The summer holiday season is approaching – a time of the year when the city suddenly becomes practically deserted for a whole month. Actually, I very much enjoy this time of the year in Copenhagen, when everybody leaves the city, because there is a particularly calm and relaxed atmosphere – no rush-hour bustle or traffic, and plenty of space on the streets, narrow sidewalks and bicycle paths; and those who do stay seem to slow down and chill-out in the parks and at the waterfront.
Also, some of the galleries close down for the holidays, while others present summer shows with group exhibitions featuring their own gallery artists. But before the entire city goes into holiday mode, I set out for a round of Copenhagen’s galleries.
Alicja Kwade “Freitag, 21. Juni 2013, 15:30:11 Uhr”. 2014. Courtesy of Nicolai Wallner
Alicja Kwade “Forecasting Horizon” Galleri Nicolai Wallner Through June 28, 2014
I start my round in Carlsberg City, with the exhibition of the Berlin-based Polish artist Alicja Kwade (b.1979), at Nicolai Wallner. A visit to Galleri Nicolai Wallner is always a must, and this time is no exception. Kwade works in a range of different materials and media, as well as with found objects. All her pieces possess a distinct simplicity and elegance. There is something truly captivating about her sculptures – they seem delicate and fragile, even when the works are executed in materials such as bronze and other precious metals, as well as with glass and mirrors. This fragility is even more accentuated by the industrial look of the vast gallery space – a former truck garage.
Kwade is preoccupied with the notions of space, time and reality, and is therefore a subject present in most of her work. The subject of time is particularly explicit in some of her pieces, like the two sculptures that make up Gestrennte Stunde (Separate Hour) – two identical, slowly and perpetually rotating hourglasses mounted to the wall; however, their construction does not allow the sand to run from one section of the hourglass to the other. There is also Kwade’s extensive use of found watches in her work. In contrast, in her other works she plays with our perception of time in a more indirect and subtle way. Freitag, 21. Juni 2013, 15:30:11 Uhr consists of a small slab of gold and seven cubes in various sizes – made of silver, nickel, tin, copper, lead, zinc and aluminium – which have been placed in specific relation to one another. The dimensions of each object reflect the value of that particular metal at the specified time on the London Stock Exchange, and using the value of five grams of gold as a starting point. The prices fluctuate constantly, which has an influence on the whole economy, and consequently, also on our daily lives. Kwade’s work is a narrative about the unpredictability of the future, as well as our desire to predict the future, or what will happen to our reality in the future.
Alicja Kwade “Untitled”. 2014. Courtesy of Nicolai Wallner
Many of the sculptures are made in double or other multiples, and in some way they relate to each other by showing different interpretations of the same object – as if the object is being presented in “before and after” versions. The two objects called Untitled, with a frail piece of bronze extending from the surface of a mirror, seem almost surrealistic. In the first version, the piece of bronze is leaning against the mirror, leaving just a slight imprint on the plain surface, whereas in the second version, the piece of bronze has melted into the surface of the mirror and is sliding down the wall and along the floor, thus creating a tension between the image and the physical reality, and simultaneously – challenging our perception of the materials.
Mathias & Mathias (La Belle Inertie). Installation view. Courtesy of Last Resort Gallery
Mathias & Mathias (La Belle Inertie) Last Resort Gallery Through July 5, 2014
The next stop is Last Resort Gallery, in the centre of Copenhagen. The gallery is presenting a project by the young Danish artistic duo of Mathias & Mathias, aka Mathias Toubro (b.1986) and Mathias Dyhr (b.1991). Upon entering the dimly lit gallery room, you get the feeling that you have entered an abandoned mausoleum in which some monuments have been left to slowly decay; one of the monuments has been overturned and there is rubble spread across the floor. The installation consists of a group of tall, life-size plaster busts with contours of genitals that are somehow misplaced – lower down on the pillar, below the bust. The work contains references to classical sculpture, which is something that the duo often embraces in their practice, integrating it into their installations. Looked at more closely, you realise that all of the sculptures depict the same, expressionless face of a man – staring at you with hollow eyes. The sculptures face a single bust of a female in the middle, about half as large as the others. You also become aware of a faint, perfumed scent in the gallery space, which according to the work's description, is a hand-made perfume and a part of the installation. There is something melancholic about the whole setting, and the perfume seems to intensify it.
Alex Da Corte “Delirium I”. Installation view. Courtesy of the David Risley Gallery
Alex Da Corte “Delirium I” David Risley Gallery Through June 28, 2014
David Risley, on Bredgade, is presenting a solo show of the Philadelphia-based artist Alex Da Corte (b.1981). In fact, it is more appropriate to speak of one single work, since the whole gallery has been transformed into a total installation; you literally walk into the work and become part of it. It is a rather striking experience to enter the first of the gallery rooms. The walls of the room have been painted bright red and pastel pink, and the floor is covered with acrylic tiles that have been laid down in a lattice-type grid and in the same colours; there are mirrors in the spaces between the lattice lines, and you can see a reflection of yourself. It is a slightly uneasy feeling one gets when stepping on and into the artwork, particularly when you accidentally step on one of the eggshells that are lying on the floor. Smashed red eggs lie in several places around the gallery, and yellow yolks runs down the walls and the window.
Something bad seems to have happened here. A painting of a dead woman, lying in an awkward position on a tiled floor, hangs on one of the walls. In her hand she is clutching a pink scarf with red roses on it. A similar scarf constitutes a background for a tapestry that hangs on the opposite wall. There are several of these tapestries at the exhibition, and from a distance, they look like they could be Hermes silk scarves; but when you approach them, you realise that they are just cheap copies with different objects attached to them – plastic spiders, fake eyelashes, cheap jewellery, fake vegetables, a dagger, and other objects with an obviously sexual connotation. Everything is fake and tacky here. The only survivors of what might have taken place here seem to be two stuffed parrots, which greet you in the two gallery rooms.
Alex Da Corte “Delirium I”. Installation view. Courtesy of the David Risley Gallery
The second room is red and purple, and lit by neon tubes on the ceiling. A photo of a blond woman, who is either laughing or screaming, hangs on a wall; something resembling a large bolt is plunged into her cheek. An IKEA shelf stands in the room, with a bottle of Calvin Klein’s “Obsession” perfume on it, along with some other everyday objects and a stuffed snake. The name of the perfume seems to match the whole atmosphere perfectly.
On the way out, you discover the murder weapon – a large knife with a glass blade – hidden on a shelf just next to the door. It feels as if you are in your own nightmare, wandering around some creepy house; or as if you are on a David Lynch film set. The entire place seems to be infused with something diabolic.
As a viewer, you walk around in this concurrently fascinating and repulsive universe, and try to build a story in your head of what might have happened here; and maybe of what might follow, since here we only are experiencing Part I of the delirium, as the title of the exhibition indicates.
The installation reveals Da Corte’s extreme comprehensiveness as an artist, both in terms of the materials and media, and the sources of inspiration; he works with painting, sculpture, textile work, installations, photo, video and performance, employing some pop art strategies, but with a different, more poetic approach.
Camilla Rasborg. “Mørklægningsgardin 1 (Blackout Curtain 1)”. 2013. Courtesy of the Peter Lav Gallery
Camilla Rasborg, Carina Zunino, Adam Jeppesen, Julie Boserup “Touching Light” Peter Lav Gallery Through August 16, 2014
The following exhibitions in my gallery round are part of the Copenhagen Photo Festival 2014, which took place (for the fourth time) from the 5th to 15th of June. In recent years, photography in Denmark has gradually secured its place in galleries and museums alongside other media. Just a few steps away from David Risley, the Peter Lav photo gallery is presenting a group exhibition with four Danish artists; all work with photography, but in very different ways. What the participating artists have in common is that they all, in their own individual way, challenge photography in the traditional sense and strive to redefine it as a medium.
Camilla Rasborg’s (b. 1974) two pieces, Blackout Curtain 1, are definitely my favourites. At first glance, it looks like a monochrome photograph of a curtain on a black background, but then you realize that it is actually a curtain. It is not what you would expect to be defined as photography – these are imprints of light created by sunlight on blackout curtains that the artist found in an apartment in Århus.
Julie Boserup. “Untitled”. 2013. Courtesy of the Peter Lav Gallery
Likewise, Julie Boserup (b. 1976) challenges photographic representation with her colourful, almost kaleidoscopic collages in which she experiments with texture, colour and space. Her Untitled is from a series of collages in which she works with a reinterpretation of architecture and space by splitting up a photograph of an existing building, and then putting it together again. Boserup’s work could be positioned somewhere in-between drawing, photography and collage.
Adam Jeppesen and Carina Zunino both explore landscape as a motif. Zunino has slashed her dramatic, vast landscapes of Iceland right in the middle, like a stage curtain – which is also what their title, Curtain Falls, alludes to; or, she hangs them up like pieces of backcloth.
Jepessen’s large black and white landscapes (from his own trips) are pieced together from A4-format photocopies and are held up only with pins, while his smaller ones are printed on a single piece of A4-size paper and smudged with oil pastels, as if to simulate photographic or printing faults.
Carina Zunino “Curtain Falls”. 2013 and Adam Jeppesen “Untitled”. 2012. Courtesy of the Peter Lav Gallery
Thomas Demand “Model Studies”. Installation view. Courtesy of Avlskarl Gallery
Thomas Demand “Model Studies” Avlskarl Gallery Through July 12, 2014
Further up Bredgade, the Avlskarl Gallery is hosting an exhibition by the renown German photographer and film-maker, Thomas Demand (b. 1964). Demand is particularly known for his large-scale photographs of three-dimensional models of imaginary interiors and environments, but also of existing locations and places that have some historical importance, but which he has constructed himself from paper and cardboard. The models are photographed and then destroyed; their existence only remains as a moment from the past that has been captured in a photograph – the image becomes the reality.
The works in his latest series, Model Studies, are slightly different from his previous ones as described above. This time the models are not his own, but architectural maquettes of unrealised projects from the archive of the American architect, John Lautner; Demand came across the models during his residency at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, in 2011.
At first glance, Demand’s large photographs make you wonder about exactly what it is that you are looking at – they could be aerial photos of a desert, or a close-up of rock formations, but then you realise that they are close-ups of cardboard, sheets of wood, and other materials. The models are old and bruised, and photographed from different angles in natural light. Demand has zoomed-in so closely on Lautner’s models that the photographs are almost abstractions; the architecture itself has disappeared – the photographs have thereby become objects themselves. In this way, Demand’s work questions photography as a faithful representation of reality.
Peter Funch “Last Fight – An American Anthology”. 2013. Installation view. Courtesy of V1 Gallery
Peter Funch “Last Flight – An American Anthology” V1 Gallery Through June 28, 2014
My next stop is a solo show featuring the work of the New York-based Danish photographer, Peter Fuch (b.1974). Fuch’s monumental project, Last Flight - An American Anthology, which took him two years to complete, is based on the myth of the aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and her disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in 1937; and of the bridge that bears her name, built after her alleged death – although nobody knows her true fate. The bridge spanned the Missouri River between Buchanan County, Missouri, and Atchison, Kansas – Earhart’s hometown. The construction of the bridge began in the year of her disappearance and was completed in 1939, the same year that she was declared dead. In 2007 the bridge was deemed unsafe, and another bridge was built and opened in 2012. The original bridge was demolished in 2013.
All of the 75 photographic works, in an almost anthropological way, portray life in the town – its inhabitants, a slice of their daily life, and views of the town and landscapes. There are also old black and white archive photos and staged still-life photos of a dead fish, the remains of a dead animal, some rotten fruit, or a candle burning from both ends – reminding us of death and the impermanence of everything. As a leitmotif, the bridge is almost omnipresent, either through dramatic shots of its demolition (in which the bridge collapses in a cloud of dust), or it appears in a background of a landscape, in a window, or on the TV screen in the local gym. Funch has captured intimate portraits of different individuals and their lives, all bound together by the same history and the same event. As a viewer, you are left wondering about their identities and the situation in which the photo was taken; and thus, you – the viewer – are on a mission of exploration among the images, participating in the creation of a narrative.
Funch’s photographic approach is very diverse and includes intimate snapshots, descriptive photojournalism, poetic landscapes, almost abstract tableaux, and meticulously arranged compositions; together, they create a narrative about life and death, history and myth, fact and fiction, destruction and creation, and American life.
Peter Funch “Last Fight – An American Anthology”. 2013. Installation view. Courtesy of V1 Gallery
Heli Rekula “Garden 1 (Red)”. 2012. Courtesy of the Fotografisk Center
Heli Rekula “In Hemingway’s Garden” Fotografisk Center Through August 17, 2014
In its new location on Bygning 55, in Meat City, the Fotografisk Center is presenting an exhibition of the work of Finnish photographer and video artist Heli Rekula (b. 1963) – one of the key figures on the photography and video art scene in Finland today. She participated in the Venice Biennale's main exhibition in 2001, and was awarded the Ars Fennica Award in 2002 – Finland’s most prestigious art prize.
Rekula’s project, In Hemingway’s Garden, starts with her visit to an early home of Ernest Hemingway in Key West, Florida, which today is open to the public as a memorial museum. Hemingway lived there from 1931-1939. The garden that surrounds the home made such a deep impression on Rekula when she visited it for the first time as a tourist that, along with its history and the artist’s personal memories, she felt the urge to return to the garden over and over again.
Landscape photography is a recurring motif in Rekula’s artistic practice, and usually features arbitrary places that she has passed and that have no story attached – the landscapes were allowed to tell their own story, and they dealt with the photography as a medium. Because of its history and the impact it had on the artist, In Hemingway’s Garden is, therefore, different.
The exhibition shows a series of large, glossy prints of the surface of the water in the garden's swimming pool and the reflection of the palm trees and the shimmer of the sun on the water – in bright blue, blood red, as well as gray and black. Rekula practices “the aesthetics of error” in her photos by deliberately allowing technical errors, like a wrong scanner setting, which then results in colouring the water of the pool red. The pictures were taken at different times during 2012 and 2013. All of the displayed works are accompanied by Rekula’s notes on the conditions present during the moment the photo was taken, as well as other details explaining the background of the different pieces.
There are also a number of small black and white photos that have been framed behind glass and have quotations inscribed on them, as well as vintage press photos, notes and other archival material.
Rekula has used Hemingway as a point of departure, telling us about the writer as an icon in American literature and his family history. But most importantly, the project is about her own experience that is linked to a particular place and moment in time; in this way, instead of just documenting the garden's history, she has built a myth about it.
Heli Rekula “To Gertrude Stein”. 2013. Courtesy of the Fotografisk Center
Rekula’s and Peter Funch’s projects have in common the use of archival material, and in this way they create a fusion of older documentary work with new photographs. They bind the past and the present together in a subjective narrative that is about past events, but as seen from a new perspective.