‘You are in my veins, you fuck’ is a statement uttered by top model Kate Moss about her dramatic love affair with musician Pete Doherty. A relationship unfolding itself as a mixture of love, addiction and obsession. Such dark objects of desire and the duality of the seductive and the constrictive form the starting point of the exhibition You Are in My Veins. Set in public urban spaces rather than inside a dedicated art venue, the exhibition entwines itself into the fabric of Aarhus as an intimate, anti-monumental presence that is all about states of mind and affect. It takes the ephemerality, intensity and pathos of music as a major inspiration behind its form.
You Are in My Veins is curated by curator Charlotte Sprogøe who has invited six artists from Denmark and abroad to create new works for Aarhus, ranging from a theme song, music videos, film and sculptural installations to a performance and concert. Each work reflects particular mental states, exploring the realms of the spiritual, the psychological and the hedonistic, creating variation on moods and tones throughout the inner city of Aarhus.
Aarhus is known as a Music City and, ever since a highly successful tourism campaign in 1938, as ‘Smilets By’ – the City of Smiles. With its many Michelin-starred restaurants, dozens of sidewalk cafés, picturesque boutiques and cobbled Latin Quarter, the city is an alluring mini-metropolis offering a wealth of pleasurable leisure activities for all visitors – whether from the local region or overseas. One of the distinctive hallmarks of Aarhus is its commercial, sleekly produced pop, but experimental alternatives also exist in underground scenes that cultivate chaos and a punk aesthetic. You Are in My Veins flows into this tension-filled field of attraction, clashes and stress common to every European metropolis today. From the university city’s extensive nightlife to spiritual romance lodged in its backyards, its Escape Rooms and psychotherapy clinics, the works are located where human emotions, energies and spiritual states are most powerfully condensed.
The exhibition begins even before visitors arrive in Aarhus: passengers on the Molslinjen ferry will see one of its works on the onboard info screens. In the city itself, the display opens with a work created for Dokk1, the brightly shining beacon of the city’s prestigious architect-designed waterfront. It continues into the downtown Latin Quarter, calling in at Kvindemuseet/the Women’s Museum and further into the (formerly) countercultural areas found in the streets of the Mejlgade neighbourhood.
You Are in My Veins will open in conjunction with the Art Weekend Aarhus festival, which runs from 4 October to 6 October, and will remain on display throughout the autumn from 4 October to November 17. The exhibition is created at the behest of Kunsthal Aarhus, Galleri Image and the Aarhus Center for Visual Arts (AaBKC), joining up here for the first time ever to launch an internationally based exhibition in the urban spaces of inner-city Aarhus.
Thanks to Dokk1, Molslinjen, Kvindemuseet, Kystpalæet, Borgporten, Café Lecoq, Jespersen Ejendomme, Carroll og Carmen, Sinding og co., Herr Bartels.
Locations: Dokk1, Molslinjen, under Skt Clemens bro, above Badstuestæde & Volden, Havnepladsen Aarhus, Herr Bartels
NB! Due to technical issues, the film is not available at Molslinjen at the moment
British artist George Henry Longly’s work searchers has been created on location at selected hubs in Aarhus in collaboration with Swiss musician and artist Nelson Beer, who composed the score and plays the lead role in the video-based work. The piece operates as a ghostly presence without its own body and form, running incorporeally through the city’s marketing platforms; info screens, monitors, banners and digital display stands. It can be watched in its entirety, presenting itself like a music video with Aarhus as its backdrop on Dokk1’s big screen on Level 0 at the street entrance, but smaller sections also show up in loops inserted between other content on the screens of the Molslinjen ferry, the large harbour screen at Aarhus Docklands, in the nightclub Herr Bartels and at other sites.
George Henry Longly works with systems of presentation: from urban macrostructures to exhibition display systems to the human psyche and its patterns of archetypes and ideals. All of these structures govern and guide our perception of the world. Like drug-induced high coursing through the city’s veins, interfering with its collective consciousness, the music video examines the rush as form. It explores the void that the brain dives into when our consciousness lets go of the body when our emotions are reset and everything is seen from an ‘out of body’ perspective. Longly is interested in intensity, an emotional state described as a frozen ‘now’ in time, a moment in which our usual understanding of the world is disrupted. All the things that usually commands our attention get reduced to a mere background hum and our emotions are amplified. Overall, searchers mingles the present and past of Aarhus with pop culture, explorations of different scenes and identity studies, portraying the city as a state of mind for us to move around at will.
Alex Cecchetti (IT 1977): Love Bar
Location: Snevringen, Volden 16, the back yard, Friday 4. October 18.00–20.00
Italian artist Alex Cecchetti describes his Love Bar as a ‘feral wild state’ akin to an undomesticated plant unfurling freely and lushly in the wild. Love Bar is a kind of proto-theatre – a precursor of the theatre we know today where music, performance and storytelling come together. Here, audiences and performers fuse to form a single totality. Love Bar has been staged at art events in several European metropolitan cities, from the Palais de Tokyo in Paris to the Volcano Extravaganza on Stromboli, and in Aarhus the artist has orchestrated the piece for a hidden city garden. Enter through a small wrought-iron gate facing Volden, pass through one of the city’s narrowest alleys to arrive at a secret, almost paradisiacal place behind the storefronts.
In Love Bar, the guests come to the host to speak about their own love lives. Based on their stories, the artist creates Love Potions which can create the balance or passion the guests yearn for. Herbs and plants have been collected beforehand in the countryside around Aarhus, brewed up to create syrups and mixtures. Alongside the dried flowers and the flora of the garden they form an ‘alchemist's living laboratory of love’. In the weeks that follow, the performance will spread its hedonistic message further out around the city by means of a poster campaign in which the flowers and herbs from Love Elixir and other potions emerge on advertising pillars and façades.
Adam Christensen (DK/UK 1979): You Are in My Veins
Location: Café Lecoq
Performance October 5th at 9 pm , Lecoq’s bunker across from Graven 14
Intimacy, sexuality and melodrama also take centre stage in English-Danish artist Adam Christensen’s contribution to You Are in My Veins. Adam Christensen has created the exhibition’s Theme Song and a film for the Aarhus bar scene screened inside the Lecoq bar and café. In the opening weekend, visitors can also witness him performing live in the bunker in front of Lecoq. Known as a performer with an intense presence, the artist combines the drama of theatre with the earnestness of a songwriter. It is difficult to say precisely where the genuinely personal ends and acting takes over when experiencing Christensen’s works, which compellingly convince us of the authenticity of the emotions expressed, giving rise to a tremulous state of transcendence and sensitivity. The perception of identity and sexuality as something that one performs, not as something given and fixed, characterises much of contemporary art. For Christensen, this fluid state of being several things at once is very pronounced.
In the film, the artist takes gay bar conventions as a point of departure, with hammy soap operas playing behind the bar to add a humorous-grotesque flavour to the atmosphere of the place. The sheer physicality, sensuality and tactility of nightlife reflect this realm of romantic longing, loss and passion.
Desire, love and sexuality suffuse the three-part installation created by Japanese artist Soshiro Matsubara: Love Sick. The exhibition extends across the Women’s Museum’s foyer, ground floor and the plateau on the green first floor. Like several of the artist’s other works, Love Sick draws on the legend of the celebrated composer Alma Mahler’s relationship with the Expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka in the 1900s; upon being abandoned by her, Kokoschka had a doll fashioned in her image in order to assuage his longing for her. The works become emblems of the forces of attraction – from mad obsession to sensuous unions with the beloved. Here, desire and the characters’ immersion in their acts of love drown out everything else: they are heedless of the outside world.
The works are created especially for the Women’s Museum and its ornately decorated spaces; legacies of the building’s former use as the city hall of Aarhus. The museum’s focus on the cultural history of the sexes and the relationship between the sexes is given a psychological and emotional spin through the presence of Matsubara’s works. The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan uses the concept of object petit a to describe objects of desire that can never be attained – addressing the unresolved longing that characterises our imagined relationship with the world around us and which creates feelings of lack and want. Precisely such unresolved yearning has been described as fundamental to the commodity fetish of capitalism, which manages to create a fantasy that the things we buy can satisfy us, sating our hunger to become one with the objects of our dreams.
Location Borgporten, Mejlgade 28, back yard
In Rolf Nowotny’s art, the human condition is a state of abject horror where our perception of the world collapses and things melt and merge. Dregs, the title of his contribution to You Are in My Veins, represents the dregs of society. He has littered the ceiling of Aarhus’s beautiful Parisian arcade, Borgporten, with small thorn-covered men made of epoxy. Their faces are undefined, their bodies melting contours. Posed as August Rodin’s iconic The Thinker, a work which dates from the same era as the building, they become markers of a tormented mental state, of something that toes the line between man, object and nature in a ‘post-human’ state where the boundaries between soul and material, the living and the dead, thinking and feeling all blur and overlap. Back in the Middle Ages, ‘Borgporten’ (The Castle Gate) was the main gateway between the inner city of Aarhus and its environs. The dungeons of the old gatehouse housed prisoners who had been sentenced to die, and its tower contained one of the city’s bells.
Moving down Graven, a former moat of Aarhus, Nowotny’s installation continues in the Mejlgade area. Here, in the backyard of number 28, behind the New Age Wisdom Center, you will find what some describe as a mecca of the alternative where energies, body and soul are healed by means of various modes of treatment. A number of small fish have been installed on the ceiling of the gateway, and a chain fastened on the Celtic cross in the courtyard bears a moon face looking up at the sky. The cross symbolises the union of heaven and earth, soul and body, and in keeping with such symbolism Nowotny’s fish occupy a realm somewhere between the visible and the hidden. Like tiny silverfish, they dart around where you hardly see them – creatures with no autonomous being of their own. A hybrid entity, part symbol, part insect and part spiritually illuminating deep-sea fish.
Astrid Svangren (S 1972):
ultra fine lily
born lippy ( oil bubbling bath )
exfoliating ( drops of sun )
bouncy sleeping towel ( cactus long handle brush )
bath pillow ( inflatable soft gel )
foamwash socks ( texturing wax )
Location: Mejlgade 46, second backyard, at the back
Emotional plateaus, energy flows and rites come together in the works by Swedish artist Astrid Svangren. Here, even colours have soul, intensity and a dreamy presence. For You Are in My Veins, Svangren has created an installation for the moss-grown, deep second backyard behind Mejlgade 46. Here visitors will find a collection of tall sculptures, reminiscent of mythological memorials. Each features its own distinctive decoration made out of fabrics, plastic wraps and remains of dried flowers, setting a specific emotional tone for each. Materiality is prominently featured in Svangren’s art, where the materials chosen are associated with particular colours – or trigger them. They are like amorphous, primordial human archetypes simplified to textures, hues and folds.
The title points to wellness culture and its sensuous references to the transformation of body and soul, to healing and purification. As in Japanese tombs, spirits seem to be present in the poles – as if they were charged with magical power. The sculptures become portals, offering spiritual cleansing, catharsis, before entering another state of being. They are outposts heralding the coming of an exuberant regime of emotions.