Thank You for Carrying (2016)

Still from Thank you for carrying. Photo: Helge Olsèn
Still from the video Thank You for Carrying. Photo: Helge Olsèn

In this project, Signe Johannessen deals with the memory of a dear childhood friend – a horse that she later learned had been killed by her father. That knowledge became a traumatic experience, and the project addresses this murder and celebrates the lives of all horses. Throughout history, horses have been used as tools for transportation, warfare, and human survival. For this work, Johannessen witnessed the death of a Lipizzaner stallion, whose remains were then processed and used during the project. She also carried out a series of ceremonies together with horses at an ancient immolation site on the island of Öland, and built an altar in a stable at the farm Kultivator.

In parallel to this, the artist worked with a hundred-year-old skeleton of a horse called Lilly. Lilly was the last living Ölandshäst before the species became extinct. Together with a veterinarian, Johannessen rebuilt the composition of the incorrectly mounted bones. In doing so, Johannessen asks the viewer to contemplate mankind’s responsibility for the extinction of species.


Curator Joanna Sandell, director at Kalmar Art Museum, wrote the following about Thank You for Carrying:

“Signe Johannessen addresses the inequality between man and woman in a poetic film where the horse is in focus, symbolizing the power inherent in this animal which was transgressed at a time in Signe Johannessen’s life when she was a young girl and the friendship of a horse was all the comfort she had. The film Thank You for Carrying follows a kind of inverted narrative of one of our oldest Greek tragedies, the killing of the father in ‘Oedipus’. […] Thank You for Carrying pays tribute to all horses in the world that have carried humans through troubles, be it war, famine and more so through spiritual darkness and towards a fight for personal freedom.”

Still from the video Thank You for Carrying. Photo: Helge Olsèn
From the workshop where the artist corrected and reassembled the remains of Lily, the last living Öland horse, together with invited expert and veterinarian Tove Särkinen. In collaboration with Kultivator and the study forum New Horse Cultures. Photo: Erik Rören