19 December

Which exhibitions in the Nordic region were the best of the year? Artist Tore Hallas offers his selection.

Jordan Strafer, Loophole, video still, 2023.

Jordan Strafer, Loophole, Index, Stockholm

The work is a recording of a real-life trial, yet that fact seems almost irrelevant: the absurd internal logic at play here belongs to an entirely different world. I left having fallen utterly in love with the late 80s pastiche, the horrible make-up prosthetics, and, especially, one of the female performers who gives a masterclass in the very thing that Susan Sontag describes in Notes on Camp as the difference between camp and non-camp: a woman versus a “woman.” This ‘woman’ is a ‘witness’ in the ‘case’ – more so than anyone else has ever been – and her monosyllabic answers and fluttering facial expressions left me all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s hard to be genuinely funny in contemporary art. Most people who try fail, but here the humour was so deeply embedded in the work’s self-congratulatory DNA that I couldn’t help but laugh.

Al Masson, Tâche sur papier, 2023. Photo: Galleri Maria Friis.

Al Masson, Tâche sur papier, Galleri Maria Friis, Copenhagen

Al Masson’s little pink show had much greater gravitas than met the eye, and requires many more words than space permits here. In addition to the obviously nostalgic, almost sentimental, and sexy aspects, to my mind, the exhibition told of our (the gays’) inherited traumas and stories. It told of Masson’s generation of queer men who were almost wiped out by AIDS (although this is not explicitly featured in the exhibition) and of how alienating – and, yes, how dangerous – it was and still is (I know from personal experience) to engage in an artistic practice that speaks unambiguously of the othered. Itwas a creation myth on delicate paper, telling a universal story to the non-universal.

Jessie Kleemann, Lone Wolf Runner, 2023, performance at SMK, 2023. Photo: Frida Gregersen Photography.

Jessie Kleemann, Running Time, National Gallery of Denmark (SMK), Copenhagen

There could hardly be a more important artist in Denmark right now than Jessie Kleemann. We very much need to look at our colonial relationship with Greenland, and, luckily, several artists are doing exactly that right now. Among them is Tinne Zenner, whose exhibition (Im)material Extractions at Vermillion Sands also merits mention as a beautiful and important contribution to this discourse here in Denmark, and, of course, Kleemann, who had major solo shows at both SMK and Rønnebæksholm this year. Even though she has been active for many years, it’s only now that we Danes have taken notice – a little suddenly and, I hope, a little guiltily.   

Tore Hallas is an artist, lives in Copenhagen, and works with themes pertaining to fat acceptance, homosexuality, and religion. He is part of the Danish Arts Foundation’s career programme for young talented artists.

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