National Gallery of Denmark will unfold an entire universe surrounding one of the most important works ever created within Danish feminist art: Ursula Reuter Christiansen’s film The Executioner. The 1971 film is presented as part of a new total installation that also includes a range of silkscreen prints, paintings and art books based on The Executioner.
‘The next great moment in history belongs to us’. That is how Ursula Reuter Christiansen’s art film The Executioner from 1971 ends. The short film rebels against widespread historic and contemporary perceptions of what women’s role should be – such as that of motherhood – looking ahead to a time of genuine female emancipation.
Ursula Reuter Christiansen plays the main protagonist in the film, which was created during the artist’s first years in Denmark. The film takes the form of a series of tableaux that include her encounter with the titular executioner in a field of poppies; with an exhausted soldier, whom she breastfeeds; and with a flock of beer-drinking men busily digging her grave.
The Executioner stands among the key works in Ursula Reuter Christiansen’s oeuvre and is one of the most important works within Danish feminist art. Now, the work has served as the basis and cornerstone of a total installation at SMK, created in collaboration with the artist. Ursula Reuter Christiansen’s work on The Executioner did not stop in 1971. Ever since, she has continued to build on its themes in other media, such as paintings, photographs, artist’s books and silkscreen prints, that all incorporate elements from the original film.
The installation at SMK brings together the film and the subsequent works of art – and in addition to this the display also includes props from the film, such as costumes and the executioner’s axe, tapes of the original soundtrack by Henning Christiansen and cuttings of media coverage from the period, allowing visitors to explore how the film was received by the feminist scenes in Denmark and Germany.