Sophie Dupont. A Slow Walk, Body And Room Encountering In Mirrors, 2014. Photo: Hans H. Bærholm

Copenhagen Art Week 2015 – Sharing the Space of Art 0

An interview with the curator of Copenhagen Art Week 2015, Charlotte Bagger Brandt

By Lizete Riņķe

After coming to a standstill for almost two months during the summer holidays, the Copenhagen art scene is once again bustling with activity in August. Starting Friday August 21 (and for the third year in a row), Copenhagen Art Week will take over the city for ten days; I can almost guarantee that no one will be able to avoid noticing it. Organized by the web magazine, Copenhagen Art Week brings together over fifty of Denmark’s most prominent art institutions, presenting an abundant and comprehensive program both within and outside their walls. All the exhibitions and events are brought together under a joint theme – “Shared Space”, in what is a continuation of the concept set out last year. For the second year in a row, Charlotte Bagger Brandt has been invited to curate Copenhagen Art Week. Charlotte Bagger Brandt is curator, director and initiator of Råderum – mobile office of contemporary art. Recently I had the chance to meet Brandt and we spoke about her second year as curator of Copenhagen Art Week, as well as about this year’s theme and the program itself.

“The art world is really like a huge infrastructure or ecosystem, where everybody – from a small project space to large state institutions – might have their own place, but they are still interrelated and need each other, and they are able to inspire each other. This was one of the things that we focused on last year when we initiated different initiatives across the various institutions – they had to have a broad appeal, as well as be open to professionals and international participants. This is what we will continue with this year. My role is to bind all of this together. “

“Last year we started an international trial program together with The Danish Arts Foundation, in which I invited a number of international and Danish curators to discuss with other art professionals how we should work as institutions in 2015 – how knowledge can be shared and a dialogue created between institutions that all work in different ways with art. We will continue with the program this year as well.”

“Our main focus will be on how can we share this space of “art”; how we can make this space more democratic. It is important that we develop as institutions, and that we remember why we are there; we have to be more open. It’s not a simple subject, but I think that we are obliged, as institutions, to share what we do, and why we are here, with the surrounding world. This can be done in different ways, and I want to create a discussion about how this can be done, and how we can be inspired by each other and by what is going on internationally, as well as to be an inspiration internationally.”

“For me it is always very important to keep our eyes open to the outside world, which is not relegated to only a European or Scandinavian context. As far as organizational and economic possibilities are concerned, it is always best to start with different projects locally by convincing the institutions in Copenhagen that this is something that would be interesting to take part in, and then gradually extend these circles of cooperation and encounters. It’s about becoming better at gathering inspiration from others, and hopefully, also inspiring others.”

“The same goes for the public part, where we want to create infrastructures that are able to arouse the curiosity of the public. One of our highlights is Art in The Metro, which is comprised of three sound projects [Will Owen, Imran Perretta, Julie Nymann – L.R.] that one can experience on the metro 24/7. The metro is a beautiful space, but it is also an unequivocal space, which is why it will be interesting to activate it as something else.”

Charlotte Bagger Brandt. Tuala Hjarnø

Many events in the program are in the public space, outside any institutional framework. Why is this issue such a high priority for Copenhagen Art Week? The metro is a space where there are a lot of people and everybody is busy. Isn’t it a problem sometimes, with art in public spaces, that it disappears and that people don’t notice it?        

“I have worked with art in public spaces for many years, so I have a good feeling for what it takes to make it work within such a framework. Among other things, it requires a certain kind of simplicity, and it has to be in some way surprising and compelling; and naturally, the location also means something – generally it has to have a direct appeal to your senses. One of the works has been placed in front of the elevator at Nørreport Station, so that when you step out of the elevator, you virtually step onto the work [a video by Julie Nymann, “Shreds of laughter” L.R.]. It is a work that is extremely beautiful, but it also makes you uneasy – a work with multiple dimensions that you become a part of, and cannot just pass by. Things have to be complex – reality is complex, therefore art also has to be complex. There might be something that makes you approach it – it could be a scent or a sound – and suddenly you may find yourself in another universe; this then gives you courage and makes you curious to learn more.”

“With his work, Will Owen will invite the passengers on the metro to go to his website with their smart-phones, and then compose a piece of sound work together with other passengers. It will be interesting to see if we can make people participate. However, there will also be people who will perform it, and there will also be a guided tour with me – for those who don’t have the courage to try it themselves.”

“Another event that I think will be quite amazing is a boat tour through the canals of Copenhagen, done in cooperation with the National Gallery, Chart Art Fair and Astrid Noacks Atelier. In total, there will be two tours in which Jenny Gräf Sheppard, Will Owen and Claus Haxholm will compose sound art pieces along with the active participation of the audience. Jenny Gräf Sheppard will create a new fragrance, “Channel Mist”, from the water of the harbour, with viewers participating in the creation of the fragrance. In Will Owen’s performance, the audience actually becomes a part of the work: the sound is transferred through the act of one person touching the person next to her or him. It is a work where you really need to push some boundaries as the viewer. It is really something I am looking forward to.”

“CHART Art Fair also has several performances on their program for Saturday, the 22nd, and some of these will also be based on active audience participation.”

“With “Shared Space”, we wanted to try to work with something that binds us all together. All of the various institutions work with some interesting projects, but we wanted to do something that bridges across them. We thought that we could maybe do something in the metro or on the tour boats, because the boats actually connect the different art institutions situated along the waterside. We asked the different partners that we cooperate with to come up with some ideas on how they could contribute to this year’s theme. So we have curated the framework more than the content, which itself is more like a huge puzzle.”

Cph Art Week

Is Copenhagen Art Week also significant to Copenhagen on an international level?

“I would say so, and it will probably be even more so in the future. We have intensified our international visiting program for performers, various small galleries from around Europe, art critics, etc., which is something that we initiated last year. It is an opportunity to meet with the different institutions while their doors are wide open and there is freedom and time for additional dialogue. It is a great deal about networking. It helps institutions to keep going, to be able to make interesting events for the public. As an institution or a curator, you need new inputs, new collaborations – or otherwise you fade out.”

“Among the larger events during Copenhagen Art Week, I would definitely suggest TRUST – an exhibition project by five art venues in Copenhagen, and basically the heir to the previously-held U-Turn festival. They have invited the Belgian curator Sonia Dermience, and she has played with the historical identity of each venue. Here the artists have worked jointly to reinvent and revive the history of the buildings. This is also one of the things that I look forward to.”

“I also look forward to our Project Space Day, which is open to everybody – it's a bike ride around the city during which we will visit various project spaces throughout the day, and which winds up with the mini symposium “What’s The Alternative?”, in the former area of the Carlsberg Breweries. Here the project spaces invite each other and the audience to participate in a group discussion. The subject will be: What kind of responsibilities and challenges, as well as possibilities, are there for project rooms, taking into account that they possess so much freedom?”

“This year’s theme particularly invites people to come and share their space with others, which is an idea that has been important for us since the very beginning. This is what makes Copenhagen Art Week different. I have seen a bit of SUPERMARKET in Stockholm, which is an art fair for artist-run project spaces. They have been extremely good at creating a lot of dialogue, and that's also what we try to do before and during our art week. Throughout these ten days we will be hosting a group dialogue about sharing art with the public and the outside world, and the theme of sharing is also the subject of the various projects.”

“Returning to your question about art in public spaces... Why art in public spaces is particularly interesting is because it provides the chance to engage with the public, to have a dialogue with people who would not normally participate in art; this is then an extra challenge. When you work in these complex spaces that public spaces intrinsically are, you have to be in them and feel them architecturally and mentally in order to understand what kind of a space they are – what characterises them, how quickly do people move about in them – and then you have to create something that works, something that people can immerse themselves into if they want to. It also challenges the definition of art and what art can do, but most of all, it is very interesting to invite people to participate in something they normally wouldn’t take part in. It is one of the obligations of institutions to reach out and have a dialogue with the surrounding world and the society that you are a part of, particularly if you are state-funded. Art in public spaces can make us think; it may lead us to take a different direction than we would have without it – which is something that I, personally, think we need as a society.”

Julie Nymann. Shreds of laughter (still), 2014

Is there anything in particular that you regard as a major coup for Copenhagen Art Week?

“In fact, what I am most glad about is that things are budding; that everything is not focused around one huge, ostentatious event, but that there are so many interesting things. That there is enough going on to maintain the intensity throughout the whole week.”

Is it also a way to break down the hierarchy wherein some events and names steal all of the limelight?

“That’s a good way to put it.”

“Naturally, CHART and TRUST are major events, but we try to tell people that there are also many other ways to do it. This is a party that goes on for ten days, and there are different kinds of events taking place during these ten days; all of the participating institutions have their own impact and value. That's why the headline is “Shared Space”.

“Copenhagen Art Week is a process. It’s about opening doors.”