January 19, 2017 - SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum - Hanne Nielsen & Birgit Johnsen : Drifting
January 19, 2017

SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum

Hanne Nielsen & Birgit Johnsen, Drifting, 2014. Four-channel video installation, 16:9, colour, 5:1 sound, Norwegian/Swedish dialogue with English subtitles; original format: 4K HD; 22:52 minutes.

Hanne Nielsen & Birgit Johnsen
January 28–April 23, 2017

Opening : January 28, 2–5pm, artists Hanne Nielsen & Birgit Johnsen will be present

SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum
Skippergata 24B
NO 4611 Kristiansand
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–5pm,
Wednesday 11am–10pm

T +47 38 07 49 00

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Sørlandets Kunstmuseum is proud to present the first solo exhibition in Norway by the acclaimed Danish artists Hanne Nielsen and Birgit Johnsen. These artists have worked together since 1993 and are considered pioneers within Danish video art.

The monumental four-channel video installation Drifting, from 2014, deals with the true story of an unidentifiable man on a raft. In 2006, he was picked up by a Norwegian tanker in the Skagerak strait, in international waters between Norway and Denmark, just south of Kristiansand, the city where Sørlandets Kunstmuseum is located. Suffering from hypothermia, the man was brought to shore in Sweden where the immigration authorities tried to establish his identity. The man on the raft was unwilling to speak and collaborate with the authorities, and this fuelled frenzied speculation in the international press about his nationality. One theory was that the man had been a stowaway on a ship, and when discovered, had been put on a raft, leaving him to his own destiny.

Hanne Nielsen and Birgit Johnson use this true story as a point of departure for their video work. In the four-screen video installation, images of the "drifter" alternate with clips of interviews with sailors on the ship that rescued him. There are also interviews with the Swedish immigration authorities and more poetic sequences showing the vast surface of the sea in contrast to the man on the tiny raft. The story is not organised chronologically, like a conventional Hollywood film, but leaves it to the beholder to create his or her own narrative. The fragmented structure weaves together facts and fiction in a story that raises existential and highly relevant questions about identity, a lack of belonging and being adrift as a human being. In this respect, the particular case of the man on the raft has clear parallels to today's refugee crisis. 

Hanne Nielsen (b. 1959) and Birgit Johnsen (b. 1958) both studied at Jutland Art Academy in Aarhus, Denmark, and graduated in 1990 and 1991, respectively. They have mainly worked with videos, documentary films and installations. Nielsen and Johnsen have exhibited extensively in Denmark and abroad, including in Germany, Poland, Russia and China. In 2014 they were honoured with a major retrospective at ARoS Kunstmuseum in Aarhus, Denmark.

SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum
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