Speculative Heritage – The Micronation as a platform for inventing, living and sharing culture

Here are some notes of a Performance-Presentation I did at the Nordic Summer University in Saxnäs/ Sweden in march 2017. 

The renaissance thinker Niccolò Macchiavelli wrote in his famous states-craft manual for rulers, that one can become a Prince by birth, violence or luck. I Freudian-typed myself into becoming the Prince of the Lorenzburg. Since then I have been determined to add to Machiavelli’s list: Becoming a Prince through art.

(Concept Art for a proposed “ancient” festival)

Home baked micro-nations are all the rage. Megalomaniac teens declare themselves emperors of their childhood rooms or vast online empires the size of terabytes. Others have a serious ambition to use their micronations to criticize contemporary society. Most projects never leave the domain of blogs and they die within a year or two, sometimes leaving behind empty online shells of stories, images and dreams.

As an artist, and as the Prince of Lorenzburg, I reconnect with the city section where I grew up. Lorensberg is a residential area in Karlstad/ Sweden that, to me, was a magical place. Now I aspire to weave those memories into a narrative that complements the physical every-day environment. And so arises the longing to invite others to participate in the game, to contribute to it, to inhabit it until the Principality of Lorenzburg is clearly seen, felt, thought and lived by those who want to share in its manifestation.

I place this nation-building project within the realm of Speculative Heritage: it deals with imagining a legacy that Isn’t but that Could’ve (or Should’ve?) been. And from there: to invent, codify and express made-up history and tradition. I hope, with time, that Lorenzburg will be an example of collectively engineering a speculative past in order to give the place an alternative present.

As Prince I invite people to contribute and to make Lorenzburg theirs while having to provide an initial framework so that there is a “something” to start interacting with. Naturally, as a trained artist and main narrator, I leave a huge mark on the project. I have the privileged position of having more of a say in what is part of the Lorenzburg narrative canon and what isn’t. Unfair? Maybe. But Lorenzburg isn’t only a whacko idea of “anything goes”. There are serious underlying ideas and the project has a real potential for playful critique of our times. And so I have the responsibility to moderate ideas that could harm the intention of the project, while encouraging participants to offer their own pieces of fairytale.

I had actually never even heard of the concept of micronations until November 2014, when Lorenzburg accidently came into existence. I was writing an application for a grant, and wanted to stress how important my upbringing in the Karlstad city section of Lorensberg had been in shaping me as a person and as an artist. Lorensberg is a rather unremarkable place (some less generous people might say boring) with villas, semidetached houses and a fair share of woodland areas. But to me it was a place of magic! With the woods literally across the street from my house, I was fortunate to be able to play and imagine and explore in the natural surroundings, together with my friends. Now, as I was writing the application for the grant, my fingers Freudian-slipped on the keyboard and I typed “Lorenzburg” rather than “Lorensberg”. I didn’t think much of it at the time; I just changed the text and sent the application. Then, a couple of days later I remembered the mistake and realized that this could be the start of something fun. I started a blog and played around with some texts and images, and Lo(!), a fairytale Nation started to unfold.

As I started googling stuff for the blog, and came across the concept of micronations. After some research I found out there is a whole inter-micronational community to interact with. It was the start of a great adventure!

The Most Serene Principality of Lorenzburg, or simply Lorenzburg, is a micronation founded on December 1st, 2014. The nation’s borders coincide with the borders of the city district of Lorensberg in the Swedish city of Karlstad. The area is approximately 11 hectares (110 000 square meters) and is contiguous with the districts ‘Rud’, ‘Kroppkärr’ and ‘Stockfallet’. The district is mostly a residential area with villas and semi-detached houses. There is also some woodland, a kindergarten and some playgrounds. The Principality is not occupying, by force or any other means, the territory of Sweden but can be understood as being a kind of ‘double exposure’ where the micronation overshadows, or superimposes, the actual physical environment of Lorensberg. In this sense the nation can be seen as the “true and hidden”, or spiritual version, of the area. The timeless and ethereal fairy-tale-esque quality of Lorenzburg means that it is simultaneously both “here and there”. In a sense, merely invoking its name or wishing oneself there means being present within Lorenzburg’s borders regardless of where one is situated in the world. Hence citizenship is more a matter of identity and kinship in values rather than physical presence within the earthly borders of Lorenzburg.

Lorenzburg is situated in a speculative “what-if” quantum space. Ordinary yes/no or real/imagined dualisms are suspended in favor of a third option of non-choosing a set reality. Because of this quantum quality the nation fluctuates between the mundane and the fairy tale dimension. Similarly citizens, too, may have dual aspects of the mundane and the fantastic. Lorenzburg aims to be a refuge for visionaries, free thinkers, geeks, freaks, queers, artists, scientists and all others.

Freï von Fräähsen zu Lorenzburg 2017

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