14 May–11 September 2011Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel
St. Alban-Rheinweg 60
Henrik Olesen uses collage, sculpture, and minimalist spatial interventions to engage with the body and questions of gender and its representation in order to interrogate structures of power relations and the construction of historiography and identities. In a perspective on the political consequences of what is regarded as normality and everyday life, family structures, media, and divergent balances of power within society form one thematic focus of the exhibition.
The points of departure for Olesen’s work include contemporary as well as historic references and interventions into a variety of fields—inscribing new narratives onto (art)historical documents. In the group of works entitled How Do I Make Myself a Body? (2009), Olesen tells the story of the English mathematician and visionary inventor of the computer, Alan Turing, whom the British authorities sentenced to undergo treatment with female hormones. In the installation Mr. Knife and Mrs. Fork (2009), he presents a depiction and critical analysis of the heterosexual nuclear family, its potentially dysfunctional representatives and reproductive needs. In a series of installations entitled Anthologie de l’amour sublime (2003), Olesen inserts pictures of gay sex scenarios, into Max Ernst’s surreal pictorial narratives La femme 100 têtes (1929) and Une Semaine de bonté (1934), suggesting the possibility that a concealed homosexuality inhabits Ernst’s surrealist world. The lack of information around homosexuality related legislation and its distorted appropriation and in media and history are an essential part of Olesen’s approach and is rooted in the tensions between the often contrasting and conflicting hegemonic and subcultural narratives.
The exhibition was developed in conjunction with Konsthall Malmö. A monographic catalogue with text contributions by Lars Bang Larsen, Ariane Müller, Judith Hopf and an introduction by Nikola Dietrich and Jacob Fabricius was published with Hatje Cantz.
The exhibition and catalogue were made possible through the generous support of the “Fonds für künstlerische Aktivitäten im Museum für Gegenwartskunst der Emanuel Hoffmann-Stiftung und der Christoph Merian Stiftung”.