31 century museum station

“Mother Threw Herself in Front of the Train To Save Her 2 Years Old Child”.

Performing of Olga Erikson (1927)
Curator :

Carl Michael von Hausswolff



One evening on a dinner table, I was talking to Carl Michael Von Hausswolff about the concept of the 31st Century Museum of Contemporary Spirits, I have been working on. Then he told me a story of a mother and a daughter who went to picked raspberry near the railroad together. While they were picking the raspberry, she heard the train coming and with growing horror she noticed that her two year-old daughter was sitting in the middle of the track. The mother suddenly jumped over to her daughter’s body so the train ran over her body instead of her daughter’s. The child completely unhurt, the mother had a serious injured on her head, the scalp had been torn behind one of the ear. She was then taken to hospital where she was told that the injuries were not particularly serious and she was allowed to leave the hospital the following day. Carl continued his story by pointing to his son who was sitting on the same table and said “If that woman didn’t make a decision to protect her daughter, there won’t be that child and neither be me.” I was really shocked by his story. It is the story of his family and the mother who saved her daughter’s life is his grand-mother and the daughter is his mother. Then Carl collected that news which published in 1927 and transferred it to print making “The Performing of Olga Erikson (1927)” which refers to life is performing. He also explained that human’s mind, naturally, without additives thought, at the moment of making decision between saving their own life or saving the life of the one they love, We can tell from his story that the human being was not born selfish, but human being has love and sacrifice to others. By the way this kind of event is an incident of life that could happen to anyone.


การแสดงของโอลกา เอริกสัน (2470)

บนโต๊ะอาหารค่ำวันหนึ่ง ผมได้พูดคุยกับ Carl Michael von Hausswolff เกี่ยวกับโครงการ 31st Century Museum of Contemporary Spirits ถึงแนวความคิดที่ผมกำลังทำอยู่ จากนั้นเขาจึงเล่าเรื่องราวของผู้หญิงคนหนึ่งให้ผมฟัง เรื่องมีอยู่ว่าผู้หญิงคนนั้นพาลูกสาววัยสองขวบไปเก็บลูกราสเบอรี่ ขณะที่เก็บลูกราสเบอรี่จนเพลิน เสียงรถไฟดังขึ้นไม่ไกลจากบริเวณนั้น เธอหันมองหาลูกทันที ปรากฏว่าลูกสาวตัวน้อยได้คลานไปนั่งอยู่บนรางรถไฟ ซึ่งขณะนั้นรถไฟกำลังวิ่งตรงเข้ามา ผู้หญิงคนนั้นจึงตัดสินใจกระโดดเอาร่างของเธอทับตัวลูกไว้ ลูกสาวตัวน้อยปลอดภัยในขณะที่ร่างของแม่ถูกรถไฟวิ่งผ่านคร่อมร่าง ถูกเหล็กใต้ท้องรถไฟเกี่ยวหนังศีรษะเปิดเป็นแนวกว้างเห็นกะโหลกยาวประมาณ 30 เซนติเมตร ต้องเข้ารับการรักษาในห้องฉุกเฉินของโรงพยาบาลและรอดชีวิตมาได้ในเวลาต่อมา เขาอธิบายต่อว่าถ้า ณ เสี้ยววินาทีนั้น ผู้หญิงคนนี้ไม่ได้ตัดสินใจปกป้องลูกสาว ก็จะไม่มีเด็กผู้ชายคนที่นั่งอยู่ข้างๆ เขา ณ เวลานี้ แล้วเขาก็ชี้ไปที่ลูกชายเขาที่กำลังนั่งทานข้าวอยู่ด้วยกันบนโต๊ะอาหาร และเขากล่าวต่อว่า ก็จะไม่มีตัวเขาที่นั่งอยู่ตรงนี้ด้วยเช่นกัน จากคำพูดนี้ทำให้ผมตกใจมากว่านี่คือเรื่องจริงที่เกิดขึ้นกับครอบครัวของเขา ซึ่งเด็กผู้หญิงคนนั้นก็คือแม่ของเขาและผู้หญิงที่ปกป้องลูกสาวตัวเองก็คือยายของเขานั่นเอง เขาได้นำข่าวหนังสือพิมพ์ที่ลงข่าวเกี่ยวกับเรื่องนี้ที่เกิดขึ้นเมื่อปี 1927 นำมาเป็นผลงานภาพพิมพ์ ซึ่งเขาใช้ชื่อว่า Performing of Olga Erikson (1927)



Olga Eriksson with her husband, children and grandchildren.

Olga-Eriksson Olga Eriksson

1904 Born in Hudiksvall, Sweden

1925 First and only child, Inga Elisabeth, born. Father is Oscar Sander, Östermalm, Stockholm

1927 Performs her first and, presumably, only art work “Mother Threw Herself In Front Of The Train To Save Her 2 Years Old Child”.

1932 Marries Artur Enberg 1945-1946 Moves from Bollnäs, Sweden, to Norrköping, Sweden, because of her husbands promotion from train assistant to train driver.

1946 Raises Olle Alvar as her second child.

1952 Almost dies from ileus.

1950-69 Works as a private abortionist and as an assistant slaughter.

1977 Moves back to Hudiksvall where Artur dies.

1980 Dies at Valla Sjukhus in Linköping, Sweden, leaving one child and three grandchildern.


(from Hudiksvalls Tidning, summer 1927)

“Mother Threw Herself In Front Of A Train To Save Her 2 Years Old Child”

A terrible train accident occurred on Tuesday afternoon below Köpmanberget in Hudiksvall, but the whole thing went fairly well thanks to quick-thinking and good luck.

A 20 year-old woman, Olga Eriksson, who lived in Varvet, happened to be near the Bergsjö railroad track below Köpmanberget. She was picking raspberries. Her two year-old daughter, Inga, was with her. Suddenly she heard the train coming and with growing horror she noticed that the two year-old was sitting in the middle of the track. The track bends at that point and her view was blocked by bushes. So therefore it was at the last minute she saw the danger. She immediately threw herself towards the track to save the child but fell onto the track. By pushing the child down and pressing herself as close to the sleepers, she managed to avoid the danger without any serious damage.

The train consisted of four cargo wagons pulled by the locomotive; on the first wagon there was a guard, but his warning shouts couldn’t be heard by the driver of the train. As he heard some screaming and saw dust coming up from below, he pulled the breaks and the train stopped about twenty metres behind the scene of the accident. When the men reached the victims, he found the child completely unhurt. Not a scratch revealed the dangerous adventure they had gone through. The mother was injured in the head, the scalp had been torn behind one of the ears, but she was able to walk home by herself. She was then taken to hospital where she was told that the injuries were not particularly serious and she was allowed to leave the hospital the following day.

That the cargo wagons could pass over without damaging mother and child is not so strange as they are rather high off the ground. it is odder that no one was more seriously hurt by the engine, because the distance between the lowest part of the engine and the sleepers is not more than 20 centimeters. On one area of the lower part, marks and pieces of hair from the mother were found.

What has happened should be a warning for all not to go too near the railway tracks, as danger may occur any time.


Olga-Eriksson-newspaper1927Olga Eriksson

“Mother Threw Herself In Front Of A Train To Save Her 2 Year Old Child”
performance, 1927

There’s not much material left from Olga Eriksson’s performance piece from the summer of 1927. The only object existing is a newspaper clip from Hudiksvalls Tidning, the local paper in Hudiksvall.

The story was told to her daughter when she became old enough and then it was again told to the grand children and grand grand children. The original clip was found in her daughters belongings around 2005.

At the time of the performance nobody in the area referred to it as a work of art and this was probably because of lack of education and information in this part of Sweden. The times were harsh and there was evidently no space for deeper consumption of art and theory.

What can one say about the piece? Is it’s a work of art that anyone can compose and perform? It takes courage and determination, love and care. From a technical point of view, the structure and duration reminds me of free-jazz improvisations from the later 1970ies, but perhaps it comes closer to what Yves Klein did in 1960; an attempt to abolish gravity (Leap Into The Void) and Bas Jan Ader in 1970; a bicycle ride into a water channel (Fall II, Amsterdam). It’s a performance that also is executed without an invited audience, a non-public performance by a non- artist. Her claim to fame comes now, 80 years after the event… and done in the same year Hugo Ball dies.

Oeuvres that clearly parallel Eriksson’s work are those by artists that early in the twentieth century tried to abolish the borders between art and life; works by Arthur Cravan (1887-1918?) and Jaques Vaché (1895-1919). Here it is the artists life that matters more than the actual pieces they produced. The boxing career and disappearing act in 1918 by Cravan and Vaché’s self proclamation as a victim of war and his opium suicide. What differs between these two extremes is that the Carvan/Vaché pieces has an air of failure while Olga Eriksson’s piece is a complete success. It is a very unique piece, she did this single event and thereby decided over a whole generation, what is quite in contrary to Cravan, who was performing all his life. It is almost like a samurai act, one single precise stroke and that is it; or an art sleeper, who awakes in the right time and then disappears again.

A confidence that surrounds the piece lies in its rapid movement. There’s no hesitation in any of the details presented. The decision to act is almost simultaneously taken with the actual performance. There were hardly any seconds to lose. Where an action painter, like Georges Mathieu, would take a few seconds to splash the color, Eriksson had no time to do so; where a “spoken word” artist, like Fluxus artist Willem de Ridder, unlocks the word vaults in his brain to let the sentences form the story almost automatically, there’s no “almost” in Olga Eriksson’s action. There’s just the saving of a child life, regardless of her own situation.


Julius von Hausswolff looking at his great grandmother's work!!!

Julius von Hausswolff looking at his great grandmother’s work!!!


Share Published on Apr 12, 2011 at 12:45 am.
Filled under: 31 century museum station
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