It didn't make me prettier, it didn't make me survive, but damn I needed some medication (or did I?)
Curated by Staffan Boije af Gennäs
27 August - 25 September 2021
The exhibition It didn't make me prettier, it didn't make me survive, but damn I needed some medication (or did I?) by Jens Haaning and Santiago Sierra, presents three new works by Jens Haaning and one work from 2009 by Santiago Sierra that in their individual ways focus on the offshoots of prosperity, and how our understanding of the term is affected by the contemporary changes in local as well as global landscapes of the mind and body. All of these issues are contextually considered in this new exhibition.
It didn't make me prettier… by Jens Haaning pushes the foundations of autobiography, autofiction, and mental health into new ground in this third decade of the new millennium. The title of the exhibition is taken from one of Jens Haaning's works in the show, consisting of two 60 x 30 cm white plastic storage boxes, in which Haaning has from 2014 - 2021 collected all his unused/untaken psychiatric medication, painkillers, and anti-epileptic medicine. The filled boxes are to be seen more as an appendix to the scotch-taped paper on the wall above them displaying the text/title. While the medicine has been collected by Haaning, it is not an artwork that he has made with immediate autobiographical references. Haaning’s collections of pills are instead only the closest samples at hand to model his introspection; the work rather asks for new reflection on social and individual progression in contemporary society – perhaps by implicating the strategies for surviving the pros and cons of health systems.
In the next room the viewer encountered the artwork The Salty Death, figure 3, 2021, boat engine and fuel tank, a work that consists of an abandoned boat motor with a dirty boat gasoline canister placed beside it. The motor is complemented by another artwork, The Salty Death, figure 2, 2021, rope, made of a thick light gray rope, curled up on the floor of the exhibition space. Both are everyday objects that the on one hand reflect nothing but their leftover status, and on the other are coloured by the news and/or personal mood swings, thereby taking on other meanings.
Santiago Sierra’s film Person obstructing a line of containers (Kaj 3, Frihamnen, Stockholm, Sweden, February 2009) shows a person who has defiantly placed herself in front of a line of trucks on their way to leave or enter a ferry. During the twelve-minute long confrontation, we see the truck steer forward in a conflictive dance as it tries to overcome the person blocking the traffic. In turn the visual tension captured in the film shows a range of contradictions between personal freedoms, protests, and infrastructures that are collapsing upon one another.
Here – as in Haaning’s work – the relation between a person and the systems governing our life in society, or better yet the systems of dominance that have to be lived through, are portrayed in their fundamentals. Fruitful or not, the defiant act is at least committed.
It didn't make me prettier… is the latest product of an ongoing dialogue between Jens Haaning and Santiago Sierra. Their exchange was initiated with their joint exhibition, titled THE COPENHAGEN DECLARATION, at the Faurschou Foundation, Copenhagen, in 2014. The exhibition presented three-metre tall black letters that stated TIRED OF THIS GLOBAL SADISTIC REGIME.
Jens Haaning (born 1965) is a Danish conceptual, contemporary artist living and working in Copenhagen and the South of France. Haaning’s work and practice has since the 1990s related to contemporary society, its underlying discontents and its frictions such as communication in global society, and necessitates a debate about subjects such as nationalism, migration, and displacement. Haaning does this by moving structures, occupations, and business objects affected by general changes in society into museum or gallery spaces in order to offer new insight into them.
Jens Haaning has exhibited extensively internationally. He has taken part in Documenta XI, Kassel, Germany; Vienna Secession, Vienna, Austria; Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea, among others. Haaning is the recipient of the Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Award 2020. When it comes to the current political situation, his precise installation (connected to this award) consisted of discarded bunk beds from a discontinued Danish refugee camp, in order to produce an artwork that pushes the arc of ready-made histories in art and overlapping political realities. This artwork, titled Asylcenter Aakirkeby [Asylum Center Aakirkeby] was installed at Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen in the fall of 2020.
Santiago Sierra (born Madrid, 1966) currently lives and works in Madrid and Mexico City. The works of the Spanish artist Santiago Sierra often relate to and expose mechanisms in our contemporary capitalist societies and the relation between economic classes within them, often summarizing the tension between Labour and Freedom. In a number of works, labourers that he hires perform meaningless jobs for minimum wages.
The resentment that his art often meets is therefore also a measure of its success in communicating his critique. There is no labour relation that plays a part in his work which has not also played a part in the economy that surrounds us. Sierra has had a prolific exhibition career with solo exhibitions in MoMA PS1, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Museo Tamayo and the Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. He has taken part in exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), MoMA PS1, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Hammer Museum, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, and Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt among others.
Recently, at the Dark Mofo Arts Festival held at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, Santiago Sierra intended to show the British flag soaked in blood donated by First Nation people. The artwork was proposed as an acknowledgement of the pain and destruction colonialism has caused Australia's original inhabitants. The potential artwork was soon mired in controversy following a social media backlash – despite committed blood donors – and subsequently it was cancelled from the festival's programme.