artist / participant
Over the past ten years, the Danish artist Henrik Plenge Jakobsen has gained a reputation for making works which provoke a double take. His laughing gas chambers, fake traffic accident and fire, and brightly coloured logos, ANGST and NASDAQ FOREVER, all played on the seductive powers of surface appearances, as well as their ability to belie underlying meanings and truths. Most recently the artist has focused on devising striking installations which knit together diverse elements to create absurdist scenarios laden with multiple meanings.
J'Accuse, a newspaper expose of racially motivated corruption in the French government, is the inspiration for Jakobsen's South London Gallery exhibition, his first solo show in the UK. No other newspaper article has provoked such public debate and controversy or had such an impact on law, justice and society. Written in 1898 by French novelist Emile Zola in defence of Captain Alfred Drefus, the article led to the author being tried for criminal libel, his financial ruin and some say even his untimely death.
J'Accuse was an open letter to the French President on behalf of Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer in the French army who had been convicted of treason. Zola's letter exposed Dreyfus's trial as an anti-Semitic cover-up in which many high ranking French officials were implicated.
For his SLG show Plenge Jakobsen draws parallels between Zola's letter and the current climate of fear and suspicion generated in an environment of political spin. Completely transforming the gallery into a black and white set, in which we take on the role of the accusers in a bizarre scenario riddled with puns, Plenge Jakobsen explores the impossibility of revealing underlying truths in the face of media interpretation and the power of the establishment.
Plenge Jakobsen has a growing international reputation and last year he had a solo show at the highly regarded Portikus gallery in Frankfurt. In January 2005 he will have a major solo exhibition at the National Museum for Art in Copenhagen.
PUBLICATION: 'Opera in One Act' by Henrik Plenge Jakobsen, with text by Franz Kafka, is available from the SLG. The book is published by Portikus Frankfurt am Main and follows Plenge Jakobsen's 2003 solo exhibition, 'Circus Portikus'.
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Henrik Plenge Jakobsen