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Lydia Nsiah, #000035189, 2013. Photo: Alastair Philip Wiper

Personal Storytelling and New Narratives 0

Anne Neimann Clement

Art Association GL STRAND, Copenhagen
December 6, 2013 – January 26, 2014

EXTRACT is GL STRAND’s annual exhibition of young international art.

EXTRACT aims to exhibit, celebrate and publicize younger artists internationally by presenting them in a comprehensive exhibition context in order to promote their work within a broader setting. For the visitor, EXTRACT is a chance to discover what is new and exciting in art right now, and a hint about who to keep an eye on in the future.

This year, GL STRAND again invited seven of the most talented and promising artists in Europe to participate in their first big international group exhibition. All seven artists have graduated from their master's program this year. The seven artists have not been chosen to fit an overall heading either in terms of content or a thematic starting point. The works presented span across several forms, including painting, sculpture, video and installation.

The exhibition is accompanied by the EXTRACT Prize, which was awarded to one of the exhibiting artists by an international jury consisting of artist Michael Elmgreen; the Director for Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm, Sara Arrhenius; the Chief Curator for the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Gateshead, Laurence Sillars; and the Director for GL STRAND, Helle Behrndt.

The participating artists are: Åsa Frankenberg (SE), Mollie Anna King (IRL), Laurits Nymand Svendsen (DK), Niels Pugholm (DK), Birgitte Martinsen (DK), Lydia Nsiah (AU), and Natalia Zaluska (PL).

Having studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, Jutland Art Academy, Funen Art Academy, The Royal Danish Art Academy and Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien, the artists represent a select cross-section of the international art scene as it appears right now. All artists were selected on the basis of their graduation from the art academies, and all of the works are being exhibited in Denmark for the first time.

Natalia Zaluska. Untitled, 2013. Photo: Alastair Philip Wiper

And the winner is...

The 2013 EXTRACT Prize went to the Danish artist Niels Pugholm, who has just graduated from the Funen Art Academy. For his audio and visual installation "Cimbre", Pugholm was awarded 50,000 Danish kroner; he has also been granted the opportunity to have a solo exhibition at GL STRAND in 2015.

Pugholm received praise for the strong narration with which he combined his personal story with a greater history, as well as for his original and innovative methods and the convincing relationship between form and content in his work.

"Cimbre" consists of a slide show with photographs of mountain landscapes and a speaker from which emanates the story of Marius and his mother - next-door neighbours to the artist in his hometown of Skive, in western Denmark.

Marius and his mother died in a very short span of one another, and with no relatives, the neighbours were the ones who had to set into order their personal belongings; this is when they stumbled upon an old slide projector and several colour photographs taken by Marius in the German Alps. These photos are now installed at GL STRAND, where they both verify the truth of the story and add a melancholic and murky atmosphere to the exhibition.

The invitation to EXTRACT became an opportunity for Pugholm to delve into the story behind Marius – and the reason for Marius' timid and shy character. At a residency in Mallorca, Pugholm wrote down his childhood memories from his subjective perspective, and composed an edifying and coherent story about the outsider couple across the street who had turned their back to the small community – apparently in self-defense.

To compliment his story, Pugholm interviewed his father and three other neighbours, all of whom remember the story quite differently. Through the various narratives, a more complex, and sometimes contradictory, history emerges: Did Marius ever get married? And why not? Was his father a German soldier, or what that just a lie? What was Marius' real name? And why did he only play German songs on his accordion?

The other stories are only revealed if you choose to take a look behind the big screen, where you'll find three iPads with headphones. The fact that the visitor needs to make an effort to get at the other dimensions of the story is clearly deliberate. As with all stories, they always come out in many versions, and the more you dive into them, the more confusing it gets.

Pugholm is, above all, interested in how narratives form reality, and how stories are constructed from various factors. He investigates how our way of verbalizing the past and present is typically subjective, and how the individual, the surrounding society and the past and present are all woven together into a great and general history through the act of our storytelling.

Pugholm refers to his working method as "reverse research", and his art often makes its point of departure from the artist’s own experience and network. It's an artistic process in which he searches for multiple layers, contradictions and a universal meaning in the (at times, absurd) details of the story. Video is Pugholm's primary medium, but he often makes use of found objects that have interesting stories or appearances.

Pugholm's works deal with the absurd in everyday life, and they are always presented with a good dose of humour and naivety: "I use humour because humour is where, I think, art and our common everyday life meet. Through my small stories, I try to put into play narratives in order to see how their mechanisms function and how they influence our identity and surroundings."

Laurits Nymand Svendsen. Artworks for animals. 2013

Artworks for Animals

Another artist who combines humour and absurdity with aesthetics, history and narrative is Laurits Nymand Svendsen (DK) – who just graduated from the Jutland Art Academy.

Nymand Svendsen works with texts, video, and installation as he investigates the field between science, cultural heritage and common knowledge. For EXTRACT, Nymand Svendsen has created a range of sculptures for animals that relate both to land art and concept art. Every sculpture is created for a certain animal and is presented with a short text and photo of the sculpture as it looks outside, in nature.

Artworks for animals challenge the traditional conventions of the museum. Mixing semi-scientific discourses with found objects, various media and text, Nymand Svendsen creates a space where works of art are on an equal footing with other objects. Consequently, he also challenges the way that visitors perceive and understand the exhibited objects.

Birgitte Martinsen. Airport wanderer. Still photo, 2013

Airport Wanderer

The final Danish artist participating – Birgitte Martinsen from the Royal Danish Art Academy – also plays with narratives, conventions, and fixed ideas.

For EXTRACT, she has made the video installation “Airport Wanderer”, in which she examines the relationship between the physical body and the cognitive part of our consciousness. With the video, she continues her studies on dwelling, or lingering, as not only an expression of neurotic traits, but also as a form of resistance against the establishment.

Birgitte Martinsen is interested in architect Rem Koolhaas’ description of the airport as a “non-space” – an unstable and disorienting place that, nevertheless, is characterized by patterns of constant movement. “Airport wanderer” is a term used in psychiatry to describe a person who wanders around the airport, seemingly without goals and/or direction.

Åsa Frankenberg. Blue shift, 2013. Photo: Alastair Philip Wiper

Formal investigations point back at art history

The four foreign participants investigate the formal limitations and possibilities to be found in film, sculpture, painting and architecture.

With his spatial installations, the Swedish artist Åsa Frankenberg aims to challenge our normal senses and perception of what we see, and through that, the way that we experience our surroundings.

The work "Blue Shift" has been created in a variety of versions, all of which involve the architectural context of the location at which it is being shown. “Blueshift” and “redshift” are terms used in astronomy that refer to shifts in the spectrum towards the blue or red ends, as measured by changes in wavelength and frequency. Cosmologically, blueshift indicates a shrinking, or collapsing, universe. By contrast, the expanding universe gives rise to a cosmological redshift.

At GL STRAND, Åsa has put up white nylon strings in a complex and delicate installation that both brings the room together and challenges our freedom of movement.

Lydia Nsiah, #000035189, 2013. Photo: Alastair Philip Wiper

Lydia Nsiah (A) is interested in the medium of film and its history, its use and its subjects. Her works often combine investigations that are of a technical and aesthetic character, and how these two forms interrelate.

Her work in the exhibition, entitled "#000035189", combines Super-8 shots with digitalized archive material. The film mixes the two file types in such a way that it does not emerge clearly which is which, and the original characters and qualities disappear. As a result, there arises a dynamic interaction between present-day high-tech production, and the bodies and expressions of the figures from the found material.

Mollie Anna King. Untitled I-III, 2013. Photo: Alastair Philip Wiper

Mollie Anna King (IR) creates sculptural structures that express a dialogue with architectural idioms and constructions. King often gives the structures a mechanism that creates an ongoing transformation, and sometimes her sculptures change over time.

The works, "Untitled I-III", draw inspiration from the so-called Googie architecture of the 1940s. Googie was an expression of the age’s optimistic belief in nuclear physics, and was typically executed in bright colours with striking steel structures and glass sections. In time, as perceptions shifted from the utopian to the dystopian, interest in the architecture waned and it went into decline.

Natalia Zaluska. Untitled, 2013. Photo: Alastair Philip Wiper

As the only  artist presented in EXTRACT, Natalia Zaluska (P) has taken up the most traditional medium in art history – painting.

Zaluska works with several materials in a constrained number of colours. Her works lie close to abstraction, and they have certain affinities with minimalist art. By working both with optical effects and the textures associated with the surface of the paintings, she continues an art-historical dialogue with the painting and art theory of the 1960s – all in order to implement investigations of structures and formal devices used for painting today.

An old but modern art institution

GL STRAND was founded by the famous Danish artist and professor C.W. Eckersberg in 1825. Eckersberg wanted to increase the public's knowledge of art and create a connecting link between the elitist Art Academy and the general public that make up the audience. From the outset, the starting point of GL STRAND’s exhibitions have been contemporary art and the support of young artists – and it still is.

GL STRAND is based in the city centre of Copenhagen, in a four-story-tall building with a view of Copenhagen's canals. GL STRAND annually features five to six major exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. The institution has two main curatorial strategies: showing classical masters of modern art with relevant contemporary aspects, and exhibiting artists who embody the latest tendencies of the Danish and international art scenes.

GL STRAND does not have a permanent collection. This gives the institution a great deal of curatorial freedom to bring in contemporary artists and the newest tendencies.