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'HARDCORE FREEDOM' by Esben Weile Kjær at Copenhagen Contemporary, Copenhagen

Using architecture, electronic rhythms, light shows, textiles, reflective elements, video, and live performances as leverage, Esben Weile Kjær zooms in on his own generation in the exhibition HARDCORE FREEDOM, exploring its narratives about youth, freedom and popular culture.

Out of rubble and old building materials from former Copenhagen Contemporary exhibitions rises a white-painted plateau with mirrored floors. A monumental neon sculpture of the classic Disney character Tinkerbell illuminates the scene. A pole is installed in the centre of the plateau and, along the walls, ballet bars. The back wall of the exhibition space is clad in textiles, forming a colourful backcloth, and the lighting in the space raises associations to rhythmic nightclub lighting. A screen floats in the semi-darkness, showing an earlier performance staged in the very same room.

HARDCORE FREEDOM is activated on a current basis for the duration of the exhibition in performance series lasting two hours. The space comes alive with the performance, that treads a narrow path between party and rebellion where elements are shifted, erected, or demolished, thus changing the character of the exhibition with each performance.

Esben Weile Kjær has created a hybrid space blurring the boundaries between nightclub, art institution, stage, and fashion boutique. With strategies borrowed from the experience economy, HARDCORE FREEDOM zooms in on the artist’s own generation, the so-called millennials, casting an inquisitive and critical eye on its ideals.

Millenials are in the Western world characterised by a hitherto unprecedented freedom of choice in practically all aspects of life. Using individualism as a compass and self-realisation as motivation, millennials mix and remix established systems and categories. The whole world is within reach of every individual, offering a high degree of freedom. Along with this freedom comes a great personal responsibility and expectations for the individuals to live up to, which may go some way to explain why this generation is also beset by mental illness such as anxiety and depression.

HARDCORE FREEDOM unravels and challenges the popular cuture’s commercial narratives on freedom and youth with themes, that millennials masters to a tee: anxiety, 90s nostalgia, sampling of symbols, digital self-invention and cultural consumption as identity marker.

The exhibition is presented in a special partnership with Kunstforeningen GL STRAND which showed the exhibitionPOWER PLAY by the same artist in the early fall 2020. Here Esben Weile Kjær began his artistic exploration, which is now presented in a further developed grand finale at Copenhagen Contemporary.

23.10.20 — 30.12.20

Performers: Nathan Compiano, Aske Høier Olsen, Johan Bech Jespersen, Annah Ritah Nagadya, Camilla Lind, Anton Cornelius, Ezra Shami, Yudith Shyambala Heinemann, Thea Carla Schøtt, Kofi Møller, Esben Weile Kjær

Photo by David Stjernholm

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