Prehistoire, une énigme moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris. Curated by Cécile Debray, Rémi Labrusse & Maria Stavrinaki
Just imagine the upheaval people must have felt back in the 1830s when archaeological excavations uncovered human prehistory – a term that covers the entire period preceding written language – and the people of Europe suddenly had to see their ancestors step out of the mists of biblical narrative and into world’s fair dioramas, dressed in animal skins and possessing Neanderthal features! Centre Pompidou’s summer exhibition explored the tremendous shift in awareness unleashed by the discovery of the first prehistoric objects of art, deftly cutting between modernity’s preoccupation with the prehistoric and an impressive amount of ancient objects. In room after room, the exhibition pointed to the timeless in the modern, and to the strangely modern in the prehistoric, all in a way that made me quite dizzy with the effort of following this somersault – executed in well-curated slow motion – that human history apparently continued to do until contemporary art and its narratives about life after humanity.
Fantasmer, Rønnebæksholm, Næstved. Curated by Mathias Kryger
Speaking of curatorial somersaults, Rønnebæksholm saw Mathias Kryger juxtapose the psychiatric patient and outsider artist Ingeborg Prehn with two contemporary artists, Julie Nord and Roee Rosen. The exhibition established a jazzy, keenly sensitive connection between Prehn’s lack of biography, Rosen’s entirely fictional autofiction, and Nord’s unheimlich, ghost-like figures in ways that made it impossible to distinguish between actual similarities, curatorial claims, and one’s innate desire to penetrate Prehn’s rather ordinary, but also surprisingly eerie portraits of long-dead celebrities. Rounded off with generous helpings of old-school manor atmosphere and creaky floorboards, the result was an exhibition I would hesitate to stay in overnight.
Jesper Just, Cadavre Exquis, Revolver at Teater Republique, Copenhagen
“Cadavre exquis” (in English, Exquisite corpse) is the name of the parlour game where players take turns drawing on a piece of folded paper, each one continuing the lines of the unseen drawing beyond the fold so that the final result is a baroque and unpredictable figure jointly created by all the participants. At Revolver, the smaller stage of Teater Republique, Jesper Just contributed the first part of a drawing whose basic ingredients were Rococo outfits, sexy pastels, brazen flirtation with the camera, and the bellowing of actor Johannes Lilleøre. The rest of the performance involved the audience and an insanely intimidating camera, which would cut from pre-produced footage of the setting to live footage of one’s own blushing face on the big screen. Quite neat and utterly invasive.
– Art historian Louise Steiwer (b. 1983) is a regular contributor to Kunstkritikk and lives and works in Copenhagen. She is also one of the forces behind the artist-run exhibition venue OK Corral.