19 December

Writer Stine Lundberg Hansen zooms in on collective trauma and meditative tendencies in her favourite art experiences of 2021.

Jakob Jakobsen, Memorial for the 743 Inmates at Livø from 1911 to 1961, 2021, spread in publication.

Jakob Jakobsen, Memorial for the 743 Inmates at Livø from 1911 to 1961, publication

“Imagine painting all the statues in the world in the colour of the sky,” says Yoko Ono in Acorn from 2013. Jakob Jakobsen did not make the story of the Livø institution blend in with the colour of the sky. Quite the contrary: here a collective trauma emerged with stark clarity. In the wake of recent demolitions of monuments and debates about memorials, Jakobsen’s take on a memorial in the form of a newspaper was a breath of fresh air. Regardless of gender and ethnicity, history’s ignored voices rarely sound like the voice of the victor, yet can be found in our collective past. Jakobsen’s memorial does not loom large in a road, street, park, or square, but abounds between people as posters with photographs and interviews about the total of 743 inmates at Livø – men from the proletariat, condemned by society as mentally ill, thereby losing their place and voice in society. It asks the resounding question: Does the welfare society actually have everyone’s welfare in mind?

Bolatta Silis-Høegh, Ukaliusaq, 2019. Foto: Barbara Katzin.

Bolatta Silis-Høegh, Ukaliusaq, rum46, Aarhus

This year I did not get to experience the Greenlandic summer with its blue skies, green mountains, and the bright white heads of cotton-grass spreading out across large wetlands. Cotton-grass – in Greenlandic ukaliusaq – can be picked, dried, and then kept in a vase (almost) forever. A special calm descended on me as I stepped into the sky-blue exhibition space with Arctic cotton-grass hanging above like a cloud of floating cotton wool. Originally created for the abandoned Holms Hus in central Nuuk, Bolatta Silis-Høegh’s installation Ukaliusaq (2019) was shown in Aarhus this year in a collaboration between rum46 and Nuuk Art Museum.  I keep coming back to this meditative work, which shuts out the noise by taking a simple approach to silence that leaves me all floaty – just like the cotton-grass.

Pia Arke, The Three Graces, 1983, four gelatin silver prints on baryte paper. Courtesy: © Pia Arke Estate, Kunstmuseum Brandts.

Pia Arke, Louisiana, Humlebæk

A camel in a snow-covered landscape. A horse and a teapot in a South Greenlandic landscape. It is discrepancies such as these, the off-kilter shift in the various layers, that I keep returning to in Pia Arke’s (1958–2007) work. She called herself a bastard – half of one thing and half another, a creature of the in-between. Although her works often revolve around heavy matters of colonial history and are rooted in her own life poised between Greenland and Denmark, they still have a mischievous tongue-in-cheek feel that perfectly highlights the absurdity of colonialism’s narratives. This exhibition offered an opportunity to move in close and study the absurdity or humour that often interposes itself between the photographs, the archives, and the narratives. Getting to the bottom of things is difficult with Pia Arke; there is always one more layer.

– Stine Lundberg Hansen holds a master’s degree in pedagogical anthropology, lives in Vordingborg, and works with the dissemination of art and culture. From 2015 to 2021, she was curator at Nuuk Art Museum and editor of the art and culture magazine Neriusaaq. Lundberg Hansen is also a co-founder of the website Kunst.Gl.

For this year’s contributions to the Advent Calendar, see here.