Category Archives: art

ARoS: Your Rainbow Panorama

Our best impression from Aarhus is that it is a fantastic town with a great cultural offer. But the very best experience is to walk Your Rainbow Panorama on the top of the art museum ARoS. It is a work conceived by the Danish-Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliasson, whom Brisbanites will know for The cubic structural evolution project shown at GOMA several times. Danes will know his Circle Bridge in Copenhagen.

If you cannot make it to ARoS, here is the second best thing:

Infinite obliteration

Yayoi Kusama: Dots Obsession (2009), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Lone. 2015.

Yayoi Kusama: Dots Obsession (2009), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Lone. 2015.

I first met Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929, Japan) in the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art 2011 exhibition Look Now, See Forever. I don’t mean met her in person, but I met her art. I recall best the dots. She must be the best dotter I have ever come across. I recall standing in the red dots obsession room feeling overjoyed at the audacity that this could be art. Kusama’s work provided an aesthetic affective experience and was surprising and delightful. Could art really be this much fun? At the time I admit I did not immerse myself in the Kusama’s story and her amazing feats as a female Japanese artist in a white men’s art world. I simply took in the colour and brightness as I lost myself in the immersive works, watched the video installations with amusement and was delighted by the enormous flowers that bloom at midnight.

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Going on a holiday

Surf Lifesavers were not too busy - the rain and temperatures below 20 degrees celsius kept swimmers away. Photo: Mick. 2015.

Surf Life Savers were not too busy – the rain and temperatures below 20 degrees celsius kept swimmers away. Photo: Mick. 2015.

I have been on holidays. Even people on sabbatical need a holiday. With my siblings and their families, we went to The Skaw – Skagen – the tip of the Jutland peninsula and home to Denmark’s most northerly point.

Some swimmers braved the cold! Photo: Lone. 2015.

Some swimmers braved the cold! Photo: Lone. 2015.

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Heart of pinkness

The river runs through a pink landscape - Richard Mosse: Platon (2012). Photo: Mick 2015.

The river runs through a pink landscape – Richard Mosse: Platon (2012). Photo: Mick 2015.

Colour blindness comes in a version where green and red are indistinguishable. I cannot imagine not being able to see the many greens that colour spring and summer or the reds of tulips and cherry blossoms that are starting to show.

Richard Mosse (1980) is an Irish artist whose work The Enclave (2013) is exhibiting at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art presently. This work explores the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, changing hues of green to hues of red and pink. Mosse used the now discontinued Kodak Aerochrome to film events in DRC – the US Army used this surveillance film to show invisible infrared light, turning green into red and pink to detect camouflage. This war is largely ignored by Western media and therefore largely unknown outside Congo and Rwanda, even though more than 5.4 million people have died in this war since 1998. Continue reading

White Energy and Women

Peter Linde Busk's ceramic work at Galleri Kant. Photo: Lone. 2015.

Peter Linde Busk’s ceramic work at Galleri Kant. Photo: Lone. 2015.

Virginia Woolf seems to be everywhere in my life at the moment. I read the literature she writes and I go to a lecture series named after her essay A Room of One’s Own. But I did not expect to meet her at an exhibition.

White Energy at Galleri Kant is curated by Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen; the title refers to Woolf’s reflections on creative energy in A Room of One’s Own – the utopian fever state of pure creation. Works have been selected because of their ‘whiteness’ and ‘strong formal power of enunciation’. So the reference to Virginia Woolf is not to her feminist agenda – which is the key message I took away from reading her – but applying more broadly her insights about the need for freedom to create. Thus, only three of the nine exhibiting artists (or groups) are women, which I supect would have somewhat disappointed Woolf. Perhaps it is reflctive of a sad reality that so many years later, men are still more likely to have access to this state. Continue reading

Birds and graffiti

My first Graffiti Bird on Vendersgade. Photo: Lone. 2015

My first Graffiti Bird on Vendersgade. Photo: Lone. 2015

 

IMGP8121 graffiti birdCopenhagen has a refreshing number of green spaces that support wildlife. A harbour town (originally known just as Havn – habour), it is situated on the water with plentiful canals and parks, both highly designed gardens like the King’s Garden and the more naturally maintained parks like Dyrehaven. The moors that used to flank the old town outside the ramparts are partly preserved in parklands.

IMGP8024 graffiti birdThe great thing about these green areas are that they are home to plenty of bird life – from the large swans to the tiny finches and sparrows: blue tit, great tit, forest sparrow, robins etc. They flitter in and out of bushes and are impossible to capture on camera. My bird watching husband is excited to see these birds that were rare when he was bird watching in Essex as a child in the 1980s.

But the Copenhagen bird that has caught my eye and imagination is not to be found in the parks and can easily be captured on film. This bird is the Graffiti Bird and once I spotted the first one, I realised it is ubiquitous in this town.

IMGP7839 graffiti birdIMGP8012 graffiti birdI like graffiti and respect graffiti artists. Graffiti in the Banksy style is humourous, clever and often political. City councils find themselves preserving a bit of wall with good graffiti art (especially when it is Banksy and potentially valuale). These same councils also spend enormous resources to remove graffiti from the street picture. The Graffiti Bird caught my imagination. It is a happy picture, simple in its design and often imposed where it juxtaposes unsightly features of the city or other less aesthetic graffiti. I imagine property owners and København Kommune less enthusiastic about the Graffiti Bird, which has been around for some time. I am not sure who the artist is for there is no consistent tag, or if it is just one artist or several.

IMGP7977 graffiti birdIf you are in Copenhagen, have you seen the Graffiti Bird in other places? Do you think it is art or vandalism?

 

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Identity and Biography

Last chance to see Biography by Elmgreen and Dragset at Statens Museum for Kunst. Photo: Mick. 2014.

Last chance to see Biography by Elmgreen and Dragset at Statens Museum for Kunst. Photo: Mick. 2014.

Identity is a construction in progress at all times – you are not the person you were yesterday, nor the person you will be tomorrow, suggests experimental philosopher Joshua Knobe. To me the exhibition, Biography by artist duo Elmgreen and Dragset at Denmark’s Statens Museum for Kunst is all about constructing identity. We caught it last weekend before it closed.

Elmgreen & Dragset Andrea Candela, Fig. 3  2006 (Virtual Romeo) Voks, t.shirt, hættetrøje, sokker.  Courtesy: Andrea Thuile & Heinz Peter Hager. Foto: ONUK http://www.smk.dk/om-museet/presse/pressefotos/presse-udstilling/biography-elmgreen-dragset/

Elmgreen & Dragset, Andrea Candela, Fig. 3
2006 (Virtual Romeo), Voks, t.shirt, hættetrøje, sokker.
Courtesy: Andrea Thuile & Heinz Peter Hager. Foto: ONUK
http://www.smk.dk/om-museet/presse/pressefotos/presse-udstilling/biography-elmgreen-dragset/

In the hall of the gallery towered a tall concrete housing block – The One & The Many – which let us peer into the imaginary lives of people living there. So close to each other, yet so lonely. The living room with heavy-set and well-worn leather furniture, complete with a soccer match on tv and empty beer bottles on the tile-top table represents a particular masculinity of a generation and era – one associated with armchair sport and beer. The bedroom with the young man on the mattress with his computer open on a gay dating site – complete with a live profile that real people are contacting – represents a very different type of masculinity and maleness. And the kitchen with Asian noodles in the drawer, a plastic plant next to the Chinese cat, incessantly waving on the microwave, and karaoke playing on the television provides for a completely different cultural identity in an increasingly culturally diverse community. Each room is carefully constructed and portrays the individuality of its inhabitants, yet the common entrance is cold and uncared for with as little aesthetic quality as the anonymising grey construction that houses this diversity. The idea that The Ones make up The Many is inescapable and beautiful in its base concept of solidarity, yet the result is bleak, an uncomfortable and ill-fitted patchwork, rather than a unified whole.

To the right of the housing block, in a dark exhibition hall, several works are installed. A neon sign reading The One & The Many on the back wall (The One & The Many, 2011) reflects in a lit pool with a floating body (Death of a Collector, 2009). This pool is protected by a chain-wire fence, angrily guarded by a rottweiler (The Guardian, 2014) and overlooked by a boy sitting in a spot light on a fire escape stairway (The Future, 2013). In front of the room is Welcome (2014), a silver camper van stopped in its struck by a fallen Las Vegas neon sign – representing freedom and opportunity to win the great prize; a dream which is so violently crushed by the sign, now on the ground, but still blinking its shiny promise of an American dream.

There is a particular discomfort to this room, not just because of its darkness. Like some ill-fated character in Westside Story, the boy – the Future – overlooks a scene of broken dreams and segregation. Has he seen what came before? How will it affect his life? The deep connection between our individuality and society leaves us questioning whether we really have a chance at inventing our identity, our future. Bellevue, July 17, 1994 (2009) is a bronze sculpture, cast and painted to look just like an esky, forgotten and left behind after a picnic in the park. At first I did not even notice it in the dark room, and when I did, it took me a while to realise it was part of the exhibition. The valuable material is cast in the shape of an everyday household item which is neither functional nor aesthetically beautiful. What happens when we strive to be something we are not and can never be? Does the identity we construct belie our value?

The installation to the left of the housing block spoke directly to the experience we have had since coming to Denmark. The long labyrinth corridor was reminiscent of public institutions and let us experience a version of public service that is anything but welcoming. The waiting room (It’s the Small Things in Life That Really Matter, Blah, Blah, Blah, 2006), complete with the ubiquitous requirement to take a number, had a sad-looking dried out fig in a pot reflecting the uncared-for nature of the room and its users. The digital sign showing the number currently being served was permanently stuck on ‘000’: never will your turn come in this waiting room, even once you have discovered the need to take a number. This sense was reinforced by the clock face with its minute hand taped into eight minutes to the hour (Powerless Structures, Fig. 243, 2014), reflecting the sense of time standing still when waiting to be served in a public institution.

Elmgreen & Dragset Powerless Structures, Fig. 124 2001 Træ, maling, hængsler, beslag, dørhåndtag.  209,5 x 100,4 x 50,5 cm Courtesy: Galleri Nicolai Wallner. Foto: Anders Sune Berg http://www.smk.dk/om-museet/presse/pressefotos/presse-udstilling/biography-elmgreen-dragset/

Elmgreen & Dragset, Powerless Structures, Fig. 124, 2001,
Træ, maling, hængsler, beslag, dørhåndtag, 209,5 x 100,4 x 50,5 cm
Courtesy: Galleri Nicolai Wallner. Foto: Anders Sune Berg
http://www.smk.dk/om-museet/presse/pressefotos/presse-udstilling/biography-elmgreen-dragset/

The doors in the Powerless Structures series promised openings of inclusion throughout the corridor, yet each one of them was dysfunctional in its own way. One was partially opened to reveal another closed door directly behind it (Powerless Structures, Fig. 124, 2001), another had its handle placed on the wall next to the door (Powerless Structures, Fig. 131, 2001). One straddles a corner (Powerless Structures, Fig. 129, 2001) and yet another is a version of a double door, one cradled within the other (Powerless Structures, Fig. 135, 2002). It seemed things happened behind the doors, yet they offered no opportunity to peer into this hive of public service activity.

Along the hall way we walked past a closed ticketing window (Back in Five, 2014), two pairs of identical Levi’s jeans and Calvin Klein underpants, clearly taken off quickly in one movement (Powerless Structures, Fig. 19, 1998), a strangely plumbed public toilet, complete with graffiti on the toilet doors (Marriage, 2004), a prison cell with a bunk bed where the beds and bedding face each other (Boy Scout, 2008), a morgue (Untitled, 2011) and a baby left in front of an automatic teller machine (Modern Moses, 2006). Was the stuffed rat peering down from a crooked ceiling tile also part of this dysfunctional public service?

In its completeness this corridor installation lets us see our institutionalised life – something the Danes are exceptionally good at, in spite of the staunch anti-authoritarian streak and loud complaints about the Nanny state. From cradle to grave, the state keeps tracking its citizens through the Central Person Register which allocates a number to each Dane on birth and consistently uses this number in every dealing with its citizens, as do many private companies such as mobile phone companies and banks. Yet the promise of inclusion is broken by the dysfunctional doors – it seems they are as much for keeping people out, as for letting people into Club Denmark.

In the booklet for the exhibition, curator Marianne Torp writes that the works reflect the era of self-portrayal and self-reinvention. The usual classification into family, class, profession, education and sexual orientation no longer suffices, so we create our own identity, solidarity and biography.

Biography selfie - a chance to reimagine ourselves? Photo: Mick. 2014.

Biography selfie – a chance to reimagine ourselves? Photo: Mick. 2014.

In returning to Denmark, I am very deliberately seeking to reconstruct an identity that is deeply connected with Danish culture. In doing so, I am not striving to rewrite my history of 23 years in Australia, but in a year’s time, I will be a different person to the one I am today. I, too, am rewriting my Biography.