Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art

“Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.” Superflex—the artists collective composed of Bjørnstjerne Reuter Christiansen, Jakob Fenger, and Rasmus Nielsen—take the Ani DiFranco lyric as a truism but also as a call to arms. Like Empire authors Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, who also cite DiFranco, the Danish trio embrace globalization for its creative and liberatory potential. Their first major solo show appears as an elaborate advertising campaign for a multinational that seizes art’s internationalism to effect social change.

With its blatantly commercial tropes, Superflex’s work aptly reflects the end of the autonomy of aesthetics, which has been safeguarded by the fading liberal-democratic nation-state. As McDonald’s uses “Mc,” the trio deploys “Super” to name a whole line of products whose novelty could serve millions a taste not of weary meat but of political change. There’s the Supercopy project (counterfeit goodies, from Lacoste shirts to Poul Henningsen’s glare-free PH 5 lamps), Supercity (an interactive program that allowed citizens to re-create the city of Karlskrona in virtual space), and Superchannel (do-it-yourself CNN for local communities, who can broadcast their own shows via Internet TV). Video and text documentation of these “Supertools” is presented alongside the nine burning bio-gas lamps, part of a project to give Bangkok residents, among others, affordable and environmentally friendly designer lighting from Denmark. A multimedia space features ready-to-view videos as well as seventeen computers set up for the game Counter-Strike, which offers visitors a chance to save or kill hostages in a virtual battle between terrorist and antiterrorist squads. Together these works formed a three-part installation that did not frame objects or accentuate space so much as create a total design environment for the room. The walls and the floors were painted in Superflex’s signature colors—orange, white, black—to mark off each project, while the titles and explanatory texts appeared on the walls like the bold slogans of billboards. Superflex do not so much exhibit artworks as take over the entire exhibition area to enforce brand identity and identification, the way a corporation might set up a head office, a branch, or a stand at a trade fair. The interactive, social dimension of their projects may recall what has been dubbed relational aesthetics, albeit without the low-tech presentation typically associated with such work. Superflex are clearly interested in politicizing the polished surfaces proper to the Pop aesthetic. Instead of simply citing advertising, the artists fully accept the genre in order to make it serve not consumerism, but revolutionary ends. Thus, the video selection in the multimedia space offers popular Hollywood films alongside political documentaries. Here, the DreamWorks animation Chicken Run meets Haeng-Dang Dong: Another World We Are Making, a documentary about slum dwellers in Seoul who successfully resisted a high-rise building project. Such pairings may seem moralistic, if not hopelessly naive, but, then again, such blatancy in advertising certainly works well for corporate America.

With biogas projects under way for communities in Asia and Africa, Superflex could be the NGO of the art world, but, ultimately, their work traces the aestheticization of politics—or the politicization of aesthetics. In his era, Walter Benjamin saw the former as a central trait of fascism. In our age of empire, when the spectacle has reduced politics to images, Superflex’s work might be testimony to a new age where multinational logos have taken over the cultural symbols once imposed by nation-states. Supertotalitarianism.

Jennifer Allen