Earthquakes, tsunamis, epidemics, asteroid strikes, super-volcanoes, zombie attacks, and a wealth of other apocalyptic visions – disasters will come hard and fast at the new exhibition venue X and Beyond, soon to open its doors in Copenhagen. And this venue – despite its size (around 100 m2 of floor space) and position (Griffenfeldtsgade in the Nørrebro area of the city) – is not an artist-run place; rather, it is an entirely new kind of research-based exhibition venue that has never been seen before in Denmark.
The man behind the new exhibition venue is Jacob Lillemose – critic, curator, and PhD in art history – and the venue is part of a postdoc project which is in turn part of the research project “Changing Disasters” under the auspices of the Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research.
“Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research is one of the leading centres for so-called ‘disaster studies’, which are an extremely hot ticket on the international academic scene right now. Disaster studies seek to create a cross-disciplinary approach to disasters; one that does not simply focus on the physical event in itself, but which also incorporates imaginary, economic, and political dimensions. The name of the new venue reflects this. It is about the catastrophic event – the X – and about all the things that surround it. The necessity of such an approach has become increasingly obvious in the wake of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the nuclear disaster at Fukushima,” says Jacob Lillemose to Kunstkritikk.
“The new exhibition venue is intended as an attempt at conducting disaster research via the exhibition medium. The intention is to transpose terms and concepts from the realms of art and popular culture into the discussion of what disasters are and what impact they have on our existential, social, and cultural perspectives on the world and on life. Also, we will use the exhibition as a kind of public interface for disaster research.”
This is to say that we should not expect Copenhagen’s new exhibition venue to necessarily present cutting-edge contemporary art; rather, it will be a platform for thematically curated shows. Lillemose adds:
“It is quite important to me that I don’t try to compete with TOVES, Years, New Shelter Plan, or Overgaden, but that I create a new kind of place. Also, I will be working closely together with the artists exhibited. As curator, I will be quite actively involved in developing the exhibitions. You might say that I will be part producer, part sounding board; I will apply my insight in the themes and the research conducted at Changing Disasters to the artist’s works, engaging them in mutual exchanges. In this sense X and Beyond will differ quite a lot from most exhibition venues in Copenhagen. It is neither a gallery nor an institution, not commercial and not art history. Insofar as it is anything, it is a project space where I curate artists in relation to specific formats and themes, challenging them from the position of my disaster perspective in order to open up new aspects of their work.”
“Our hope is that over time we can help build awareness and interest that will ideally promote greater disaster literacy, enabling audiences to reflect on and give voice to the impact of disasters. It is a little like Manifesta in Limburg a few years back, where one of the exhibitions was about the local and global history of the coal industry. That’s the institutional statement of this place – a very specific focus.
When the venue opens in early March, it will present computer-drawn images of disaster created by the German outsider artist Rainer Hestermann. This will later be followed by a Søren Thilo Funder exhibition about “survivalism, Voltaire, and Predator”. Not everything has been firmly fixed in place yet. As Lillemose says:
“I am quite eclectic by nature, so even though contemporary art will be a main crux for X and Beyond, it will still be just one element out of many. There will also be plenty of literature and film. Comic books and music. There will be long-running exhibitions, short-term exhibitions, workshops, talks, screenings, and so on. We are also planning various collaborative efforts with other institutions. And there will probably be something about zombies, too …”