The Fireman

but how can I leave myself alone? We need not to be alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?

Text by Olga Krzeszowiec Malmsten, Magasin III Museum for Contemporary Art:
The Fireman was created by Oscar Guermouche upon invitation to create a site-specific work for the new reference library. Guermouche’s main artistic expression is through text and language. He quotes, reworks, compiles, and paints text in an exploration of language as signifier of identity. An interest in stereotypical depictions of male characters runs through his work; often male anti-heroes of sorts and their life stories. Subjects like race, ethnicity and nationality also recur in works that range through drawing, painting, installation, video and objects.
In The Fireman, Guermouche makes use of a passage from author Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953. The story takes place in a society in which all printed fiction is strictly prohibited. The prohibition has not come about due to the order of a totalitarian regime, but with the support of the public, which considers literature to be directly counter to its need for pleasure. The title of the book alludes to the temperature at which paper spontaneously ignites – 451 degrees Fahrenheit, the equivalent of approximately 233 degrees Celsius.
The words chosen by Oscar Guermouche are uttered by the book’s protagonist, Guy Montag. The fireman Montag and his colleagues spend their nightly work shifts burning banned books, and sometimes also the transgressors themselves. However, Montag begins to question his assignment over time and thus his entire life situation and the society in which he lives. He secretly saves occasional books and begins to read them.
The selected passage is from a fight between Guy Montag and his wife Mildred in which he is trying to get her to understand the insight at which he has arrived. The text is inscribed along part of the edge of the wooden table, centrally placed in the room. At first glance the text (starting on one of the short ends) is hidden by a leather cloth, that visitors are invited to lift.

“Over the course of the process I played with the idea that the text might be considered carved into the table, like a connection to the disruptive student’s carving in their desk, a child’s desperate way of protesting overwhelming authority – the teacher, the school, the adult world, society, the world order – but also a way of communicating their point of view to other students, perhaps to win them over. The carving in the school desk has certain connections to the flier of the resistance movement, the placards at the protest, the activists’ stickers, but it is the expression of the lonely and the desperate. And like Guy Montag’s attempt to convince his wife, the carving is met with dismissal and disdain. The text in The Fireman is not carved, but inscribed. Then again, I am not a student, and neither is the table a school desk.”
– Oscar Guermouche


The library at Magasin III Museum for Contemporary Art, Stockholm, 2020.

Text, inscription.

Milling: Gotlands Snickeri.

Commissioned by Magasin III Museum for Contemporary Art.