Curatorial statement by Anja Franke
The Danish North Coast Art Triennial – Unknown Landscape aims to explore the conceptual and real-life qualities of the northern coast of Sjælland. As an artist, I was asked to curate the Triennial. I chose the title Unknown Landscape, partly because it refers to how artists sometimes work, which enables them to use a wide range of artistic techniques, and partly because it refers to the overall theme of the Triennial. During the three-day Art Camp on the northern coast of Sjælland in summer 2015, the participating artists from Denmark and many other countries were invited to interpret and create their own stories using the Unknown Landscape theme. At the same time, using the Triennial format, they were also invited to explore new forms of the artistic process and diplomacy in the context of our Nordic identity and self-awareness.
I have curated the Triennial from the feeling and situation of “losing something while simultaneously confronting something unknown”. I have invited artists from Denmark and abroad to stage a kind of micro-immigration of artistic reflections into the landscapes of northern Sjælland and the established art and cultural institutions in the area.
Today, artists tend to organize their art by using a network of other artists and by creating artistic platforms outside the established art institutions. For example, I created IHi – InstantHERLEV institute, which functions as an art and research initiative for the creative process. I believe that self-organization is reaching new levels in relation to art exhibitions – with basic research and artistic self-organization serving as the foundation.
We are our cultural identity until the foreign and unknown show us something else
I believe that the Nordic self-knowledge, gender and identity have something in common with part of the feminist strategy. In connection with the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s, women artists in the United States began creating art that formulates women as gender. In connection with articulating women as gender, there was also focus on – and questions raised about – white western European men and their role and identity in society. I believe that the same issues apply to our Nordic identity, since, over the last couple of years, questions have been raised about globalization and our local communities. Women used to represent the other, the foreign and the unknown, but now refugees and immigrants from other cultures coming into the Nordic cultures have taken over that role. Subsequently, we have started to articulate our Nordic identity through globalization and meeting foreigners and unknown cultures. Unknown Landscape raises questions about this issue, which can be traced in very different ways in the artists’ work.
Experience in knowledge and self-organization in art
When I was selecting the artists for the Triennial, I emphasized that they all had experience in working with site-specific art. This way, the artwork is created based on a given context that already exists through the history, natural surroundings, culture, environment, gender and local tales about each site. The artists are using the Triennial context of the northern Sjælland area and its cultural institutions as a kind of palette that reflects their own artistic endeavours by creating meaning across languages, borders, cultures and individuals.
Knowledge and site-specific art often conflict with one another. They require the sensibility, exploration and examination that exists in the artistic world that can enable re-evaluation of how knowledge can be interpreted on site through curiosity, emotion and creativity. This is why I feel that the experience I have with artistic self-organization is a great motivator for promoting artistic knowledge. By focusing on the advantages of a place – what makes it special – the artist-driven experience brings new ideas and structures as the “unknown” develops.
Anja Franke, 2016.