A white flag in the trenches of identity politics

Tom of Finland meets Clan of the Cave Bear in Rasmus Myrup's first-ever institutional show at Tranen.

Rasmus Myrup, Homo Homo, Tranen, 2018. Photo: David Stjernholm.

With his exhibition Homo Homo at Tranen, Rasmus Myrup is surely setting a new record for the swiftest transition from MFA degree show to one’s first institutional solo show. But then again Myrup, who graduated from the Funen Art Academy this year, is no debutante: he has already exhibited his work at hip Paris gallery Balice Hertling, and he has also been the man behind the ambitious exhibition platform Weekends for several years.

Myrup has transformed the soberly white exhibition spaces at Tranen into a vast diorama of the kind familiar from museums of natural history where taxidermied animals animals are placed in realistic-looking replicas of natural settings against a backdrop of paintings creating the illusion of depth. At Tranen, such illusory games with perspective have been eschewed and there is not an animal in sight: as the title suggest, man himself – in the form of the spectator – forms the pivotal focus of Homo Homo.

We enter a pre-historic forest settings where we find traces left behind by our distant forebears, the earlier, now extinct species of the Homo genus. At the centre of the exhibition is a kind of paleontological four-poster bed lined with straw and pelts; two discarded fur knickers hint at recent intimacies.

The main protagonists of the diorama, the ancient humans, appear in loving, homo-erotic situations in the pastel drawings hung on the walls. The overall feel is akin to Tom of Finland meets Clan of the Cave Bear, but the really striking thing is how closely they resemble us. Here are Homo species bathing together, making love, hugging and engaging in emotional lives that seem quite familiar. The point is reiterated in the exhibition title, Homo Homo, which may be read as ‘homosexual man’, but also as a mirroring: one species of the Homo species, early man, reflected in another: modern man.

In Homo Homo, Myrup builds on recent studies which show that the ancestors of Homo sapiens may not simply have been primitive ape-men, but far more similar to us than we used to think. Myrup elaborates on this idea, envisioning prehistoric humans whose sex lives were not just about procreation, but also about intimacy, pleasure and love.

In this sense, the exhibition also points to how modern man may tend towards prejudice and pre-determined ideas about strangers – ideas about how those who do not look like us or share our world view think and live. It suggests that our assumptions might very well be wrong. Not a bad point to bear in mind at a time when the frontlines in the battle of identity politics seem to grow ever more entrenched.

Rasmus Myrup, Homo Homo, Tranen, 2018. Foto: David Stjernholm.