendary performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay share the story behind their poetic work ‘Imponderabilia’.

  • Julie Nord

    The Power of Drawing

    “It’s the closest you get to silence – or skin. There’s so little between me as an artist and my material.” Artist Julie Nord here shares her attraction to the "no bullshit" of drawing. Visit her studio and take a peek at how she makes her surreal, fairy tale-like drawings.

  • Nina Saunders

    A Cultural Warrior

    Meet artist Nina Saunders who plays with the familiar by twisting it in surprising ways. She here discusses her humorous yet disturbing work – made from discarded upholstered furniture and stuffed animals – which comments on our world.

  • Erica Jong

    Sexuality and Creativity

    “The urge to create and the urge to copulate are very close.” Watch the iconic feminist writer Erica Jong speak candidly of being fuelled creatively by desire, her experiences as a female writer and what she has come to realize about men.

  • Karl Ove Knausgård

    On 'Madame Bovary'

    “This controlled perfection, that I usually don’t like, elevates it.” Karl Ove Knausgård – author of ‘My Struggle’ – here shares his love of the classic novel ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert, which he has read three times at different stages of his life.

  • Mette Winckelmann

    Woman to Woman

    ”You must evaluate whether the system you’re part of could be effectuated differently.” Meet artist Mette Winckelmann, who believes that abstract painting communicates deeper than language, and explore her visual take on gender politics.

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Adam Caruso

    Novelty is nonsense

    "The European city is one of the great human inventions!” Adam Caruso advocates building with a deep sense of history and tradition. Meet the architect behind the award-winning Tate Britain conversion and numerous Gagosian galleries.

  • Thomas Hirschhorn

    A World of Collage

    Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn juxtaposes pixelated images from the media. His works are not about technology, says the artist: “I try to give form to what I can’t accept: that someone else can decide for me what I should do, see or think.”

  • Jonathan Safran Foer

    On Donald Trump

    Jonathan Safran Foer, star of American literature, offers interesting views on America’s new president and the consequences Trump will have on American culture. "The place for literature may be even more important than before," he says.

  • Dorte Mandrup

    Where Place Meets Sculpture

    Rising from the landscape in a place rich with materiality and history sits architect Dorte Mandrup’s new Wadden Sea Centre. Meet the renowned architect and see a building were “everything comes together.”