Street Haunting, Cloud Travel Apparatus, and Orgone
Nanna Debois Buhl’s recent exhibition “Street Haunting” at New Shelter Plan, an artist-run space in Copenhagen’s Carlsberg complex, has the same title as one of three works presented. Street Haunting is also arguably the strongest piece and consists of 12 prints featuring a “found photograph” and a text describing each image authored by a number of anonymous psychics. The disparate and fragmented psychic’s observations create a narrative of a troubled woman and with statements like “you have become too obsessed with these photos,” the artworks start to psychoanalyze themselves. However, the composition of each photograph seems too purposeful to me to be “found,” which further confuses the role of the artist. This becomes especially evident once one learns the diverse readings were based on a set of questions used for character development in script writing.
Other works in this exhibition include Collected Walks (2012), a collection of cyanotypes exposed during long walks in different cities with audio narratives from many authors describing women trespassing various cityscapes. Night Map is a site-specific approach to re-creating these literary city walks, the starting point of which is Michéle Bernstein’s novel La Nuit (1961) and the gallery space itself. But La Nuit is not merely a typical mid-Century French menage á Trois story describing a couple and their young lover – it is a fictionalized version of Bernstein’s life with Guy Debord. As Bernstein and Debord were both Situationist Internationals, the artist Buhl borrows methods of détournment to relate the texts, maps, and paths and has recreated the path of the couple in Bernstein’s novel (being her story with Debord in disguise) onto Copenhagen to create a walk of her own from the gallery through the surrounding neighborhood. This action is presented as a slide installation pairing photographs taken during her Copenhagen détournment with excerpts from Bernstein’s novel. What results is not only a poetic impression of many women’s urban experience, but a glimpse at the silent history of sexual politics rarely discussed in today’s academic presentation of the Situationist International.
Across town at the non-profit space Overgaden, two recent concurrent exhibitions also directly engage a body’s movement through space, but this time that of the viewer. In Jacob Tækker’s Apophenia Cloud Travel Apparatus (2014), a visitor must first gear up in a simple uniform of gray booties, lab coat and adjust a safety-helmet-type harness to their head. This harness supports a grey rectangle of plastic positioned directly in front of one’s face, leaving only the periphery vision for navigation. My first assumption was that this blockage was somehow supposed to simulate an unusual visual disability. However, upon entering the designated darkened room, my ‘screen,’ caught the projection of a giant eye, which filled my vision like some early surrealist film. Unfortunately, that delightful shock was not repeated throughout my explorations of the room. Over ten projectors positioned at different angles provided an abstract course for image discovery. However, the remaining videos only featured the artists engaged in Bruce Naumann-like mundane activities in the same gallery space at some past occasion. With such an innovative and interactive way to experience what can be the fairly mundane medium of video art, I was disappointed it did not end up being a more surreal adventure.
On second floor Overgaden presented Orgone – the highlight of these three bright spots on view in May. Named from controversial psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich’s universal force, Orgone energy was said to have the potential to heal and could be harnessed to influence the physical world. Starting from Reich’s own homemade machines and instruments, Astrid Myntekær created a room-scale installation using the power rich materials of copper, glass, light, electricity and magnetic fluid, many times in found or readily available forms. The result not only drew upon the “radical pioneers of psychology and new age philosophy” but the dark and mystical spaces of raves and Goth culture. In this space, Myntekær used simple means to produce a safe and healing “shelter” for one to create their own reality through disorientating ambiguity. During an accompanying workshop for the exhibition, the artist invited guests to create their own “Dream Wheel” from two main elements of the exhibition, broken glass and lasers. Orgone, therefore, is not only something available to everyone, but a force that may be harnessed through its active material use and attention. Myntekær successful combined the euphoric aftermath of a good night out dancing with the rigor of psychedelic philosophy in a space that I found hard to leave – something best experienced than described, which (unfortunately) also means it has a limited reach.
Nanna Debois Buhl: Street Haunting was on view at New Shelter Plan in Copenhagen, Denmark May 2 – 24, 2014.
Images courtesy of New Shelter Plan. Photo: Johan Rosenmunthe
Jacob Tækker: Apophenia Cloud Travel Apparatus and Astrid Myntekær: Orgone were on view at Overgaden in Copenhagen, Denmark March 29 – May 18, 2014.
Images courtesy of Overgaden. Photo: Anders Sune Berg