A church dating back to the early 1200’s isn’t a typical venue for contemporary arts, but Nikolaj Kunsthal (Copenhagen’s third oldest church) provides the perfect backdrop to a constantly changing exhibition programme in Denmark’s capital. The Great Fire of the city in 1795 put an end to the buildings life as a functioning church, and following incarnations as a fire station, naval museum and public library, it became heavily associated with Copenhagen’s art scene from the late 1950’s and has been a dedicated exhibition space since 1981. ‘Hybrid Matters’ combining art and science, and the work of twelve different artists is currently on display. Visitors enter through the original bethel door and climb a flight of spiral steps into the vaulted level – on this staircase you are greeted by five neon signs created by Hanna Husberg, each powered by ionised argon and neon gas and shaped into a symbol representative of artificial heating or cooling. This is coupled with a video projection of Svalbard (in the Artic achipelagio) and together they comment on fossil fuels’ contribution to global warming. Through an archway you are then met by a wall of rotating miniature Christmas trees by Laura Beloff & Jonas Jorgensen, humorously testing the hypothesis that plant growth can be stimulated by different gravitational conditions than those found on Earth. ‘Cloud Harvest’ by Rosemary Lee & Jens Lee Jorgensen then deconstructs mobile phones and dissolves them into a vapour cloud, whilst also creating a pun on new terminology associated with the network of servers storing and transmitting global information. Around the corner is Hege Tapio’s experiment into human fat as potential fuel for cars, and the artist even underwent liposuction to draw attention to the potential use of peoples’ own bodies as a resource in the future! All of these fascinating displays aside, my favourite was undoubtedly Lawrence Malstaf’s combination of origami and 3D scanning to create a mesmerising interactive sculptural installation which moved and unfolded when sensors noticed you standing nearby. If you’re in Copenhagen before 31st July I’d certainly suggest visiting before the exhibition closes.
MUMOK is within Vienna’s Museum Quartier and despite being a new building, is sympathetic to the palatial old architecture that surrounds it. Dedicated to modern art, it is large and airy with high ceilings and an enjoyably industrial feel to it – as concrete, glass, heavy aluminium doors, and interior mechanisms such as the lift shaft exposed to great effect. It spans 7 floors; three below ground and three additional levels allowing enough space for large free standing installations, no overcrowded wall hanging, and room for visitors to move freely. The ground floor exhibition ‘Always, Always, Others’ presents a diverse selection of works of classical modernism, and my personal favourites were Karl Wisum’s ‘Wooden Puppet in various materials’ and Freidl Dicker’s black and white photo collages. ‘Prosperous Poison’ took up the majority of the lower ground floors and was dedicated to post 1945 artworks arranged according to five key themes; ‘Alfombia’ a mixed media on photo-paper by Nora Aslan struck me as initially it looks like a Arabian carpet but on closer inspection is created from thousands of small photographic images. Likewise Katya Sander’s ‘Double Camera’ film provided an unusual immersive experience for visitors who could simultaneously witness both sides of an interview. The upper ground floors displayed ‘To expose, to show, to demonstrate, to inform, to offer’ which questioned art and its social function from 1990 onwards. Bravely many of the pieces commented and indeed challenged museum curation; ‘Mining the Museum’ looked at Fred Wilson’s rearrangement of the Maryland Historical Society collection in Baltimore to bring to light forgotten aspects of Afro-American history including visitor responses to it, and Klaus Scherubeul’s project ‘Melvin’ imitated the mechanisms of professional reception and cannonisation of art by setting up a mock exhibition including invitations to an opening, a catalogue and curator talks – particularly pertinent given that it was on display within such an institution.