Santiago Sierra:
Black Flag

20. August 2016 to 13. November 2016

World famous Spanish artist Santiago Sierra challenges notions of the nation state and confronts territorial conquests with the exhibition Black Flag that will see its world premiere at Nikolaj Kunsthal on August 20th 2016.

On April 13 2015, a black flag was raised at latitude 90° North – better known as the North Pole. On December 14 2015, an identical flag was planted on the South Pole. The two monochrome flags, signifying the universal symbol of the Anarchist movement, have been raised on behalf of the people of the world as a counter-claim - a symbol of defiance - against the compulsion of nation states to seize land. The black flags remain in situ as a potent symbol of liberation, resistance and discontent.

Historically, the North and the South Pole and the remote surrounding areas have been the object of countless expeditions. Presumed as endeavours on behalf of humanity, more often these expeditions have instead been driven by attempts at colonisation, conquests for land, bestowing glory on the participating nations. Throughout the centuries, numerous countries have laid claim to these territories.

With Black Flag, Santiago Sierra critiques this desire to conquer in historical and contemporary contexts, the fleeting character of the nation state and the separation of people by impermanent boundaries. Previously, Sierra has addressed nations as problematic systems – as seen in his project for the Spanish Pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennale. Security personnel permitted entry only to visitors who could present a Spanish passport.

Andreas Brøgger, Head of Nikolaj Kunsthal, says: ”We are proud to house the world premiere of the exhibition Black Flag. Sierra’s project is at one and the same time quite simple and symbolic, but also very specific and incredibly complex. It is no easy task for an artist to plant two flags on the Poles. The exhibition is relevant to Denmark as one of the nations to have laid claim on the seabed of the Arctic Ocean – an area 20 times the size of Denmark with a geopolitical and potentially economic significance.” 

Santiago Sierra

Santiago Sierra’s works often function as commentaries on the social and political conditions of modern society. He received international recognition for a series of controversial exhibitions in which he hired unemployed people, prostitutes, political prisoners and immigrants to perform meaningless work for minimal wages as a critique of the personal and economic exploitation of the most vulnerable in society by the capitalist system.

Santiago Sierra (b. Madrid, 1966) lives and works between Madrid and Mexico City. Solo exhibitions include KunstWerke in Berlin, MACBA in Barcelona, Deichtorhalle in Hamburg, Museo Tamayo in Mexico City and MoMA PS1 in New York. He has also participated in the Biennales of, among others, Venice and Busan and was recently featured in Manifesta 11.

Black Flag will have its world premiere at Nikolaj Kunsthal on August 20th 2016.

Black Flag is a collaboration between Santiago Sierra Studio and a/political with special thanks to Lutz Henke.

a/political is a nonprofit organisation, collaborating with artists who work within a socio-political framework. a/political, initiate, produce and tour large-scale projects world-wide. With offices based in London, a/political opened The Foundry in 2014 as an experimental art space, hosting ambitious projects outside the controls of the contemporary art market. Artists are invited to produce large-scale work in the neighbouring factories. In addition, a/political acquires artworks for permanent installation at The Foundry to compliment the collection currently located in London.

Lutz Henke is a curator and cultural scientist (M.A.). He also perceives and realizes artworks and interventions in close collaboration with the artists - among these pieces by Santiago such as "Black Flag" (2015) or the "World's Largest Graffiti" in the Algerian desert (2012).