Today’s Photo: The Disco Ball on Lake Växjö

An example of Orrefors glass from Småland

Lake Växjö, in the center of downtown Växjö and within walking distance of shops and businesses, has a few entertaining additions, like a lovely fountain lit at night (currently unlit because it’s not warm enough for people to sit and look at the lake at night) and a gigantic disco ball.

What? A gigantic disco ball? Why?? 

I have asked locals. Their answers to why the local Fathers and Mothers decided, five years ago, that the lake needed a huge, rotating disco ball floating on the water’s surface are some version of “I have no idea,” so I’ve come up with my own explanation.

I think it’s there as a sort-of esoteric Swedish statement that says something like “we’re cool and interesting people with a cool and different aesthetic that is hard to explain but involves a lot of round shapes and glass.” I think this is true because shop windows also contain a lot of glass and round shapes, especially lighting features.

The glass part is especially true, because Småland, where Växjö is located, is renowned for two specific exports: its glassmaking, and Ikea. If you’ve gone to Ikea, or you’ve ever bought any Orrefors or Kosta Boda, you were buying something from Småland.

The Swedish aesthetic is incredibly charming and sentimental, when it isn’t modern and outré. I think these odd disparities are part of what makes Sweden so desirable a culture to Americans. Every time I come, I feel as though I could just as easily be living on a set for the movie 2001. Then I turn around and feel as though I go back in time to the farmlands my family comes from in the States, the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, which are so similar to the rolling hills here. That’s the interesting time continuum you are on when you get here, from extreme modern to charming memorabilia.

The Disco Ball represents, at least to this American, an odd blending of 1970-ish Saturday Night Fever excess and the mostly-Modernist principles that underlie Swedish sensibilities. What I call the “Swedish sensibility” is comprised of, on one hand, clean lines, a lot of white and glass, and no excess frills. And then you turn around and you’re visiting a house with lace curtains and tiny flowers growing along the path, and you feel like you should don an apron and bake something.

Sweden represents some interesting contradictions, in other words.

The Disco Ball skims the surface of the lake, appearing to float on the water. It turns, gently, to greet the sunlight. It's pretty cool.

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