In 2012, a group of young Swedish artists and thinkers calling themselves The non existent Center bought an abandoned mining site and, in it, established a space for work, art and thought in Ljunarsberg, a rural municipality in Bergslagen. Since then, Ställberg´s 28-meter-high mining tower has formed the iconic beacon for ongoing societal research that endeavours to continue to the year 2070. The group use different formats such as performance, seminars, international residencies, festivals and exhibitions to raise ethical dilemmas often around money, migration and the power of narratives. The mine has also been turned into an interdisciplinary platform for researching the human condition in strongly depopulated rural communities. The critical relationship between rapidly expanding urban conglomerations and shrinking populations in the countryside play a central role in their work, as does the notion of “migration”. Bergslagen and similar rural places are sites where some seek the tranquillity of the countryside. It is also a place where people are relocated by the Swedish migration board after escaping homelands in conflict, and where locals try to escape the rapidly shrinking employment opportunities in depopulated areas such as this.
The social-artistic research of The non-existent Center is practical and closely integrated with the community. It manifests itself through the importance of sensitive listening towards different experiences and gives room for doubts and sorrow. The collective explores questions like: What is the consequence of working with an expanded view of art within ongoing social and political processes? And how does geography, class and identity relate to these processes? Can the situation of a small, so-called ‘dying’ municipality allow us to better understand the consequences of global neoliberalism and the current Swedish welfare policies? Through their practice, The non existent Center seek to create possibilities to research and act socially, politically, responsibly and artistically in response to these complex questions.