22 December

Kunstkritikk’s editor in Copenhagen looks back on an artist’s coup, sensuous cinematic darkness, and an exhibition that created new cracks in the local art scene.

Jens Haaning, profile picture from Facebook, uploaded 2016.

Jens Haaning, Take the Money and Run (an Average Austrian year Income, 2007 and an Average Danish year Income, 2010), Kunsten, Aalborg

There are scandals in art – and then there is art which is scandalous in such conceptual, headache-inducing ways that it continues to run inside your head long after the media has cleared the front pages. Jens Haaning ran off with half a million Danish kroner, gave the museum its best attendance figures ever, and created a fantastic work that was not only an extension of his own decades-long practice, but also had a kinship with the driest, most cerebral conceptual art of the kind they eat for breakfast in Eastern Europe.

Installation view, «As I Write, I am Lying, I Hope» curated by Kristian Vistrup Madsen, works by Rochelle Goldberg, Thoravej 29, Art Hub, København 2021. Photo: David Stjernholm.

Thoravej 29, Art Hub, Copenhagen, curated by Andreas Führer, Awa Konaté, Kristian Vistrup Madsen, Mette Woller, and FCNN

Like sticky fly paper dangling from the ceiling, this mini-biennial was astonishingly adept at capturing much of the vibe in art and spirits at the time. Juxtaposing five different curatorial positions under one roof, the conversation was a giga-construction and, essentially, a big mess. But Thoravej 29 caused cracks and fissures to appear in Copenhagen’s otherwise thoroughly regulated art scene, letting fresh bubbles of air rise up – such as Rochelle Goldberg’s transparent collection of glass bowls, plastic foil, and small puddles, or Jelsen Lee Innocent’s wells with black-tinted water. The blast of fresh air – including forces of fierce resistance, rage, and the dissolution of all things – was also partly due to the temporary nature of the dilapidated building. It is hard to envision how this may continue when Art Hub and the Bikuben Foundation move in here a couple of years from now after an architectural make-over, but at this particular point in time, everything was crisply delicious and genuinely important.

Edward Owens, Tomorrow’s Promise, 1967, 16mm, colour, 45 min.

Edward Owens, A Cinema for Edward Owens, Red Tracy, Copenhagen, presented by Terassen

Double and triple-exposed images were interspersed with long sequences of cinematic darkness shot with an almost closed aperture that allowed only the deepest and most sensuous crackles of celluloid to make it through – as if the sparse light emanated only from the glowing cigarette or the gleaming pearl necklace around the dark neck. The films of Edward Owens (1949–2009), whom I had never heard of before, have a queered Jack Smith vibe, only a thousand times more understated. The nomadic cinema Terassen offered up this subtle presentation (including a publication featuring Owens’s 23-year correspondence with his almost platonic lover) and showed the entire oeuvre – a total of 80 minutes, dating from 1966 to 1967 – while we sat on the floor in Red Tracy’s magical sound studio. Exactly the kind of late summer art evening I live for.

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