Cian Burke, I fear that the magic has left this place

‘I fear that the magic has left this place’ is a body of work that was inspired by the story of Karl-Göran Persson who, having received a booklet titled Om Kriget Kommer (If War Comes) distributed by the Swedish government in 1943, began to fortify his small farmhouse until he had created a giant concrete bunker that could protect himself and his entire local community. While Persson passed away in 1975 the decaying ruin of the house still remains as a monument to his endeavours. More recently the government sent around an updated version of the booklet, now titled Om Krisen eller Kriget Kommer (If Crisis or War Comes), with advice related to more contemporary threats.

Today this house stands as an embodiment of a reaction to such perceived threats, and its status as a ruined and fragmented construction allows us a connection to that history. An exploration of these past references can also encourage connections to be made with our present condition, naturally leading to a sense of concern about the future. In our current climate the idea of the future seems as something evermore precarious and out of our hands.

Using the tale of this fortified farmhouse as a starting point Cian Burke set about creating a series of images depicting both small, spontaneous constructions and observations that he felt reflected upon questions and themes such as where we exist in relation to an imagined future/or past, what it might mean to fortify a place, a home, for perceived threats that may or may not ever come and how cast-off objects and materials can function as symbolic portents.

The body of work for this project consists of a series of black & white images, a set of digital collages in which graphic elements from the original booklet (with its text removed) are combined with images from the exterior walls of Persson’s bunker house, together with a text based work. These elements aim at creating a narrative in which real events and internalised hopes and fears are juxtaposed with fictional ideas and spaces.


Cian Burke is an artist originally from Dublin but has been based in Sweden since 2010. Working primarily with photography, installation and text his work sits at the intersection of the documentary field and the mannerisms of staged photography – where the notion of truth is up for negotiation. His practice is driven by a fascination in the role imagination plays in both art and various scientific systems of collecting and categorising, and in exploring the ways in which both can be used for the production of knowledge as well as systems for the visualisation of certain perceived ‘truths’.

In 2019 he was selected for the 3rd cycle of the Parallel Photography Platform during which he developed his most recent body of work ‘I fear that the magic has left this place’ which has since been exhibited at Landskrona Photo Festival and Studio44 in Stockholm. He has also exhibited in Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Norway, Spain and Hungary.

In 2016 he self-published his first book ‘Terrestrial Excursions’ and has had his work included in the Art & Theory publication, YPN Sweden. Recent awards include the Theodor & Hanne Mannheimer’s fund and a 1 year working grant from the Swedish Arts Council.

Burke is based in Malmö, Sweden where he is also the artistic director of Galleri Format, a gallery dedicated to presenting photography and moving image. He holds a BA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MFA from Valand Academy in Gothenburg.