This summer Kunsthal Charlottenborg
presents a major installation by the German artist Thomas Kilpper, entitled Pavilion for Revolutionary Free Speech. The work was originally created for the Danish Pavilion in the 2011 Venice Biennale, where it took the form of a raised wooden platform attached to the pavilion. Into the wooden floor of this structure the artist carved 33 portraits including images of leading figures in politics, business, church and media from Italy, Denmark and other countries. All of them are people who Kilpper believes have been directly or indirectly responsible for promoting censorship, social exclusion or intolerance.
The portraits include personalities from our own day including internationally famous figures such as Silvio Berlusconi and Pope Benedict XVI. The Danish personalities portrayed were: Pia Kjærsgaard, the leader of the Danish Peoples Party (DPP); Anders Fogh Rasmussen, formerly leader of the Liberal Party, who while Prime Minister relied on the DPP for support; and Flemming Rose, the journalist and former culture editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which commissioned and published the controversial Mohammad Cartoons in 2006.
The work was created for the group show Speech Matters curated by Katerina Gregos, which included eighteen artists from ten countries and was exhibited in the Danish Pavilion in Venice between June and November 2011. The exhibition explored the subject of free speech and Kilppers work constituted an alternative space next to the main pavilion. Kilppers Pavilion for Revolutionary Free Speech included a Speakers Corner which featured talks by speakers invited by the artist, and from which members of the public could address the Biennale through an outsized megaphone.
When Speech Matters opened it was criticised in the Danish press by a number of politicians and commentators, who objected that the exhibition did not include enough Danish artists, or that public money was being used to commission foreign artists to represent Denmark, or that the public was being invited to trample on the faces of Kjærsgaard, Rasmussen and Rose. Other commentators defended the exhibition, while Kilpper pointed out that visitors did not have to step on the portraits, and that even if they did then it was not his intention that this should be an act of disrespect. Charlottenborg is now offering people who were not able to be in Venice the opportunity to see Kilppers work for themselves.
The floor panels of Kilppers pavilion were designed to also function as woodcut printing blocks, and the artist has subsequently been using them to make a variety of prints: in both fabric and paper; and including single portraits (each over a metre wide) as well as larger banners. At Charlottenborg the exhibition will include the entire floor, an installation of prints and an 18 metre wide banner on the buildings facade. Related works are being shown this year at dispari&dispari project, Reggio Emilia (February April), Kunsthalle Bergen (March April) and Ludwig Forum, Aachen (June September). However, Charlottenborg is the only venue where the complete floor will be exhibited.
Thomas Kilpper was born in 1956 in Stuttgart and lives and works in Berlin. He was trained at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and the Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main. His work has consistently investigated the relationship between history, politics and collective memory, often taking the form of large-scale site-specific installations and floor carvings. Kilpper has exhibited across Europe and America, with recent installations that include: State of Control, created in the former GDR State Security (Stasi) HQ, Berlin (2009); and Anemonevej Surprises, created in a group of empty apartments in Nakskov, Denmark, for the Tumult festival (2010). Since 2006 Kilpper has also run the Berlin-based project space after the butcher.