A sculpture made from pick-and-mix candy shaped like fried eggs, a sugar jellyfish immersed in a vat of frying oil, drag performers wearing traditional red postal uniforms and bikini-clad beach chairs placed within a psychedelic summer scenario. The exhibition Young Danish Art – Forecasting the Future features ten prominent artists, all of them born in the 1980s, presenting their takes on our current age. Cutting across many different media and materials, each artist showcases their own experimental idioms as they take measure of the present and gaze into the future.
What characterizes the times in which we live, and which forces shape our future? Who has access to which communities? And what kind of planet will we pass on to future generations? The exhibition reflects a sense of vulnerability, uncertainty and doubt that many of us experience today. Multiple views on our complex world are unfolded, focusing on the political and cultural changes that are on the agenda in contemporary art. With a political outlook, the artists point to connections between global economies, changes in the Danish welfare society and the vulnerability of individuals and the globe. Applying three overarching themes – work culture, belonging and climate crisis – the exhibition presents powerful, political, poetic and innovative art that explores and challenges the major issues of our time.
Three artists consider our present-day work culture, probing issues of value, pace and productivity: Hannah Toticki Anbert (b. 1984), Kirsten Astrup (b. 1983) and Marie Thams (b. 1982).
Hannah Anbert’s vibrant and sculptural garments mimic familiar work uniforms such as smocks, scrubs and aprons. However, her uniforms have been sewn out of non-traditional materials and take on absurd forms, stripping them of their original functionality to become something else, akin to theatrical costumes or high-fashion outfits. With her work, Anbert points out the focus on performance and branding in today’s work culture.
Kirsten Astrup’s exuberant movie cabaret presents us with postal workers wearing traditional red Post Danmark uniforms while also sporting lavish drag make-up. The workers gather in their public sector workplace to dance and sing while the ticking bomb of privatisation is about to go off. The work depicts the ongoing downscaling of public institutions and the loss of community spirit seen in today’s society.
In Marie Thams’ spacious installation, we encounter a pregnant belly and a stream of playful, contrasting voices. The artist focuses on how the strict demands of today’s labour market affect and shape us as individuals. The work gives expression to the artist’s personal experience of feeling unproductive during one of the most intense moments of production imaginable – the act of bringing forth new life.
National and global communities are essential to our self-understanding and well-being as individuals. Works by Mo Maja Moesgaard (b. 1980), Masar Sohail (b. 1982) and Tabita Rezaire (b. 1989) examine the relationship between identity, alienation and a sense of belonging.
In Mo Maja Moesgaard’s animated film, a first-person narrator recounts personal experiences of racism and discrimination, arousing anger, frustration and sadness. Created in collaboration with the author Lone Aburas, the work questions who is included and excluded in Danish society.
Masar Sohail’s cinematic work plays with established tropes of film, specifically Hollywood’s stereotypical portrayals of the ‘outsider’ from the underbelly of society. The film’s protagonist expresses a desire to create a new nation-state. He wants to designate a common enemy, allowing the new state to be defined in opposition to this foe. The work comments on questions of cultural divisions and the problems of alienating notions about otherness, about an ‘us’ and a ‘them’.
Tabita Rezaire’s sculptural, cinematic installation presents poetic and erotic scenarios featuring images of nature, bodies and technology in a world of colours and shapes. Juggling with stereotypical orchestrations and clichés, Rezaire highlights and challenges the power structures shaping the realities we encounter in the digital realm.
The climate crisis is insistently felt today. Our escalating consumer culture is putting pressure on the planet and the many other species with which we share it. Benedikte Bjerre (b. 1987), Astrid Myntekær (b. 1985), Nanna Abell (b. 1985) and Silas Inoue (b. 1981) all put climate issues on the agenda.
A massive sculpture has been camouflaged by candy in the shape of fried eggs. Benedikte Bjerre imported the candy from Malmö, fusing it with polystyrene, one of the most widely used types of plastic today. With the work, Bjerre offers wry observations on many issues: the living conditions of battery chickens, our extensive consumption of sugar and the massive fraud associated with the sale and import of sweets across Danish borders.
Astrid Myntekær’s steel structure is neatly decorated with Japanese tatami mats, spirulina algae dust and fans. Drawing on the history of algae as a both life-giving and deadly organism, she positions humanity’s existence within the wider history of evolution. The minimalistic work points to the temporal aspects of mankind’s existence, reminding us that we are not the only important actors on the planet.
Nanna Abell’s awkwardly folded beach chairs have been clad in bikinis, appearing before us as the sun rises in the background; closer inspection reveals the sun to be the logo of the oil corporation Shell. The work links up body culture, consumer culture and pollution in a surreal and dystopian beach scene.
One of Silas Inoue’s enigmatic sculptures feature a jellyfish made of sugar submerged and preserved in frying oil. The artist explores the materiality and history of sugar, such as its role in the early colonial era as part of the triangular trade. Sugar is also one of nature’s fundamental building blocks; humans, animals and plants all have sugar in their cells, and it is an essential element of the pollination processes.
All these things – and more – can be experienced in the exhibition. The three themes are not strictly separate; rather, the individual works of art interact and engage each other in wider conversations. The ten artists shine a critical light on present-day society, challenging our established perception of ourselves, our history and our surroundings. But it is not all doom and gloom: they don’t just predict a future collapse, but also point to potentials and new opportunities for shaping a brighter future. Contemporary art incorporates faith in the future, issuing a call for us all to create new narratives, communities and relationships based on diversity, solidarity and mutual care across species.