Quick Show(s) Review: Nikolaj Kunsthal

From a work by Marika Seidler

From a work by Marika Seidler

Hi Team, We just got back from seeing two shows and a performance by Sophie Dupont at Nikolaj Kunsthal. Sophie's performance was quite touching, and we look forward to sitting down with her and talking about that among many other things. We'll be doing that quite soon, so keep your ears peeled for that one.

But we also wanted to talk about the two shows we saw: Karen Sander's ZEIGEN. An Audio Tour through Copenhagen and Marika Seidler's Human Animal. Sander's show is completely audio based, so when you walk into the exhibition space, you only see blank wall space. This is a little provocative, and also quite funny if you think about it. As you get closer to the walls you see artists names in small lettering and a number, which is the number you type into your audio guide device in order to "see" the artist's work. It turns out that there are tons of artists in the show, and if you know anything about arts here in Dk, then you realize that it is a veritable greatest hits lists of Danish artists. Pretty much everybody, or at least a huge pile of them. There are a few up and comers as well, but the big names obviously jump out at you.

And therein lies the weakness of the show. It doesn't matter that there are so many people contributing to the show, the problem is that some of them obviously put more thought and effort into the work than others. Let's be frank. Audio is a hard goddamn format to make art in. And the thing that seemed to happen was that the works all started blending together pretty quick. Now, most of the artists asked to contribute are not usually working with audio (or at least not primarily), so they may not have really developed a mature output in said format yet. This is ok. But what happened was many of them reached for similar tools and methods in order to complete the project. Individual works had a hard time asserting themselves, and so the whole thing quickly became a slog of sorts.

Now here is where you might say, "jesus guys, how about you stop trashing the show?" Here's the thing, it's actually a good show. The concept is strong, and the slog might just end up working in the end. It may not be easy, but since it's so vast, the piece as a single work actually is quite good. This is why it's not a group show, but a show by Sander. The other hilarious thing, which we think may just be one of the strongest points, is that in the beginning you are just staring at a blank wall, listening. The usual method of behavior in a exhibition space is so strong that you stay there like a dummy, staring at nothing. Eventually you realize that there is no anything, just sound, so you are free to wander. It's pretty interesting how overpowering the patterns for art exhibition viewing can be. In this case, just be prepared to put in some serious work and time if you want to hear every piece. There are a lot of them.

The other show, Human Animal, is hilarious. Really, in a great way. It's a few video pieces and sculptures which explore the symbiosis and dichotomy of humans and animals (and the difference is...?), which you might think is open for some particular heaviness, but really, it's hilarious. Now, we know that is not the usual way to talk about an art show, but we aren't about the usual way around here. And really, we mean it in a good way, hilarious. Who doesn't like hilarity?

There isn't a lot of work in the show, but the pieces are quite impressive and somewhat imposing. The first two videos use headphones for the audio, so you are greeted by simple moving images at first. The final video, at the end of the hall, has a loud audio, so the sounds of that show fill the hall continually while you see the other works. We'll get to what that sounds like.

First thing: five video projections, left to right, of men talking and interacting with horses. The pieces turns out to be about management training courses for business folk which uses horses. Pretty cool. Secretly funny.

Second thing: three video projections of people interacting (like you would with your own baby) with lifelike silicon human baby dolls, which are majorly creepy. It's heartbreaking, fucking creepy, and yes, pretty damn funny too. In a black way. The actual dolls lie in a some cardboard boxes to the left of the projections which are laid out like cribs. Holy shit yo.

Third thing: 4 video projections, each on their own wall of a room, with three woman doing some ol' fashioned hog callin' and then some video of some pigs and piglets. The piggy noises these women are making are the ones which fill the whole hall, and let's just say these ladies are not afraid. In fact, they own it, they live it, they might just love it; they can squeal and snort like a pig. And it's loud. So keep in mind that the whole time you are interacting with this show, there are three ladies snortin' and squealin' away. And guess what? HILARIOUS. Plus, them piggies are cute.

So, what does it mean? We think it's a great show. It's dealing with a fairly hefty topic (the babies) and some very interesting ones (animal-human relationships and boundries) and it really does it without too heavy of a hand. It's really great to interact with art which makes you think without too much emotional manipulation. Marika invites you to join her in her considerations, but she isn't afraid to leave things open to your own understanding.

Our quick review: Go see both shows, they are both interesting in their own way. Let's support humor in art.

Marika Seidler and Karen Sander at Nikolaj Kunsthal, both up until 26th of Jan, 2014. Peep it.