By Lizete Riņķe, reporting from Copenhagen 11/02/2015
A new year has arrived along with a slightly delayed winter, and Copenhagen’s art venues and galleries have opened their doors to the year’s first shows, which I always particularly look forward to. As snowflakes sporadically fall from the sky, I set out to check out some of the current exhibitions. Here I have selected a few that are definitely worth visiting.
Marie Kølbæk Iversen “Mirror Therapy”, 2015. Installation view. Courtesy of Fotografisk Center/Kevin Broadbery
Marie Kølbæk Iversen “Mirror Therapy” Fotografisk Center Through March 8, 2015
I started at the Fotografisk Center in the Meat Packing District, where it finally has found its permanent home in one of the brick buildings in the oldest part of the district – the Brown Meat City, after a long period of wandering from one location to another. On view here is a brand-new installation, Mirror Therapy, by the Danish visual artist Marie Kølbæk Iversen (b. 1981), which was created especially for the Fotografisk Center.
The new spacious exhibition space is immersed in complete darkness for the occasion, where five slide projectors cast visually stunning luminous abstract images in blue, golden and silvery shades onto a 12.5-meter screen constructed across the room. At first sight, they look like they could be photos of a shimmering galaxy or satellite photos of the Earth, but in fact, they are paper-thin slices cut from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli; the slices have been placed in the projectors between two glass plates and projected onto the screen in enlarged form, thus revealing the interior of the stone. Every other slice is rotated, so that the stone appears as a whole again through the mirror image. The stone comes from Afghanistan, and draws many references from art history – in antiquity, it was used as a highly decorative stone for vases, figures and ornaments, as well as being crushed to attain the deep blue pigment ultramarine, which was widely used in Renaissance paintings.
However, in her work, Marie Kølbæk Andersen refers to Afghanistan and the many years of war – a war in which Danish soldiers have also fallen and been mutilated – and the relationship between the East and the West. The work takes its title from the latest method of treatment to have been developed by neuroscientists, and which is used to relieve phantom pain in amputated limbs; the treatment is today offered to war veterans. By mirroring an image of the healthy limb in place of the amputated one, the therapy helps the patient’s brain perceive the body as being whole again. When entering the exhibition, visitors are invited to watch on a tablet a film by Marie Kølbæk Andersen. The film shows a Danish veteran of the Afghanistan war during a session of mirror therapy; the film could be an educational tool, but I am not sure how much it adds to the whole experience of the work. I would suggest viewing the work in its own beauty and letting it speak for itself – before watching the video and reading the introductory text on the wall; this way, the many possible layers of meaning might be better conveyed.
Jannis Kounellis “New Works” Galleri Bo Bjerggaard Through April 11, 2015
Around the corner, in White Meat City – the other part of the Meat Packing District, the established Galleri Bo Bjergaard is presenting Jannis Kounellis, a major name in contemporary art and a central figure in the 1960s Italian art movement Arte Povera. Although this 78-year-old artist was born in Greece, he has spent most of his life in Italy.
The show consists of brand-new works which, like many of the artist’s works, were constructed on location; the artist was present for a whole week prior to the exhibition, installing the works in cooperation with assistants. The Arte Povera artists were known for their use of humble everyday materials in their work – such as iron, wood, coal, sackcloth and old garments, as well as other found objects – all materials that induce associations in our private and collective memories. At Bo Bjergaard, iron I-beams (usually used in construction) are a recurring element in all of the works – repetition is Kounellis’ trademark.
In the first room is a series of works in which pieces of iron I-beams of various lengths hang vertically down on meat hooks in front of large white identically-sized canvases; they remind one of huge reversed bar charts. In the next room, I-beams hang on two large iron plates. On one of the plates, the beams have been threateningly sharpened to a point at one end, whereas on the other plate they are wrapped in burlap sacks that once contained coffee from Cuba and other goods with connotations to Western colonialism. A work with a single horizontal beam that hangs on a wire in front of a white canvas breaks the verticality.
In the third room, old ripped men’s jackets hang in a row in front of a white canvas on large, rather frightening butcher’s knifes. Next to it, on an iron plate, a hat and three black, almost identical overcoats hang on meat hooks, like dead bodies. Next to the window is a piece in which iron I-beams mounted on a copper plate form a reversed cross. All the works are untitled and visually very simple – the beauty of the materials is allowed to unfold. The works are exceptionally impressive in their industrial roughness, which goes particularly well with the gallery space and the surroundings of the Meat Packing District, but at the same time, they are also highly loaded with meaning.
Vinyl, Terror & Horror “Tanz mal wieder”, 2015. Installation view. Photo: Gether Contemporary
Vinyl, Terror & Horror “Tanz mal wieder” Gether Contemporary Through February 28, 2015
Gether Contemporary is a new player on the Copenhagen art scene, having opened in November 2014 next door to the Galleri Bo Bjergaard. The second show at the gallery consists of a sound installation by Vinyl, Terror & Horror, which is a collaboration between Camilla Sørensen (b.1978) and Greta Christiansen (b.1977).
Inside the gallery space you are met by something that could look like a stage set-up for a concert or a DJ – there are record players, loudspeakers, spotlights, and a lot of electrical cords on the floor. At closer look, all the objects are deconstructed and reconstructed – the vinyl records, the loudspeakers and even the old record sleeves on the wall. There is also a raised object that reminds one of a rostrum in hardwood, which is disintegrating from below, as well as fragments of the kind of hardwood floor that is normally found in ballrooms. Black curtains are drawn behind you and the lights are dimmed, and you stand there alone for a minute, wondering what is going to happen, when the bizarre show starts. One at a time, various sounds begin to flow from all sides, emanating from the different sculptural objects in the installation – the sound of footsteps from one side, a scratchy and crackling record begins to play unexpectedly on the opposite side, or one of the loudspeakers seems to fall apart suddenly, and so on, for seven whole minutes, which is the duration of this noisy performative composition. The experience is rather uncanny, as if you are the audience at a concert performed by some invisible band, conducted by an invisible conductor – the name Vinyl, Terror & Horror is certainly incisive for this duo.
“The Hot Show”. Installation view. Courtesy of Galleri Nicolai Wallner
“The Hot Show” Galleri Nicolai Wallner Through February 21, 2015
The next exhibition is introduced simply as The Hot Show, which certainly generates an air of expectancy. On the grounds of the former Carlsberg Breweries, Galleri Nicolai Wallner starts off the year with an extensive group exhibition that features 23 artists and more than 40 works. This is quite a lot for a gallery show, but nevertheless, due to the large size of the gallery, it works rather well. The participating artists are young rising stars, as well as a few already more established names, who have all graduated from the Malmö Art Academy in the past few years. Some of the names were represented last year in the exhibition Understrøm – Young Nordic Art, at the Aros Aarhus Art Museum.
Since 1995, The Malmö Art Academy has focused on ideas and concepts as the keys to artistic development, instead of specific disciplines or techniques. An openness has been cultivated under the supervision of Gertrud Sandqvist – Principal and Professor in the Theory and History of Ideas of Visual Arts; this methodology has virtually allowed each student to create his or her own education. The Academy has a distinctly international profile with a large number of international students, as evidenced by the exhibition at Nicolai Wallner.
The artists work within different disciplines, and the presented works cover a wide range of media – although there is a slight over-representation of object-based installations, as well as several videos, photos and prints. Painting, in its traditional form, is practically absent from the show, with the exception of the large oil painting När Stoftet Sjunker Neder (2014-2015), by Danilo Stankovic (b. 1981). Stankovic works with traditional techniques like oil, watercolour and drawing, but also with video, found objects and sculpture. His works are dreamy and melancholy, but they also hide something dark and mysterious, and remind one of symbolist painting.
In one corner of the gallery, a provisional room has been built for the display of video works. There you can view videos by five different artists. The documentary-style Chicxulub – Terra Extraterretre (2013), by Helene Garberg (1983) and shot in Yucatán, Mexico, shows a taxi ride to a small town in which a kind of memorial has been set up for the dinosaurs that were wiped out by a meteor 65 million years ago. This work was presented at CPH:DOX 2013, as part of the Artists Film programme. American Lily Benson was also present at CPH:DOX 2013, together with her co-producer Cassandra Guan, where they were nominated for the NEW:VISION AWARD for their work titled The Filmballad of Mamadada. This exhibition presents her video, A Tour of the Self Cleaning House (2014), which is a 3D digital animation of a fantasy version of the Self-Cleaning House, whose prototype was invented by Francis Gabe and built in Newberg, Oregon, to liberate women from housework.
Bjarni Tor Petursson’s (IS) film, Faun (2012), is one of the most remarkable works in the show. It is a black and white, highly cinematic film projected onto a black matte panel; in the film, a young man wanders with a vacuum cleaner around something that looks like a large, dark bouncy castle, in some mysterious, indefinable place. The video works are, undoubtedly, some of the strongest contributions to the show.
Jordan Tate & Rick Silva “Drape Wave”. Courtesy New Shelter Plan
Jordan Tate and Rick Silva “Drape Wave” New Shelter Plan Through February 28, 2015
I proceed to the non-profit gallery New Shelter Plan, which is hidden away in yet another building in the Carlsberg District, and which can be a challenge to find for a first time visitor. In its 185m2 space, complete with old raw wooden floors, it presents new contemporary art by both emerging and more established artists working in a wide range of media.
At the moment, it is hosting a collaborative exhibition by the Brazilian-born and Canada-based new media artist Rick Silva, and the American artist Jordan Tate; their work addresses the mutability of the image. Rick Silva’s work has been shown in a number of exhibitions and new media art festivals around the world, including Transmediale in Germany, and Sonar in Spain. He is particularly known for his net art projects (you can see some of his work on (ricksilva.net). Silva is known for his “digital landscapes” in which his point of departure is the long-standing tradition of landscape painting, as well as other digital depictions of the natural world. The exhibition shows two of his works. I would like to particularly highlight his exceptionally captivating simulated ocean wave animation – it features continuously rolling waves with two armchairs floating upright on the surface of the water; as the chairs rock up and down with every wave, they are accompanied by the hypnotic sound of rippling water.
Jordan Tate works with photography, exploring its limits and the common notion that photography is a mechanical reproduction of reality; he also delves into contemporary image production and the perception of images. Tate’s contribution to the exhibition is a number of prints on fabric. One of them is a large banner draped on the wall: it depicts an idyllic image in vivid colours – like those that you see in the ads for travel agencies showing an exotic beach with white sand, blue water, palms and a woman in a hammock – except that here, the image has been digitally stretched to the degree that the motif has almost been erased, and become simply multi-coloured lines.
The title of the show, Drape Wave, seems appropriate for the exhibition, for both artists, in their own way, show “an image” as a fluid, multidimensional entity that can be infinitely folded, draped, modified and extended through multiple digital technologies.
Edgar Leciejewski “Helga”, 2013. Courtesy of Peter Lav Gallery
Edgar Leciejewski “Die Verweigerung der Realität im der Realität” Peter Lav Gallery Through February 28, 2015
The photographic medium and its mediation of reality is also a subject for the next exhibition on my list, albeit in a slightly more traditional manner. At Peter Lav photo gallery on Bredgade in the city centre, German artist Edgar Leciejewski (b.1977) has created a series of faceless portraits – he has erased the faces with abrasive paper, so that a white field almost entirely covers the face of the portrayed persons. Standing in front of the three large photos titled Helga (2013), Christina (2014), and Ronny (2014), we are left puzzled about their identities. The only clue is the clothing of the subjects, which covers each of the photo frames. The photographs are thus endowed with the authenticity and presence usually attributed to the photographic medium, but in this case, it has been expanded beyond the usual.
Edgar Leciejewski “Ronny”, 2014. Courtesy of Peter Lav Gallery
There are also a couple of other works by Leciejewski, one of which is Snout II (2013), a large photo of a bookshelf with an abundance of books on art and cultural history, among them iconic works from the history of photography, a multi-volume encyclopaedia, and some more personal images and other objects that include such curiosities as a green snout-beetle – here we have the source of the title. However, the image is a construction – a digital collage of several images. Some of the areas of the image have been digitally pixelated or blurred, so that the information remains hidden and unreadable; this makes you even more curious, and you find yourself drawn to the image, compelled by the desire to study it close-up and find out what it is that has been blurred out.
The photographic image is no longer what it used to be, but questions still remain – what is photographic reality, and has photography ever been a true representation of reality?
Jacob Kirkegaard “AION”, Chernobyl, Ukraine, 2005. Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Contemporary Art
Jacob Kirkegaard “Earside Out” Museum of Contemporary Art Through April 26, 2015
My last recommendation is to take an approximately 25-minute trip by train to Roskilde (which is otherwise known for its music festival) to view and to hear the first major solo exhibition by the Danish-born, Berlin-based sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard (b.1975), at the Museum of Contemporary Art situated right next to Roskilde Cathedral.
The exhibition is primarily retrospective, and presents some of Kirkegaard’s most important works from the past ten years as well as a brand-new work, Earside Out (2014), created especially for the Museum of Contemporary Art. It is quite a comprehensive show, and requires a degree of absorption and investment of time, but it certainly pays off.
Jacob Kirkegaard is mostly renowned as a sound artist and composer, but in fact, he is highly versatile in his oeuvre and also works very successfully with video, photography and installation. Kirkegaard’s approach and work with sound is almost scientific. He explores the phenomenon of sound and its different manifestations, and last but not least, silence. Unsurprisingly, he is also interested in our hearing and the human ear as such, which is the focus of the exhibition. This is epitomised by the installation Earside Out, which consists of 12 small speakers attached to metal threads that have been suspended between the ceiling and the floor. The speakers form a spiral shape, mimicking the spiral shape of the inner ear, and they play tones that the human ear can produce without external stimulus – known as spontaneous otoacoustic emissions. Using particularly sensitive microphones, Kirkegaard has recorded these sounds from the ears of several individuals aged between 12 and 38, as these tones usually occur in the ears of younger people. The tones vary from one person to the other, and they usually cannot be heard by the person. In this way, Kirkegaard makes it possible for us to listen to the sound. In the work, he also points out the dual nature of the ear as both receiver and producer of sound.
The work is very subtle and therefore, it is slightly unfortunate that it is situated in a room next to the bookshop and ticket desk, where the voices of the other visitors interfere with the sounds of the exhibit (even though there were few of them that day). Unfortunately, a problem with sound was a general occurrence, as some of the works were louder than others, and the exhibition rooms are situated next to each other – the sounds from the different works blurred together, and made it difficult to experience the full potential of the works.
My personal favourites are STIGMA (2014), Pivot (2012), and probably one of Kirkegaard’s most renowned works, AION (2006), which was exhibited at MoMA in New York in 2013. All three works are also visually truly outstanding. AION (“infinity” or “eternity” in ancient Greek) consists of sound recordings from four abandoned spaces (a swimming pool, a concert hall, a gymnasium, and a church) located in the exclusion zone in Chernobyl in Ukraine, which has been deserted since the nuclear disaster in 1986. The sound recordings of each space were re-recorded and layered multiple times, thereby revealing the resonant tones of each room – the residual sounds of spaces in which there seems to be no sound, only silence; but as Kirkegaard points out, complete silence doesn’t exist. The sounds are accompanied by projections of layered video of the same spaces.
STIGMA is a sequel to AION, and consists of recordings that use the same technique as in AION, but from four different places in the surrounding landscape of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan – the site of another nuclear incident. Video footage of four different, seemingly idylliclandscapes, with their vertical format and aesthetics inspired by traditional Japanese scroll paintings, accompanies the sound. However, the sound has a strong impact on the perception of the views of the landscapes; somehow, their idyllic beauty becomes obscured, and instead, they are transformed into something alarming.
Jacob Kirkegaard in Fukushima, Japan, 2014. Photo: Takashi Arai
In spite of this minor annoyance of a lack of sound insulation, it is exceptionally fascinating to submerge oneself into Kirkegaard’s captivating universe of sound and visuals; it doesn’t let go of you for some time after you have left the museum. In some strange way, I seemed to become more aware of the different sounds around me as I was sitting on the train, on my way back to Copenhagen.