Kongens Nytorv 1
November 7, 2020–January 17, 2021
At Kunsthal Charlottenborg, the witch becomes a figure for contemporary crises of representation and identity, as well as the epistemological violence inherent to Western modernity. While the broad spectrum of necromantic imagery on view surpasses any historically specific critique of the notion of the witch, certain works speak directly to a uniquely Scandinavian legacy.
In Danish-Greenlandic artist Pia Arke’s video work Arctic Hysteria, 1996, the artist presses her undressed body against a large photographic print of her still-colonized home landscape. The image is torn in pieces by the friction between Arke’s skin and the print, and later, also by Arke’s resolute hands. Borrowing its title from the settler’s lingua—Arctic Hysteria describes a mental illness, presumably endemic among Innuit women, distinguished by fits of rage and sporadic undressing—Arke’s piece strategically overidentifies with projected hysteria in the context of a contemporary Danish colonial heritage.
Sandra Mujinga’s video installation Amnesia? Amnesia?, 2019, calmly processes a fear of darkness immanent to the modern concept of aesthetics. Addressing the spectator’s sociopolitical amnesia regarding colonial violence present at this day, the piece functions as a therapeutic treatment for a convulsive Danish public. One day before the opening of the exhibition, a plaster copy of a bronze bust of Frederik V, a colonial monarch and the founder of the neighboring Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, was thrown in the near harbor by a group of anonymous artists. A liberal-conservative consensus raged against the action, and a witch-hunt for the unknown dissenters began. Yet, this time, it was not the colonized, but the empire itself, that turned hysteric from being undressed.