press release

March 3–April 25, 2018
As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. –Ecclesiastes 3: 18-19

Brutally and forcefully, Becoming Animal connects animalisation throughout the history of art to the use of negatively charged animal metaphors in contemporary rhetoric. Extreme, absurd and terrifying motifs commingle in previously unseen constellations, presenting art, art history, human existence, and the individual from new and provocative perspectives in a tour de force exhibition that will shock, stir and surprise.

Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art looks forward to opening the doors to the long-awaited, ambitious exhibition Becoming Animal, in which works ranging from Goya’s 18th century prints to Gardar Eide Einarsson’s razor-sharp minimalist paintings focus on the concepts of animalisation, transcendence and the void. Taking a transhistorical approach, the exhibition gathers visual and conceptual momentum as it travels through the Renaissance, Symbolism, Surrealism, Minimalism, and contemporary art. It thus represents a significant contribution to the exploration of existential themes in art, providing a framework to interrogate the meaning of human existence and its exploration in art history. Unlike animals, whose consciousness of their own existence or ultimate death differs from humans, as humans are painfully aware of the limits to life and the void ahead of us.

Unsentimentally and ruthlessly the curator of the exhibition, artist and art collector Claus Carstensen, presents his own subjective selection of apparently incompatible works from museums and private collections throughout Europe: etchings by Max Klinger alongside works by Odilon Redon, Paul Gauguin, Alfred Kubin, Francisco de Goya, Jens Lund, Werner Büttner, Aroldo Bonzagni and vandalised election posters, autopsy reports, the drawings of psychiatric patients, National Socialist imagery, and dystopian motifs, as well as works by Carstensen himself. The exhibition is an exploration of human consciousness of mortality and the abyss or lack of any religious framework for understanding in the wake of secularisation, as well as the representation of both in visual art and broader culture.

The exhibition is the result of a unique collaboration between Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art in Copenhagen, the Museum of Religious Art in Lemvig, the artist Claus Carstensen and the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Arts and Cultural Studies. The Museum of Religious Art will host the exhibition from May 13, 2018 to August 8, 2018.

Curated by Claus Carstensen

The exhibition is accompanied by a research-based anthology edited by Claus Carstensen, Thea Rydal Jørgensen and postdoc Jens Tang Kristensen. The anthology is richly illustrated, and includes texts by the international scholars: Ronald Broglio, Raymond Tallis, Donald Preziosi, Frederik Stjernfelt, Sven-Olov Wallenstein, Anne Gregersen and Jens Tang Kristensen, as well as Claus Carstensen himself.

This unconventional collaboration between a museum, centre of contemporary art, artist, and university has resulted in an exhibition for contemporary times with a powerfully existential focus that can be experienced at Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art until April 25, 2018.