“The Louisiana Exhibition 1997”

“The Louisiana Exhibition 1997: New Art from Denmark and Scania,” the first in a series of quadrennial shows intended to highlight work produced in Denmark and southern Sweden, brought together new projects by fifty-two artists. While the exhibition focused on regional activity, it also evinced a global perspective. As a catalogue text affirmed: “Whether you live in Cologne, Copenhagen, or Katrineholm is becoming less and less significant. The [important] thing is how you use the potential of navigating freely between the global and the local.”

The eclectic selection of works made a systematic approach impossible; instead, viewers were invited to wander freely through the museum. One of the first installations encountered, a work by Olafur Eliasson, subtly and eloquently called attention to the Louisiana’s unique natural surroundings. In the hallway leading to the exhibition spaces, Eliasson installed a system that allowed spectators to enjoy the sensations and atmosphere of the outdoors —in particular scents and air temperature— while they were inside. Viewers entered the exhibition space as though passing through an exit to the outside.

The space surrounding the museum was also engaged by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. The pair installed a diving board with attached steps onto a wall with a window opening to a view of the sea. The piece not only established a link between interior and exterior of the museum, but also adjusted the natural landscape by causing the ocean to resemble a swimming pool. Joachim Koester’s photographic installation, on the other hand, did not involve the museum’s physical exterior, but rather presented a view of a marginal community. Using day-for-night film, Koester submerged documentary images in a surreal blue, transforming them into magical visions of a vanishing world. The images depict Christiania, a commune that effected a successful rupture with bourgeois social conventions. Christiania is now in decline, and it no longer demonstrates the social significance and critical energy it had at its inception, though it continues to function. Koester’s melancholy images, which were projected onto the walls, evoked the enduring hopefulness that produces utopian visions.

There was also a melancholy feeling to Frans Jacobi’s The Palace at 4:00 AM (Room 23), 1997, an installation that resembled a vacant apartment. Jacobi’s use of light and sound created a rarefied atmosphere; in the midst of this lively exhibition, it invited interiority and meditation. A more provocative and dysfunctional kind of utopia emerged in Peter Bonde’s contribution: a textured, mono-chromatic painting made by applying LSD liquid to raw canvas. Here, Bonde referenced drug culture while parodying two art-historical moments—the austerity of the monochrome, and Expressionist and Surrealist delirium.

Peter Land obsessively exposes and interrogates the self; in his videos, he subjects himself to embarrassing and traumatic situations, playing a pornographer, an entertainer, or an alcoholic Santa Claus. Here, one could view him taking a lie-detector test. There is also a diaristic element to the work of Tal R, whose piece, however, was not a self-centered exploration of subjectivity, but rather a testament to social interaction. Tal R installs his works in an intentionally haphazard fashion, re-creating inside the museum the spontaneity and disorder of a studio animated by art, artists, music, parties, and friends.

The emphasis on communal activity among younger Danish artists is especially evident in the work of the group Superflex, which is currently producing a biogas system as part of a project that was developed in collaboration with Danish and African engineers, and tested on a family in a Tanzanian village. This group incorporates creative problem-solving into an aesthetic that is based on ecological principles, and which often involves design and music. In Denmark, as elsewhere, the personal is also global.

Alexandre Melo

Translated from the Portuguese by Sheila Glaser.