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Art Week 2019

The first challenge is to accept, philosophically, the idea that Art Week isn't a generator of any kind of real programming or conversations around the presentation of art in Copenhagen, and that it exists purely as an aggregator of exhibitions and events for social media.

 
 

On May 25 we opened the exhibition Nothing is true, Everything is alive (Prologue: Symbiogenesis), featuring the works of the Spanish artists Carlos Fernandez-Pello and Carlos Monleón and curator Julia Morandeira.

The show follows on from having worked with Morandeira in the first issue of Oberon, in which she described Canibalia, a body of exhibitions/research she had staged, describing the history of cannibalism as a concept/tool central to the colonising of Central and Southern America. This new exhibition, the first in a new body of research, was thinking about certain organism (symbiotic cultures, lichens etc.) as a metaphor for how we exist in the world. 

Together with the artists and curator, we decided to include the exhibition in the program of the Copenhagen Art Week. A few days before the opening, the director of Art Week appeared on Radio 24syv and was asked about the summary text we’d supplied. The question: how could she talk about it being hard to attract a general public audience when this is how we describe works? Hilarity ensued. 

We were offered the opportunity to complete a survey responding to our involvement in the Art Week, the final question: How likely are you to participate in Art Week in 2019? The answer: you can see below. 

In some ways this is a conversation about valuing complexity in expression but at its core, this is broadly a conversation about a dedication to “the cause” – and the pernicious effects of chasing the dopamine hit (of social media as a cultural parasite) at the cost of cultural production and living together. 

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How likely are you to participate in Art Week in 2019?

The first challenge is to accept, philosophically, the idea that Art Week isn't a generator of any kind of real programming or conversations around the presentation of art in Copenhagen, and that it exists purely as an aggregator of exhibitions and events – turning them into content (predominantly for social media) and using them as an excuse for an opening party. 

The second challenge is to think of a way to rationalise investing the labour and cash of opening an exhibition or developing our own programming during Art Week when it doesn't mean that there are suddenly more people in the city looking for art – as there have been for previous years when the week was programmed during the CHART art fair – but rather that we now have to compete with multiple venues, with more established attendance and marketing connections, for the attention of an already cravenly loyalist art audience. 

After overcoming these obstacles, and having accepted the fee, it would be very hard to be related to any project called Art Week that doesn’t see its first job as the promotion and defence of art and artists. Not including the names of the artists in the printed publication is a telling mistake, as is not proofing the text for spelling mistakes in exhibition titles – revealing, if not a philosophical deficit, definitely a pretty lacklustre approach to one of Art Week’s core value propositions for participating venues.

However, it would be very hard to look past the Director’s response to a journalist’s ridiculing of our exhibition’s text. Ok, so the journalistic standards of Radio 24syv don’t seem to be particularly high. (The comments section attached to their facebook post are a particularly dark window onto some very banal ways of thinking.) But all I have to go with is what I can hear: and that is not a resounding defence of contemporary art. I must admit that my curator has got me a bit worked-up, but if I think about it, it’s just a bit sad that the first response is always “oh yes, I’ve got lots of education and even I don’t understand it”.

I think we should be more practiced in our response to this ridiculing of art (and texts about art). Art, at any level, and at any point in time, has always been about “becoming”; of things coming into being, of some illusive sense of understanding always ever just emerging. Ultimately, this process of "becoming" involves staring into the darkness and feeling the breeze on our faces, as we contemplate the enormity of what we haven’t seen, the enormity of what we don’t know, and the enormity of what we haven’t felt. 

We need to be more practiced in our response to these suggestions – that art should be more easily friendly to the un-thinking mind – because, as social beings, we are too easily drawn into the warm embrace of the jeering crowd. When we put up our hands and take a step back – “Oh, yes, it’s silly isn’t it? It makes very little sense to me too. Honestly had I been responsible for this it wouldn’t be there!” –  we step back into the warm embrace of the same suspicious, hate-filled crowd that doesn’t just calls thing elitist but that marks them as degenerate.

Our first response needs to be an emphatic defence of the poetic, and as such, a defence of the elaborate, the esoteric, the confusing, the absurd, and the downright mad. What is our short time on this planet, if not absurd? What meaning is there for us, as we go about our too-few journeys around the sun, if we always understand what we see, if we are always offered up that which we expect and that which can be neatly packaged? Who are we as artists, or people, if we don't attempt to shine a light into the dim corners of narrow minds? 

The experiences that we had with Art Week in 2018 have imbued us with a profound hope that Art Week 2019 will see an increased focus on media training, decent copy-editing, and – most importantly – a director who’s prepared to defend, and who can articulate, art’s right to be itself.