CARTE BLANCHE at the French Embassy

Authored by Angélique Sanossian

WHAT: CARTE BLANCHE exhibition of 9 Danish artists
WHERE: The French Embassy, Kongens Nytorv 4, Copenhagen

WHEN: 11 March – 1 April 2016

Saturday 11 March … A sunny afternoon in Copenhagen … Amusingly enough, the city has changed 180 degrees … you can find pop-up food trucks or even bands playing in the street just because the sun is up … there, shining … dark souls hungry for life. Four friends who happen to love and appreciate art decided to hit the French Embassy.

For the first time in my life, I must bring my ID to enjoy art, but then that is part of the experience …

The embassy itself inside was magical – it takes you back in time straight away. One of my friends told me the building is full of history, and it’s been back and forth between the Danes and the French ……. Walking up the stairs, I had pants on and all I wished was that I had a dress on instead. And all I could visualize was what would happen if Marie Antoinette with her ultimately fashionable dresses visited Copenhagen and discovered during her petit dejeuner that the Danish bakery is way better than the French … quelle catastrophe!

I decided to write about my reflections and gather my friends’ input as well for this piece, representing a small yet big exhibition that stuck in my head all the way …

Dear Curator Natalia Guttman, I do totally confirm that the audience appreciated the language your exhibition suggests, and the four of us … we inhaled it completely. Thank you!

Carte blanche_1_Allan Ehrenreich Mortensen
Image by Allan Ehrenreich Mortensen

Nine Danish artists were invited to this same place. They had the liberty of walking around, visualizing and then create. They had a CARTE BLANCHE except for the fact that everything must remain in the same place and no screws in the walls or nails in the ceiling were allowed … carte blanche in a space where you can hardly find an empty wall is a challenge …

I present the 9 artists below and explain their work using much of the written word they used themelves:

1. Ann Louise Andersen – I do not believe in anything
Minimalism in her title; using an interactive approach at the entrance to the dining room, using ropes and activating the visitors to bow their heads which indicates that you can’t enter the dinning salon without an effort.

2. Peter Callesen – Unwritten words – papercut
“I imagine there is a lot of paperwork in the embassy, press releases, documents, reports. The A4 standard format seems obvious in this context.”

3. Jeannette Ehlers – I  can’t breathe – je suis Charlie
Exchanging the orange curtains in the dinning salon with black ones, she regards curtains as an interesting figure because they can keep something out to the same extent that they can frame the view outwards. She has a particular corner in the palace where you can see Nyhavn and kongens Nytorv yet she cover it in black. And the reason for black – a reference black lives matter and the mantra “I can’t breathe” is related to a racist act of brutality by the police.

4. FOS – Hypernormalization
The work was based on conversations with the embassy staff and mainly about examining where the embassy space starts and where it ends. A wooden gate outside the embassy door shaped like the Arc de Triumph in Paris with a more psychological explanation to it. And the title “Hypernormalization” refers to security measures, which nowadays have become so loudly outspoken, invisible structures are becoming a part of our everyday life, we are being pushed, managed and directed in an invisible way.

5. Lise Harlev – Too hot or too cold
She used an audio work in the middle of the Red Salon. She wanted to stimulate the visitor imagination and make them use their ears instead of their eyes. An audio piece that describes interior details … she wanted to invite the visitor to imagine another space within the actual space of red salon

6. Hasselholdt and Mejlvang – Stairway to beetroot heaven
She reflected in her work all along the stairs with the beetroot colored installation that the beetroot colored European passport is so attractive at the moment; the color beetroot has become an obsession in the installation and in reality. The visitor is welcome, which is stated on a doormat lying in front of the staircase. STAIRWAY TO BEETROOT HEAVEN – it’s like meeting an old friend with whom you feel safe. Heavy long chains follow the staircase from bottom to top. It’s a kind of track, a reminder from colonial time up until today. We believe that everything is connected; we like how long heavy and brutal it is inside this beautiful interior of ornaments … Goblin tapestries and antique furniture.

7. Peter Land – The secret agent

It is not just a sculptural object; it is an installation which occupies a space and interact with visitors. He writes that it is an experiment with what happens when you introduce a foreign element in this elegant etiquette-filled environment. How will people react? The titles and events at the embassy are in the direction of the theatre of the absurd, with all these elegantly dressed people having to navigate this big ball mentally as well as physically. “I hope it will defuse some of the seriousness and pomposity of the place.”

8. Choki Lindberg – Please wait here
No one knows what exactly has happened. There is no human present to tell the story … it’s all left up to our imagination. A surreal scenario is presented by a slow photography work that captures different items and we are left to imagine what and how it would be in this frame: GRAND SALON, 2017. PHOTO 2X1,31M

9, Tina Maria Nielsen – Invasion
“A kind of invasion through my art work. Data surveillance is also an invasion. Phones can get hacked and people really do use their phones for very private things. Everything is placed in this private zone and on the other hand its completely accessible and transparent and you cannot hide anything. That is why I find it interesting to create these phones without function. It becomes more clear what they are and what they do to us when they are actually not doing it anymore.”

Carte Blanche_2_Anja Agnethe Kure

Image and quote by Anja Agnethe Kure

“At first glance everything looks as expected … but then you see another dimension which makes you wonder if history is just a coincidence.”


 

  Carte Blanche_3_Gilles Jeronymos

 

Image and quote by Gilles Jeronymos

“The ambassador is gone on summer holiday. The palace has become enchanted. Objects place and proportions don’t match. But what if they did? The impression is dreamlike. The uncanny presence of this giant ball in a palace that embodies The French Republic is an invitation to set a foot in a distorted reality.”

 

 

Being Syrian born and having lived in Aleppo city, the building itself with its high ceilings reminded me a lot of the interior of couple of building in Aleppo from the colonial period. We were influenced a lot by the French, and one of the biggest gardens in the middle of the city center that was built by French is where I spent my childhood (Jardin public d’Alep). The French touch was always there and this Saturday afternoon took me down there for a while …

In the beginning, I couldn’t understand, recognize or differentiate between the items that belonged to the space and those that connected installation or the artwork in that spot. It took me a while to initially grasp where I was. Then the puzzle just became clearer … Once I had a clue, I moved back and forth and took my time with each artist’s work one by one. Some of the artworks grasped onto my heart from the moment I spotted them. And one of them I choose to mention … Choki Lindberg’s photographic work.  The way she visualized and used her imagination … and how she framed it allll in one photo using the same location was fascinating. And knowing she spent time and took it slowly makes me appreciate it more and more.

Yet, one of the installation that you must let me come back to and consider it ‘second best’ is the audio by Lise Harlev. The space is sooo rich that TOO HOT OR TOO COLD was perfectly arranged to make me wonder.

I choose to write about the beetroot installation as well. Yes, the passport color and the id is appealing in today’s world, and Europe is the destination, and the color itself is sexy enough …

Yes I am one of the blue color passport holders, and one day my kid will have the Bordeaux privileged one but seeing those chains and ships as a reminder from colonial times up until today … poses so many questions in my head … where is Europe today in reality … is it worth it?

I would like to thank each Artist for every single thought and piece of energy put into this collective, sophisticated exhibition.

You can still check out the exhibition. It is running until end of the month. See the Facebook event here, and the French Embassy description here. Thanks a lot and see you next time with another detailed reflection and a point of view.

Angélique

Copenhagen 14-03-2017

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