09.09.17 - 14.01.18
Bjørn Nørgaard: Marat – who was Corday?, 1976
A human body in a bathtub commands our attention. The body is a plaster cast of the artist’s own torso. A mirror forms the backdrop of the work. – Did you notice that your reflection is part of the work of art? The bathtub is surrounded by many objects, including a bible, Donald Duck comics, eggs, beer cans, bread, a candle, the artist’s diary and cuttings featuring photographs of people who have fought for specific causes – some famous, others unknown. The diary includes notes on the French Revolution politician Jean-Paul Marat (1743–93), who created the basis for our Western European democratic ideals about liberty, as well as Nørgaard’s own thoughts and deliberations on being an artist and on being politically active.
To many, Bjørn Nørgaard may now be best known for some of his later works, for example the sarcophagus intended for HM Queen Margrethe II and HRH Prince Henrik, or for his lavish tapestries. Nørgaard is a highly versatile artist who has staged performance actions in public spaces and worked as a sculptor, draughtsman, ceramicist and filmmaker. The work Marat – who was Corday? marks the end of a period where Bjørn Nørgaard, collaborating with his wife Lene Adler Petersen (1944–), was keenly interested in working with a kind of political theatre. For example, they performed their famous Horse Sacrifice in 1970, involving the butchering of a workhorse. The work was a protest against the horrors of the Vietnam War. The couple also created the notorious performance Female Christ from 1969, in which Lene Adler walked naked through an epicentre of capitalism, the Copenhagen Stock Exchange, as an artistic form of protest.
The work Marat – who was Corday? from 1976 is one of the highlights of the HEART collection. The installation is a visual interpretation of the murder of one of the main figures of the French Revolution, Marat. In 1793 he was murdered in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday, a young woman who regarded him as a personification of the tyrannies of the revolution. A few days after the assassination she was executed in the guillotine. Corday is described as a woman of character and determination, and the writings discovered after her death suggest considerable intellectual faculties.
Bjørn Nørgaard’s installation shows the protagonist, Marat, in a bathtub, exactly as the scene is shown in a famous painting of Marat painted by Jacques-Louis David in 1797. In this way Nørgaard draws attention to a bloody narrative about liberty, equality and fraternity, and his references to Jacques-Louis David’s painting and to his own diary notes allow him to connect past and present.
Mathias & Mathias: Artie, 2017
»The art has fled the building.« »Yes! It seems to have disappeared altogether.« One of the members of staff confirmed this. »The art has done what!?« »The art has fled. It is gone, vanished into thin air.«
In the work Artie from 2017, museum visitors step onto a stage just like actors do at the theatre. The room contains four large glass screens with human figures drawn onto them. A strange sound fills the room, and in the centre of it all a range of sculptures are arrayed.
At the entrance, visitors are handed a text written by the artists behind the work, Danish artist duo Mathias Toubro (b. 1986) and Mathias Dyhr (b. 1991). The text tells the story about art disappearing, opening with the words “The art has fled the building.” This tragic-comic drama, unfolding at an art institution quite similar to HEART, concerns members of a museum staff on a desperate quest to find the lost art. The story may remind us of the much-loved Hans Christian Andersen and his fairy tale about the emperor’s new clothes: what is “real” art, in the sense of meaningful art, and what is dishonest art without genuine content and meaning? Mathias and Mathias’s ironic distance towards the museum as an institution is, then, underpinned by a discourse about what art is and should be, and what kind of role you, as spectator and visitor, play in relation to the general understanding of the work of art and the museum as a cultural institution. The quest for “Artie” takes place in the fictional realm of the text and in the tangible reality of the installation with you as the main protagonist. You can buy Mathias and Mathias’s “artie water” from the museum café, either to take home as a souvenir or simply to slake the thirst you built up during your hunt for “Artie”.
The text accompanying the work is available from the reception desk.
The artist duo Mathias Toubro and Mathias Dyhr have worked together since 2012 and graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2016. Mathias and Mathias have exhibited their work at the exhibition venue Tranen, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, NHL Space, Last Resort and Sculpture by the Sea.