Christian Falsnaes, LOOK AT ME (2020), excerpt.
LOOK AT ME
Remember to disinfect. Keep a distance. Stay home. Instructions from the government have become part and parcel of everyday life with the advent of COVID-19 and, in this country, the prime minister has asked us to modify our behaviour in simple, precise terms.
In August, CC opened its doors to the exhibition LOOK AT ME by the artist Christian Falsnaes, who is highly acclaimed abroad, but little known in Denmark. In his works, Falsnaes addresses power relations and the tension field between authorities and individuals, museums and visitors, artists and performers. He touches a raw nerve at the present time when he investigates how we react when an authority – a prime minister, a president, an artist – speaks to us using the imperative. Falsnaes stuns, moves, and challenges his audience and, with the exhibition LOOK AT ME, visitors now have a chance to experience the methods of this artist for themselves.
Accompany Falsnaes in the studio, to a party, and to an exhibition
In Hall 2, visitors will step into something resembling an art fair where the works are separated by white walls. Whereas art fairs usually present the galleries’ varied selections of the very best of art, visitors are here met by the same video work being played synchronously on each of the six stands. Visitors explore the installation wearing headphones.
The video work comprises six scenes showing how Falsnaes and the performer, Minni Katina Mertens, choreograph each other and the audience in a number of scenes. We watch them, for example, ordering each other about and we see how they manage to make the audience twist and turn in specific ways in the concert hall at VEGA – all of it controlled by the camera lens and words from the performer. At the end of the film, all screens go black. Now it’s your turn.
One with the work
In LOOK AT ME, Falsnaes addresses the problems associated with using other people as artistic material when he directs the movements of the performer or orders the people in an entire hall about. By not only involving himself but others, too, in his performances, Falsnaes redirects focus on us and our reactions, making us the central aspect of the work. In this way, he dissolves our distance to the art, instead making us part of it.
Power of the gaze
Everywhere, cameras have become central to our culture where we constantly perform and stage ourselves via social media, for example. Everything is curated or controlled by someone – like the scenes in LOOK AT ME. In this way, the exhibition also addresses the significance of images in our culture and Falsnaes uses the camera as an authority helping to control the audience.
It can be a provocative, funny, and transcendent experience to take part in Falsnaes’s work. The effects are intriguing. He makes us reflect on how authority is generated and the mechanisms governing our social behaviour. How would we, for example, react to instructions during a potential second wave of COVID-19?
The Danish artist Christian Falsnaes (b.1980) lives and works in Berlin. Formerly studying philosophy at the University of Copenhagen, he graduated from the Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna, in 2011. Christian Falsnaes’s primary activities are performances in the public space and in exhibition contexts. Quite often, his performances are documented via film footage and later made into video works.
Falsnaes’s works extend from a German-Austrian performance tradition in which radical formats place both the artist and viewers at the centre of the work. His works touch on themes of identity and authority, participation and subjugation as well as power and impotence. He often involves the audience in his works as co-creators of situations, pictures, or videos. The idea being that the audience experience themselves as others see them and adopt a reflected approach to their own behaviour and reactions.
Christian Falsnaes is represented in several collections and has shown internationally. Recent solo shows include Kunstmuseum Krefeld, Bielefelder Kunstverein, Kunstverein Braunschweig, and Kunsthalle Mannheim, all in Germany, ДINAMIKA, Moscow, Russia, arteBA and the Juan & Patricia Vergez Collection, Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Yarat Contemporary Art Space, Baku, Azerbaijan, the 1646, the Hague, the Netherlands, and, at home, at Andersen’s Contemporary and the National Gallery of Denmark, both in Copenhagen.