DENMARK.-Visual artists and curators working within all media types are hereby invited to submit proposals for exhibitions of existing or new projects for the year 2010 under the heading Modifications.
50 years ago the Danish artist Asger Jorn opened the doors to an exhibition at the Galerie Rive Gauche in Paris with a series of so-called modifications. The exhibition consisted of twenty old kitsch-paintings with glossy forest lakes and bellowing stags on top of which Jorn had painted a series of spectacular, mythological figures.
In spite of the apparent simplicity of the exhibition, which according to Jorn had the aim of declaring the death of painting, a much more complicated process was at stake. On one hand the modifications represented an artistic alteration of stereotypes and in this way expressed a showdown with the monotony of everyday life – a creative staging of everyday life or a bombastic burst of energy in the midst of tedium. On the other hand the paintings also represented a break with the cultural past or – rather – a negation of it, a devaluation resulting in a loss of authenticity.
In the art group Situationist International, which Jorn along with among others the French theorist Guy Debord had founded a few years before his exhibition in Paris, this process was referred to as détournement. In short détournement – which directly translated means distortion – is a kind of anti-artistic method where the past – and, indeed, the whole world – is appropriated, annihilated and scandalized. Through this process a way opens out of the meaningless and empty pseudo-society that the artists referred to as the Society of the Spectacle.
This notion also contains a definite showdown with art as an elevated activity in order to see the artistic process as something containing a proletarian revolutionary potential. Guy Debord went as far as to believe that in order to not be swallowed by the meaningless stream of hollow representations of the Society of the Spectacle art had to be critical and negating and in the end renounce every kind of visual activity. In particular, the last part of it was a cause for different opinions among the members of Situationist International, where for instance Jorn never totally rejected the production of artistic objects. The result was that Jorn was excluded from the group along with a number of other members, and finally the group dissolved.
Jorn's modifications stand as some of the last examples of a distorting and scandalizing situationist artistic practise before the total disintegration of the art work and art's self-destruction. Although the problematic aspects of the notion of art as pure negation have been realized long ago, and since painting obviously has not died, in many ways contemporary critical art praxis still inhabits a bastion similar to that of Jorn at the Galerie Rive Gauche: Between distorting appropriation and revolutionary intervention.
Under the heading Modifications the Aarhus Art Building wants to focus on this field and its historical origination. In this way we hope to shed new light on the notion of the artistic process as a way out of the all-encompassing grasp of the Society of the Spectacle. A notion that's of the same immediate importance today as it was 50 years ago.
With this background we now send out an Open Call for Proposals for 2010. We are seeking proposals for group and solo exhibitions plus artistic, documentary and animated films etc. for a special film program under the same heading. Deadline for applications: June 5, 2009.
Guidelines are available at http://www.aarhuskunstbygning.dk