Jakob Kolding

For his first solo museum exhibition in Denmark, Jakob Kolding introduced new elements to his oeuvre. Alongside delicate drawings, posters, and collages, he added large lambda prints of digital collages and fragile, site-specific sculptures that employ strategies of mixing and sampling similar to those of his graphic work. Placed on chipboard podiums and made of paper and little wooden sticks, the sculptures have a constructivist look but do not claim to be complete, thereby thwarting the constructivist impulse to create ideal or fundamental frameworks for social processes. Accordingly, the show’s installation encouraged various ways of seeing: A table presented books, CD covers, and publications on art, architecture, and social studies featuring Kolding’s projects, and posters were stacked on the floor for visitors to take. The show conveyed a sense of Kolding’s work having leapt from two to three dimensions. His dynamic collages with snippets of text, vistas of urban space, cartoon frames, and quotes from agitprop assumed spatial properties and played with scale in more aggressive ways than previously. The repetition of motifs in and between works created a distinct rhythm in the exhibition space and emphasized the overlaps between the personal, social, and artistic realms.

The large-scale urban planning and social housing schemes of the ’60s and ’70s are crucial to Kolding’s work, as they form the nexus where the artist’s biography meets a critique of space. Upsetting the knee-jerk causality that posits public housing as the origin of social ills, Kolding insists that his work on the subject is no rejection of it: The way modular architecture addressed the citizen had its ideological problems, sure, but it is also a heritage the artist accepts and pays homage to, for instance by pointing to its aesthetic affinities with Minimalist styles in art and music. Apart from overt references to places where he grew up (“Our House,” 1996–) and to fan culture (music, soccer) as a formative influence, the architectural styles Kolding cites are often broadly representative of what anyone of his generation in Denmark—and in the many other places the International Style was assimilated as a suburban matrix—might have experienced. In this way, between the cuts in the collages, a subject who is at once specific and global is reconstructed by way of architecture, art, and subculture—all understood as modalities for analyzing one’s life-world. It will be interesting to see how this representation of youth develops in Kolding’s work as time goes on.

In Denmark, suburban homogeneity and equilibrium seem to have reached their apogee, and subtle defense strategies abound. It is no surprise that Kolding—for all his formal interest in sign, image, line, and surface—is concerned with relations between behavior and space. Contemporary life, he claims, is urban through and through, yet maybe it doesn’t take much to twist and fl uster authority’s imprint on space by reimagining what architectural order alone cannot control. Themes of masculinity are lurking under the surface: Kolding injects his energetic style into the urban terrain of a technocratic father figure who has planned on a macro scale rather than according to lived reality.

Ultimately, Kolding is a space jockey, translating visual and musical styles into new itineraries through the urban fabric, and he is as keen as any Situationist to perfect the right groove for psychogeographic transportation. In this exhibition he pushed the boundaries of his project, adding new pleasures to urban life while considering its discontents. A response from one among billions of users of the city, it was a refreshing take on the history, present, and future of one’s built environment—not least in the context of the art world’s abiding fascination with the authority of the big architectural signature, which could do with a major scaling down.

Lars Bang Larsen