07.11.2014 INTERVIEW

Installation view of the exhibition
“Jens Haaning / Santiago Sierra: The Copenhagen Declaration”
at Faurschou Foundation Copenhagen

Foto: Guston Sondin-Kung
© Faurschou Foundation.

A sculptural manifestation in the North Harbour

As the day declines it slowly darkens in the large showroom at Faurschou Foundation in the North Harbour, where colourful containers are being loaded on large ships which one after another weigh anchor and set off for destination "World". Big black block letters stand heavily in a horseshoe, making one huge statement: "Tired of this global sadistic regime", it says.
It's The Copenhagen Declaration by the two artists Santiago Sierra and Jens Haaning, who have been invited by the curators Marie Thams and Kim Kilde to create a work together for the first time.

And as with Haaning and Sierra's other works, The Copenhagen Declaration is based on socio-economic and political conditions, addressing issues of national ancestry, boundaries and cultural differences, and encouraging reflection on the state of affairs.




Faurschou Foundation
Klubiensvej 11, 2150 Nordhavn W: faurschou.com
The Copenhagen Declaration
Santiago Sierra, Jens Haaning
31.10.2014 - 06.02.2015
Kuratorer: Marie Thams, Kim Kilde

My first question goes to the curators, Marie Thams and Kim Kilde: what was the starting point for an exhibition in Copenhagen with Santiago Sierra and Jens Haaning?

Marie Thams: I came across the work of Santiago Sierra when I lived in Spain, and as an art student in London I became familiar with Jens Haaning’s work. Back in Denmark, I was standing with a sensation of urgency that we can actually move ideas and standpoints - through art also - but I couldn’t see it happening here. I felt there was a need for someone who could say or point to some of the things, that I see as a problem here in this surplus society, or welfare “paradise” if you’d like. So I took the initiative and invited the two.

Kim Kilde: There is also an urge to emphasize that conceptual art is still very strong. Thought and idea is such an important thing - more important than lets say production of objects. This was a base for our initiative as well.

Why did you choose Faurschou Foundation as a location?

MT: We approached them because of the location here at the Free Harbour and because of the space, which is quite spectacular. The setup of how they work can’t be found elsewhere in Denmark and they have a very open and curious approach. At the Free Harbour there’s a whole different legislation, here there aren’t the Danish laws being applied but international laws, and this “no mans land” is quite interesting. Beside that, we thought the industrial setting would fit the work of the two.

Santiago Sierra and Jens Haaning, it’s the first time that the two of you have collaborated - how did you approach this joint work?

Santiago Sierra: I think it was very easy to collaborate as we immediately connected as people whose work is closely related, and the idea of making a declaration came in mind as we both work with letters. What matters to me when I do a collaboration is to make it my own work - and at the same time, it has to be someone else’s own work. In that case a meeting point can be a letter, so we sat down to see what fitting declaration can be shared by many people.

Jens Haaning: I didn’t really believe that this collaboration was going to take place at first, I have to admit. I thought it would be difficult to raise the money and to find a proper place here. But all of a sudden, things were indeed concretising and the project was going to be carried out. Santiago was coming to Copenhagen.
I think it can be an enriching process getting to work with someone you don't know and that you haven’t worked with before and I totally agree with Santiago, that this is a very strong work of his and a very strong work of mine - but there will be aspects of this work, which I don't really understand, because they come from Santiago and his Spanish Latin way of thinking and experiencing the world.

Is the statement to be read in a concrete context related to the city of Copenhagen?

JH: It’s important that work has a geographic location, and this is a Copenhagen declaration, but the next word to read what we are up to is the word global, which indicates a comment on something bigger than the physical location here, than the country here, but at the same time it’s created here and actually, this phenomena, this global regime, can be watched from here - this is a quite good place to watch it from (pointing towards the big windows facing the Free Harbour)

It’s a quite sad or melancholic statement I’d say, why so?

SS: Watch the news. Since we made that declaration, how many massacres have been carried out upon powerless people all over the world without possibility to act. We are spectators of the disasters and we are tired to be spectators - a feeling we can share with many others.

MT: But why do you think the work is sad?

SS: I do not think the work is sad, but instead of saying “fuck this global regime” we say “we are tired of it”..

MT: But isn’t that uplifting also?

Well I’m still sort of digesting this piece and my spontaneous reaction to it is that it’s sad and melancholic. Perhaps the black block letters, the silence, the cold temperature in here and the fact that there’s no light.

MT: I think its performativity gives a lot of authority to the viewer.

JH: The intention is not to give any emotional direction or reading. Its just a statement, its not pointing at what people should do or feel. We calculate with the fact that people will have their own reading of the work. They can find it sad, aggressive, political or simply beautiful and sculptural, but at the same time, I think it’s very clear. And if there’s some uncertainty built into it as well, its due to the fact that its going to be received by human beings.

Both of you are referred to as political artists, but how would you describe your own artistic gesture and the gesture of this work?

JH: Recently the Belgian philosopher Chantal Mouffe gave a lecture here in Copenhagen, and she had an interesting statement; she said that maybe we should stop talking about political art and start talking about critical art instead. I like that, it suits the way I think well. Its too simple in a way to talk of something as political.

SS: perhaps I’d talk about my art as degenerate art..

JH: Ah yes, the exhibition in Munich was the most seen ever; 2 millions or so visited it.

Maybe this one will outdo that..
What do you hope the exhibition will add to the current art scene here in Denmark?

MT: On a gestural level, we have a very physical, performative way to work by Santiago Sierra and a sometime more immaterial and subtle way of working by Jens Haaning, and I think the potential of mixing those two is great indeed.
Haaning has got a high insight and sophisticated critique of the Northern European living, which is interesting in this Danish context. So we have joined two artist, two critical agents, two different cultural notions. And the declaration is the meeting between those two. Personally, I’m drawn by their work because of the existential questions it addresses - it leaves me to take a standpoint and I would like to be forced to do that.

KK: We are in a time of crisis, and intellectually there’s a lot of tension and a general feeling of impasse, a feeling that action is not really possible at the moment. To unite these two ways of working in one huge sculptural statement is an extension of the idea of wanting something else, something better. To feel that an idea can actually take physical space.

Installation view of the exhibition “Jens Haaning / Santiago Sierra: The Copenhagen Declaration” at Faurschou Foundation Copenhagen Foto: Guston Sondin-Kung © Faurschou Foundation.

Installation view of the exhibition “Jens Haaning / Santiago Sierra: The Copenhagen Declaration” at Faurschou Foundation Copenhagen Foto: Guston Sondin-Kung © Faurschou Foundation.