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'What is this, an exhibition for ants?!', Group Show at Cantina, Aarhus

"What is this, an exhibition for ants?!" When the viewer enters the exhibition space, this statement may cross their mind. The space, which looks empty but with thimble-sized works of art scattered around the room, may not even be recognizable as an exhibition to the viewer at first glance. One might even enter the space and with a shrug exit again, thinking there simply is no exhibition. But if the viewer would instead follow the careful attention of the therolinguists in Ursula K. Le Guin's ‘The Author of the Acacia Seeds’, the works might begin to come into appearance. In this short story, the reader is presented with pieces of text written on the surface of a number of acacia seeds found left inside an ant colony. Near the 31st acacia seed of the manuscript is the decapitated worker ant who authored the text. The manuscript is interpreted and discussed by the text's discoverer, researcher G. d'Arbay T. R. Bardol: Is the text a tribute to the ant queen or a revolutionary manifesto? Had the writing never been discovered on the surface of the acacia seeds, we would be left without the opportunity to discuss the themes of this piece of literature. Therefore, we would like to ask the viewer to apply the same curiosity and care to view the works in this exhibition. In the exhibition, we have asked the artists to produce works that are no larger than 3x3x3cm. A large work for an ant, surpassing its own body, but a small work for a human. At this scale, you could hold the work between your fingertips and maybe even be able to crush it to pieces. With what kind of care do we examine works of this size? And how do we look at the exhibition as a whole when the works themselves cannot really be seen from a distance? Instead, we can catch ourselves looking at what looks like a private collection of trinkets or a scenery where the works can be discovered by bending down or leaning in as if looking for insects in a forest.

Throughout art history, artists have worked with the scale of artworks and how to use scale as a tool. At the art academy, students may encounter the point of criticism: "What if you made it bigger?", a question that links the meaning and importance of the work to its size. Since ancient times, people have made us feel small and humble by placing huge, awe-inspiring works to tower over us. Much later in the 60s, artists such as Agnes Denes, Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt and Walter De Maria had a bone to pick with scale. They created works so large that some of them were forced to leave the white cube and instead populate the deserts and the open landscapes. In Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bryggen's enormous sculptures, everyday objects such as ice cream cones and shuttlecocks are scaled up into bizarre colossi, which, with their impressive scale and humorous pop motifs, are sprinkled over parks and landscapes.

At the other end of the scale, miniature paintings adorned the pages of illuminated manuscripts of epic tales and religious texts during the Middle Ages. Out of this tradition, miniature paintings emerged during the 16th and 17th centuries in the form of portraits, often set in medallions as portable, private images intended to be worn close to the body or held close to hand. In the late 1930s, Marcel Duchamp created the ‘Boîte-en-valise’, a kind of collector's box of miniature reproductions of his most iconic works of art. Later, Richard Pettibone, inspired by Duchamp, repeated the gesture in a series of miniature reproductions of works by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Duchamp himself.

To explore the invisible life of things, and due to the limitations of our own vision, the exhibition will be photo-documented with a macro lens, often used to capture the details of very small things such as insects or plants. Instead of the usual exhibition documentation, where the photographer tries to capture the exhibition from the eyes of the visitor, this photographic gaze offers a completely different perspective that transcends the sensual and moves into the hidden language of the works.

— Luna Lund Jensen

13.1.23 — 12.2,23

Jens Settergen, Julie Stavad, Birke Gorm, Mikkel Carlsen, Laura Hjort Jensen

Photo by Mikkel Kaldal


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