– Autumn/Winter 2017

Being and Origin - A Presentation of Pia Arke's Exhuming Gesture

Carsten Juhl

Pia Arke, Untitled (Put your kamik on your head, so everyone can see where you come from), 1993, black-and-white contact sheet, 20 × 15cm. Photograph: Peter Baastrup. Courtesy Søren Arke Petersen and the Estate of Pia Arke, Copenhagen

Perhaps the time has come when we can deal with Pia Arke’s work in a more transversal way than was the case after her death ten years ago. At that time, there was significant archaeological work to do to prepare for the curatorial interpretations made by Tone Olaf Nielsen and Frederikke Hansen of Kuratorisk Aktion, later joined by Mirjam Joensen. Kuratorisk Aktion, an all-female independent curatorial collective dedicated to radical curatorship and critical action, has played a crucial role in investigating Arke’s work. To some, their approach appears as an offensive challenge to art and culture. This became clear during a recent meeting in June 2017 in Copenhagen at the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark), to which the director, Mikkel Bogh, had invited his British counterpart at Tate Modern, Frances Morris. At one point the discussion was focussed on the integration of dissident artists into the mainstream through curatorial efforts on the part of art institutions in the West, a ‘poetical/political’ strategy introduced by Catherine David at documenta X, in 1997, and followed up on by Okwui Enwezor at Documenta11, in 2002.1

At the meeting,

  1. For the edition, Documenta extended its platform to include and publish examples of political theory called ‘Platforms 1–4', reducing the exhibition in Kassel to a final, visual ‘platform’. We might even note a ‘dissident turn’ on the part of art institutions beginning around this time.

  2. These criticisms were made by reporter Camilla Stockmann in the Danish daily newspaper Politiken on 23 June 2017.

  3. See the press release at http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/37320/tupilakosaurus-pia-arke-s-
    issue-with-art-ethnicity-and-colonialism-1981-2006/ (last accessed on 16 July 2017).

  4. See Kuratorisk Aktion (ed.), TUPILAKOSAURUS: An Incomplete(able) Survey of Pia Arke’s Artistic Work and Research, Copenhagen: Kuratorisk Aktion, 2012.

  5. See ibid., pp.335–43.

  6. See Pia Arke with Stefan Jonsson, Stories from Scoresbysund: Photography, Colonisation and Mapping (trilingual edition in English, Greenlandic and Danish, trans. John Kendal, Jessie Kleeman and Stephen Heilmann), Copenhagen: Kuratorisk Aktion and Pia Arke Selskabet, 2010. Originally published in Danish as Scorsebysundhistorier: Fotografier, kolonisering og kortlæggning, Copenhagen: Borgen forlag, 2003.

  7. Stefan Jonsson has done important work in situating Pia’s work in a literary context, not only in the TUPILAKOSAURUS companion (op. cit.), but also more recently in his essay ‘Disclosing the World Order – Decolonial Gestures in the Artistic Work of Pia Arke’ (Third Text, vol.27, no.2, 2013, pp.242–59).

  8. In 2015, Tone Olaf Nielsen and Frederikke Hansen from Kuratorisk Aktion founded in Copenhagen CAMP, an exhibition space dedicated to exploring issues of migration, immigration, displacement and asylum. Their approach combines global concerns and a Scandinavian presence with a profound and internationalist critique of capitalism. According to their website, ‘CAMP produces exhibitions on displacement and migration with renowned international artists as well as less established practitioners, prioritising artists with refugee or migrant experience.’ See http://campcph.org/ about-camp (last accessed on 16 July 2017).

  9. See Texas Longhorn, issue 7, 2017. The magazine combines literature and parody.

  10. See the artist’s interview with Synne Rifbjerg, Weekendavisen, 29 April–6 May 1999. See also Kuratorisk Aktion (ed.), TUPILAKOSAURUS, op. cit., p.70.

  11. Ibid., pp.86–87. For a photograph of the (lost) original collage, see p.72.

  12. Ibid., p.283.

  13. Ibid., pp.253–54.

  14. The nine-minute-long piece, recorded on VHS, was made with Anders Jørgensen.

  15. Ibid., pp.190, 205 and 279.

  16. Ibid., pp.166–67.