6. November 1999 to 9. January 2000


The multimedia exhibition Close-ups, Contemporary Art and Carl Th. Dreyer used Carl Th. Dreyer as conceptual axis and unfolded in the hybrid area between art and film. 

The exhibition was curated by Lene Crone and Lars Movin.
A catalogue was published for the exhibition. 
Texts by Lene Crone, Lars 
Movin, Staffan Boije and Simon Sheik - and descriptions of the artists involved.

The exhibition was the result of a co-operation between Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contempoprary Art Center and Nifca (Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art)

Carl Th. Dreyer was a master of creating intimacy on the film screen. One of his characteristic features as a director was a quite extraordinary use of close-ups. Particularly in the film 'The Passion of Joan of Arc' (1928) the consistent use of close-ups has led to a remarkably intensity, which remains startling even to this day. No other work in the history of film making has used the close-up of the human face so radically. Today, the close-up is a well-known film technique, often used to get 'under the skin' of the characters, in order to grip the attention of the audience.

The exhibition, Close-ups, focused on how contemporary art relates to the themes and the feelings which Dreyer expressed through the use of close-ups. By juxtaposing Dreyer's film about Joan of Arc with eleven other works of art (video, film, installation, photo), created by some of the most exciting artists on the contemporary scene, the exhibition explored how artists seventy years later gestalted the intimate sphere and portray human emotions. How did artists in the nineties portray relationships between inner and outer life? How was intimacy captured in film used today in artistic expression?

The exhibition tackled these questions from a wide range of angles. Bas Jan Ader and Tommy Olsson had put themselves in front of the camera, in performance like situations, to reflect on artificiality and authenticity in emotional situations. Richard Billingham and Annika Ström focused on everyday lives through photography and video, while Eva Koch looked at human beings in social contexts. Pierre Huyghe and Christoph Girardet had been directly inspired by film, and for example used sequences from already existing films, investigating experiences and meanings generated by the structure of film, including the seductive qualities of the close-up. 

For Eija-Liisa Ahtila and Matthew Buckingham/Joachim Koester, the narrative structure of the film medium was exploited in a different way, to portray human beings and their motives to act as they do, while Lawrence Weiner uses language sculpturally to establish propositions about various phenomena. This, therefore, was not an exhibition consisting only of close-ups of faces, even though there often is a connection in film between the close-up and the image of a face. The concept of the close-up should be interpreted in a broader sense as various forms of zooming-in, framing and focussing on human beings.

About the artists,
the utch born, Los Angeles based artist Bas Jan Ader (1942-1975) built many of his works up around a simple action, most often involving himself. Ader died in 1975, in an attempt to cross the Atlantic in a small sailing vessel as part of the work 'In Search of the Miraculous'. Here in the 1990s he has been rediscovered for his original performance influenced works, many of them documented on film or photo.

Likewise, the Swedish artist Tommy Olsson includes performance in his works. He often uses images from rock and pop culture, in order to investigate their influence on our experience of our own identity. The problem of identity runs through his production, as does a general interest in media images, and the way in which they are connected to the body, sex, illness and violence.

In England, Richard Billingham's photographs of his family and their troubled life have created a lot of public attention. Billingham is part of the so-called Brit Art generation, which had a break- through with the controversial exhibition of the Saatchi collection 'Sensation'. In general, Billingham's style of photography can be said to be characterised by being slightly haphazard, there are atypical frames, and angles that in an instant capture unexpected incidents in the family flat. The pictures dwell on details which can be seen as reflections of the emotional territories of the family.

Annika Ström (Sweden) is well known in Denmark for her video based works, where she reflects on the role of the artist, or investigates our relationship to private life, often using herself or her family. Her works of art contain certain elements from the documentary in their depictions of the apparently trite everyday actions of everyday life - actions that nevertheless reveal clues to identity or social context.

Matthew Buckingham and Joachim Koester exhibited their joint project titled 'Sandra of the Tuliphouse'. The work consists of a series of stills, which use reality as a backdrop for a fictional account of a woman and the choices she makes in life. Buckingham usually works as a film director, and often uses astyle where image, sound and inserts drive the plot onward without any dialogue. Joachim Koester among other things works with video and photography. A real action, an incident or a motif is set up in relationship to the way it is exposed through media.

The installation 'Consolation Service' by Eija-Liisa Ahtila (Finland) was shown, which she received an Honorable Mention for, at the Biennale in Venice 1999. Ahtila often uses sophisticated narrative constructions, where elements from advertising films, music videos and traditional film structures are mixed with the spatial dimensions of installation art. In her works, fragile identity is an important concern, and the many ways in which the large quantity of available media influence our perception of ourselves and our social orientation.

Pierre Huyghe (France) is especially known for his installations which incorporate existing material from films or which are based on visual material from popular culture. The installation 'Sleeptalking' uses a sequence from Andy Warhol's first film, 'Sleep' (1963) juxtaposed with new recordings of John Giorno, the author who allowed his face and body to be used in Warhol's film. A central concern in Huyghe's works is the way in which the invasion of media images in the real world creates an unavoidable fictional space for us all.

Christoph Girardet (Germany) also uses existing films as a base. From here he puts the forms of meaning and experience linked to conventional film into perspective. In 'No Forever' (Golden), Girardet has used a short sequence from the German UFA film, 'Die goldene Stadt' (Veit Harlan, 1942). The work of art consists of a loop, where the same short sequence - a close-up of the actress Kristina Sšderbaum - is repeated in slow- motion, producing a hypnotic effect.

The Danish artist Eva Koch started off in sculpture, but in the nineties she has moved into using more sound and moving images. In later years one category of Koch's video installations have circled around human beings, individuals in social settings. The video installation 'In the Interrim' shows close-ups of faces and glances captured in St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. Here we meet distracted inquisitiveness, indifferent faces, and a system of wandering, shifting glances.

Lawrence Weiner's work is grounded in sculpture as well, though he first and formost uses language itself for his material, both words and the language of film. Since the sixties, Weiner has been known for his text-based works, which often articulate themselves as writing on the wall. Weiner has been involved in a number of other projects at the same time, including directing film. For a number of years, Lawrence Weiner has been interested in Dreyer's films, and in 1994 he published the essay 'Carl Th. Dreyer. A Fable of Women and Water' which is reprinted in the catalogue for the exhibition.

The exhibition was also supported by: 
Institut Français, 
The Trust Foundation of Consul Georg Jorck and Mrs Emma Jorck, 
The Royal Netherlands Embassy 
and FRAME (Finnish Fund for Art Exchange)