press release

Two of the most prominent artists within contemporary art enter into a dialogue with Hans Christian Andersen at Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center. Both are pioneering artists within today’s art, and at the same time their current works function as a living reference point for young artists. The artists are the Russian/American artist couple Ilya & Emilia Kabakov and the American artist Joseph Kosuth. Both have previously exhibited in Denmark; but this is the first time there is an opportunity to see new works made specifically for an exhibition in a Danish context.

Both the Kabakovs and Kosuth work with themes such as memory and identity, language and existence - themes which were also significant to Hans Christian Andersen. Joseph Kosuth was one of the main figures in the 1960’s as the groundwork was laid for conceptual art and has ever since occupied an almost mythical position within visual art. This also applies to the Russian Soviet-born Ilya & Emilia Kabakov who ever since leaving for the West have been creating their magical installations which have fascinated art audiences and colleagues alike. As conceptually working artists both the Kabakovs and Kosuth are concerned with the visualisation of abstract matters; but whereas Kosuth works in the cross field between word and image in a clear, conceptualist idiom, the Kabakovs’ universe is one of memory and imagination, brought to life through the stagings of spaces and objects.

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov: Morning, Evening, Night is a giant installation, built in the large Morning, Evening, Night interior of the former church. As a Chinese box system with rooms within rooms and with a condensed fairy tale core, the world of the imagination is visualised as layers on layers of levels of reality, moving from from the outer world of everyday life into the magical core. This work invites a dialogue with both body, vision and imagination, all of which are sent on a journey into the archetypal fairy tale universe.

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov can currently be seen at exhibitions in Berlin, at the Akademie der Künste, and in London, at Tate Modern where they participate in the large exhibition Open Systems: Rethinking Art c. 1970.

Joseph Kosuth’s work Recognizable Differences literally presents an opportunity to wander about in Andersen’s intellectual universe. Recognizable Differences’s form of presentation is a giant carpet, covering all of Nikolaj’s Upper Gallery. The fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes has been woven The Emperor’s New Clothes has been woven The Emperor’s New Clothes into the carpet, as has a selection of quotes by Søren Kierkegaard which are a subtext to the fairy tale. As it is generally known, Kierkegaard was a fierce critic of Andersen’s work; and what Kosuth does is to refute this criticism by using Kierkegaard’s own words, and the carpet thus unfolds as a birthday present to Hans Christian Andersen, which provides the basis for a recognition from Søren Kierkegaard that he always wanted.

Kosuth’s second work is a neon work consisting of two parts, inside and outside the tower respectively. This work relates to Hans Christian Andersen’s replies to the many questions in a visitor’s book concerning his preferences within all aspects of life, and it thus serves as a kind of self portrait. The questions can be found inside the tower, and Andersen’s replies will shine over the city from the outside of Nikolaj’s distinctive tower.

Joseph Kosuth is also represented at major international exhibitions at the moment, viz. the Basels Art Fair, ‘The Material of Ornament’, Querini Stampalia Foundation, Venedig, ‘Twice Defined’, Miyagi Prefectual Library, Japan and a 120 meter floorwork in the new German Parliament.

In their meeting with Andersen, the artists engage in an exchange which transcends a specific discourse and history and which expresses itself as an exploration of the richness of language, of metaphors and a shared cultural language. These are key elements to be found both in Andersen’s universe and in those of contemporary artists.

In connection with the exhibition, a catalogue will be published with articles and interviews by Fiona Biggiero, Elisabeth Delin Hansen, Carsten Juhl, Sanna Marander and Ann Lumbye Sørensen about the artists and their Andersen projects, as well as with sections edited by the artists themselves which function as an elaboration in words and pictures of their projects. Since the catalogue will furthermore feature photos documenting the works of the exhibition which will be installed right up until the opening, it will not be available on that occasion but will be produced as soon as possible thereafter. Already now, however, it is possible to order the catalogue and have it sent when it is published.

The exhibition has been curated by freelance curator and senior lecturer at the University of Copenhagen, Ann Lumbye Sørensen, MA.

The exhibition will subsequently be shown at the Reykjavik Museum of Art.


Hans Christian Andersen - A LIFE WORLD
Installations by Ilya & Emilia Kabakov and Joseph Kosuth
Kurator: Ann Lumbye Sorensen