Solo-exhibition at M100, Odense, Dk
The exhibition with the title; “Gimme Shelter", is based on the need to have a roof over one's head. A home is as basic a need as food and clothing and constitutes the base from which the individual can unfold his/her life. Being without housing can therefore be deeply problematic and can worsen both social and health problems as well as the opportunities to contribute to the community.
Exhibition text by curator Karen Vestergaard Andersen
Please give me shelter
In the exhibition Gimme Shelter artist Anna Bak tackles an undeniable yet uncomfortable truth – to afford a home in the major cities comes at a price – a price that precarious (art)workers, especially, are rarely able to pay. To live in a rent controlled or owned apartment is a privilege for the few. So we move. Across the city, from room to room with boxes of things filled to the brim with belongings and memories.
Bak’s works are by no means romanticizing the situation they do, however, have a hint of absurdity about them. Almost comparable to the sigh and the shrug that escapes us when sharing problems that are almost too difficult to bear and thus filed under “just the way things are”, followed by a silent exclamation mark.
In the sculptural works like Broken Leisure, 2023, and View without room, 2023, Bak evokes the late 80s and early 90s favorite ensemble – plastic garden furniture and a French balcony – here rendered broken from wear and tear or made utterly pointless. On the balcony small snails are roaming the cold aluminum surfaces, like lonesome travelers with houses on their backs, lending us poetic relief from the despair of the scene. They usher us to move slowly from the “outside" towards the “inside” setting of the adjoining room. Here the rattling sound of a large slumbering turtle meets us. On its shield little pieces from the board game Monopoly are scattered, hinting at the speculative but also very real side of the housing crisis. Together with the turtle and its rhythmic sound, we are encompassed by shiny seemingly soaked cardboard boxes hanging on the walls.
It is not negative to dwell in the negative, as for instance the failures of our systems. Thus Gimme Shelter becomes a beautiful extraction of what it is to think through form: what is political art making today? At this point in Danish art history these issues are being addressed by contemporary artists as well as in art scientific research, for example in the seminal work: "Production aesthetics - A feminist critique of work between art and life" by Cecilie Ullerup Schmidt. The vital common denominator is the sense of collapse, while simultaneously meeting common objectives. As in the case of Bak, these practices seem to form a resistance as they dwell, oppose, think in and through fraught currencies, common livelihood, systemic inequalities and speculations based on contemporary conditions for (art) labor.
To survive as an artist or art worker, and take a stance within and against capitalism already points to a way out of the impasse. However, in the collective politics that we call “community” a plea for shelter from this or any other societal storm is seldom met with a “home”. Therefore, it is only befitting that Bak’s works leave us both held and bereft, probing questions about how different temporalities and realities impose constant constraints, both on collective manifestations and on any individual actions or refusals we might make.
Photos: Kasper Maaløe / Anna Bak
5000 Odense C
Exhibition period: 29th September – 5th November 2023.
Opening hours: Thursday 17-19, Saturday-Sunday 13-16
The exhibition is kindly supported by The Danish Arts Council, Ny Carlsberg Fonden, Odense Municipality, Den Obelske Familiefond, Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansens Fond and Grosserer L. F. Foghts Fond, Statens Værksteder for Kunst, and VAK- Vestsjællands arbejdende kunstner-værksteder.