That is why the main minor note in the exhibition is a depressive alarm signaling the inability to make do in the present (in place of the daily comfort zone, it has become something unfamiliar, scary; it creates the need to be either constantly fighting for survival, or resisting). The ineptitude to find oneself in the present, or a fatal contradiction with it, can be seen in several works. This psychological mood is visible from a post-colonial view in the video installation, “Looking for Donkeys”, by Nanna Debois Buhl – the work is dedicated to the fate of the wild donkeys which, in the 18th century, the Danes introduced to one of the Virgin Islands in their ownership. The same motif is seen from a feminist angle in an audio-installation by the group Goksoyr&Martens: behind the white doors of a hospital, one hears the moans and screams of a woman giving birth; they get louder as the viewer nears the aisle that would seem to lead into the hospital ward. This condition is illustrated in a meditative manner in the work, “Zero”, by the Norwegian artist, Bodil Furu: in a monotone and slowed-down manner, the video shows one day in the life of a young, rich Norwegian man – he is busy with the routines of daily life and is unable to find himself a place in debilitating melancholia; in the present he is sad to the point of despair, and he does not have, and never will have, a tomorrow.
Bodil Furu. “Zero” 2008
The plot-line weaving through the exhibition (which is also, at the same time, its frame-like casing; one could say – a heraldic construction) is a painful perception of the present, accepting it as a lost paradise, a disappearing Arcadia, which once promised universal well-being and equality. And that is why the artist goes on an imagined trip to the past, which is usually a made-up or alternative past, but it allows one to find out the reasons for the lost present (or at least to find in the past the compensating justifications for today's shortcomings). In her video, “Stalin by Picasso or Portrait of a Woman with a Moustache”, Lene Berg tells us about Picasso's contention with France's Communist Party (in 1953, the French communistic weekly paper, “Les Letters Francaises”, commissioned a portrait of the “father of nations” from Picasso, but the party ended up rejecting it.) In this way, the artist shows the irony of history's unpredictability and the attempts (not always successful) to replay the past, so as to improve the present.
Eva La Cour. “The Free Look” 2011
Eva La Cour's media-installation, “The Free Look” – done with lyrical, nostalgic warmth – is a meticulously reconstructed trip taken in 1926 by three young, Danish communists. In a row boat, they rowed from Copenhagen to Leningrad and Novgorod, where they acquainted themselves with the nuances and details of soviet daily life. Mixing real documents with fictitious ones, as well as continually pulling down the fine and barely-sensed borders between the past, the present and the future, the artist brings one to the conclusion that this ancient journey in search of a communistic utopia invites today's viewer to think about an optimal or improved version of the future. Interestingly, similar attempts at finding a fantasy refuge in an alternative past was characteristic of Russian post-totalitarian art and literature of the 90's. At the time, cultural awareness was trying to survive – or speak about – the historical trauma that resulted from the catastrophic loss of connection to a world history project.
Steingrimur Eyfjord. “The Old Lady”. 2010-2011
A noticeable, even dominating part of the exhibition is created in connection with artistic documentation, archives and catalogs, which bring to the forefront the problem of self-classifying human experiences and states of psychological affectation. The Icelandic artist, Steingrimur Eyfjord, methodically, and on a daily basis, adds to his diary, which he calls “The Old Lady”. This diary is the author's collection of notes, interpretations, excerpts and newspaper and magazine clippings; it has all been translated into English and carefully bound in thick folders. Eyfjord lays claim to proving that today, all personal or collective biographical facts are definitely registered – either by our own accord or because of bureaucratic necessity.
Silas Emmery. “Found, Lost”. 2009
The project of the Danish artist, Silas Emmery, is a collection of photographs of the pages of photo albums, the pages being either empty or with fragments of photographs. The artist leads us to the idea that the workings of memory, which are based on a conscious selection of past images, will create zones of forgetting, or white spots in the cloth of memory, and will therefore be destructive in its way. The works of Scandinavian artists that concentrate on the questions of: 1) Do archives hide the past or reveal it? and 2) Are archives capable of erasing or bringing to the forefront the present?, are presented in a very ascetic manner, with minimal visual effects; this can't be said, however of the Russian (specifically, St. Petersburg) part of the program. >>