Critics’ Picks

View of “Anne Haaning,” 2020, Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art. Photo: David Stjernholm.

View of “Anne Haaning,” 2020, Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art. Photo: David Stjernholm.


Anne Haaning

Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art
Oslo Plads 1
November 30, 2019–February 16, 2020

Today, the extraction of both narratives and material resources is deeply intertwined with a seemingly indefatigable drive toward technological development. In the Danish artist Anne Haaning’s multimedia installation Half Hidden, 2019, the false binary of surplus and dispossession melts into reflective matter that seems to be leaking out of two video channels and onto the dim gallery’s floor. The surface of a waterlogged quarry, a shiny enamel cover, a touch screen––all are mirrors for the contemporary dematerialization of colonization, as its physical remnants vaporize into the weaponized digital space.

The installation borrows its title from a research project Haaning has worked on for the last four years and feeds from her archival research on a former cryolite mine in Ivittuut, Greenland. Vacated in 1986, the excavation site is inhabited by disembodied memories that Haaning here attempts to awaken, resulting in a surrealist crime montage featuring the mine’s extracted minerals as its central characters. As the film fluctuates from past to present, the artist remixes documentary footage from a 1938 Danish geological mapping of Ivittuut with film shot inside the villas built for Danes who aspired to settle in the then-new mining resort. Its arrhythmic cuts slowly unveil the few remaining hovels along with their immaculate industrial origins.

The last centuries’ violations toward indigenous people in northwestern Europe fall between the cracks at former extraction sites. As the mining industry migrates to southern areas with cheaper labor and fewer regulations, towns like Ivittuut are abandoned along with the historical consciousness of their colonizers. Danish migration policies harden, yet the country’s self-image remains incomplete: Greenland approaches independence with baby steps. Seated on a wooden construction that mimics Ivittuut’s architectural remains, the spectator is reminded of the link between Scandinavia’s current resources, cultural funding included, and what once upheld them.