Sture Johannesson was born in 1935 in Skanör (Sweden) and died in the same town in 2018. After studying graphics and photography, in the sixties began producing posters and experimental films that explored psychedelic aesthetics. His staunch defence of psychotropic substances, used as a critique of State control, scandalised Nordic society: many of his posters were censored, while a number of his exhibitions were cancelled. Experimenting with new media – from electronic and digital gadgets to narcotics – he demonstrated that the socialisation programmes of the modern state are often more hallucinatory than any psychotropic substance. Johannesson articulated his work as a radical exploration of the relationships between art, politics, technology and human consciousness.
He and his wife Anne-Charlotte opened the Cannabis Gallery in 1966 in Malmö, in an old dairy that was soon to become a meeting place for artists and a centre for publications from the European radical left. In 1970, they were the first in Sweden to experiment with the graphic and artistic possibilities of the computer, together with Sten Kallin, a senior technician at IBM. They opened the first Apple graphic studio in Scandinavia. Between 1971 and 1984, they founded around twenty graphic magazines, with a circulation of between 50 and 250 copies, which played with fractal patterns and symmetries to create optical effects. In 1978, they initiated the Digital Theatre, a collective project of digital actors and computer-generated imagery. Between 1986 and 1998, Johannesson again collaborated with Kallin on The EPICS Project: Exploring PICture Space.
Many of Johannesson’s exhibitions were censored and closed, such as the show scheduled in 1969 for the Lunds Konsthall, in the Swedish city of Lund, that led to the resignation of the museum’s director, and the 1976 exhibition at the KulturHuset, Stockholm, focusing on Ulrike Meinhof, founder of the German far-left group. In 2004, an attempt was made to recover Johannesson’s work with an exhibition at the Lunds Konsthall, but this was also closed following police intervention due to the inclusion of cannabis plants on the roof of the building.
Currently, Johannesson’s work is included in the collections of MoMA, New York; Swedish National Museum, Stockholm; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Musée de l'Affiche et de la publicité, Paris; and MACBA, Barcelona, among others.