7 December

An exhibition of inflatable objects is among the highlights of the year 2020, according to artists' duo Hesselholdt & Mejlvang.

Anetta Mona Chisa & Lucia Tkácová, Try again. Fail again. Fail better, 2011, video still, 7:57 min.

Floating Utopias, Lund Konsthall, Lund. Curated by Artúr van Balen, Fabiola Bierhoff, and Anna Hoetjes

Presenting an extensive array of archival materials, the exhibition illustrated how inflatable objects have been used in times gone by. The history of such artefacts is closely linked to general industrial developments, right from the spread of rubber to the rise of plastic and other synthetic materials. It is fascinating to see how floating figures were used for propaganda and advertising purposes in the United States and the Soviet Union from the 1930s onwards, with giant figures bouncing and skipping like astronauts above socialist and capitalist parades alike. Oversized Disney characters, early balloon rides, inflatable architecture. The exhibition also showed examples of activist and artistic uses of floating objects, such as the Romanian/Czech artists’ duo Anetta Mona Chisa & Lucia Tkácová’s video Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better (2011), where the politically charged image of a fist, presented here in a colossal balloon version, soars upwards, falls down, and takes off again.

Michael_Rakowitz, The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (Room G), installation view, Malmö Konsthall. Photo: Helene Toresdotter.

Michael Rakowitz, The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (Room G), Malmö Konsthall, Malmö

Iraqi American artist Michael Rakowitz deals with the destroyed cultural heritage of the former Mesopotamia, which he describes as a “loss for all of humanity.” Here, an overwhelming number of artefacts had survived for millennia only to recently, following the US invasion in 2003, fall victim to looting and the bulldozers and explosives of ISIS. Rakowitz recreates statues and buildings out of materials of a more prosaic nature, cans and colourful wrapping. Exploring this exhibition, being reminded of the enormous loss these erasures represent, was a strangely seductive as well as moving experience. Here it became clear how these important examples of humanity’s creations can never be remade; they are truly lost. However, something else happens in their reconstruction: authenticity shifts; new insights and realisations arise, and memories are awakened.

Zoe Leonard, I want a president, 1992. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, 2020. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: David Stjernholm.

Zoe Leonard, ‘I want a president’, In Focus: Statements, Copenhagen Contemporary, Copenhagen

Some works of art have a persistent relevance; they only gain greater depth and resonance with the passage of time. One such work is American artist Zoe Leonard’s ‘I want a president’ (1992), which could easily have been created this year. The work revolves around who has a voice and who has the power, why some are marginalised while others are carried forward. It is an eerily accurate depiction of the current American president, the US election, and the times of division in which we live. But, in fact, it is a poem (and a dark vision of the future) from nearly thirty years ago, poignantly demonstrating that the world has not come very far since then. One is left with a depressing sense of stagnation and an even fainter hope.

– Danish artist duo Hesselholdt & Mejlvang (Sofie Hesselholdt and Vibeke Mejlvang) have worked together since 1999. They are currently working on two installations and an outdoor performance for the exhibition Sustainable Societies for the Future, on display at Malmö Art Museum until January and later at EXPO Chicago. Their solo show The White Exhibition opens at the EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Tapiolai in May 2021.

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