Martin Erik Andersen, 'Nut -The Nightskyand The Astralpool (the Obelisk, the Guillotine)' (2015). Courtesy of the artist and Galleri Susanne Ottesen. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary 2016. Photo: Martin Marinov
Samples of Lifeforms
Martin Erik Andersen
Lena Maria Thüring
Ex Situ was an international group exhibition with artists and works addressing the constantly changing conditions of forms of life on planet Earth. At a time of accelerating transformations in global ecosystems, humans and other animals leave and lose their natural habitat. The exhibition reflected the unruly state of migrating species trying to adapt to a new world where nature, culture and technology are inextricably entangled and enmeshed.
The expression ‘ex situ’ means ‘off-site’ or ‘out of place’. It is used by conservation biologists for the preservation of fauna and flora in man-made environments. The show’s starting point was to rethink the art space CC, which is housed in a large post-industrial box – similar to a water tank – on the harbour of Copenhagen. During the show the site took on an appearance that was somewhat similar to an aquarium or, broadly speaking, a so-called vivarium, i.e. a shelter for an artificially recreated environment, submarine or otherwise.
New and existing large-scale installations as well as smaller, more intimate works explored a variety of organic and inorganic forms, such as the life cycle of jellyfish or the routines of a shipping crew on a freighter. Other works engaged with the necessary conditions of life such as soil and, more prominently, water in an era marked by water reserve depletion, acidification of the oceans, rising sea levels, and mass extinction as well as the migration of people and species. The works in Ex Situ put conditions and forms of life on display for the visitors to contemplate, similar to the way we look at an aquarium – except here we were no longer on the outside but inside of it.
The exhibition was the result of a cultural partnership between The City of Basel, the Swiss Ambassador in Denmark, CHART and Copenhagen Contemporary. Four curators – Alice Wilke and Claire Hoffmann (Basel), Jannie Haagemann and Toke Lykkeberg (Copenhagen) – created this exhibition in collaboration, which primarily featured newly produced works by highly accomplished and upcoming artists from Swiss and Nordic contexts.