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Copenhagen Contemporary reopens its art center in a refurbished Welding Hall at Refshaleøen
Doug Aitken. SONG 1 Installation shot, Copenhagen Contemporary 2018. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

COPENHAGEN.- Copenhagen Contemporary reopens the art center in new surroundings in the refurbished Welding Hall at Refshaleøen. Copenhagen Contemporary celebrates the opening presenting an opening programme to mark the fact that Copenhagen has gained a permanent institution capable of housing international large-scale installation art.

CC opens two expansive audience-involving total installations, both of which received international critical acclaim besides being huge crowd-pullers. The Danish artists’ collective SUPERFLEX’ One Two Three Swing! occupies Hall 1 and 2. In a large-scale orange construction of swings, the audience is encouraged to join others for a swing and thus experience the potential of collaborative participation. Hall 3 shows the acclaimed American artist Doug Aitken’s SONG 1, a 35-minute sound and video installation. With the classic pop song ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ as an underlying structure, Aitken has created a compelling and spatial video work reflecting present-day urban landscapes and referencing the cultural history of modernity.

An orange line of swings weaves through SUPERFLEX´ large-scale installation One Two Three Swing! The swings are designed for three people to swing together and experience the potential of collaborative participation.

Since the early 1990s, SUPERFLEX have created radically innovative works engaging with social issues. Right from the start, the artists’ collective has used its artistic practice to address social concerns and they actually refer to their projects as ‘tools’ capable of creating action and change.

With the large-scale installation One Two Three Swing! SUPERFLEX address what they experience as an apparent social apathy, an inability to act in the face of political, environmental, and economic challenges in our times – and they do so by emphasising the revolutionary potential of collective human actions and experiences.

In Hall 1, the audience can experience movement and the power of collective human action offered by the orange line of swings winding through the hall. Where swings are normally designed for individual use, SUPERFLEX´ swings are designed with three seats and the audience is encouraged to experience the energy of several people swinging collectively.

In Hall 2, the state of apathy is represented by a large pendulum swinging widely across a carpet woven in the colours of Euro notes. The audience is invited to lie down and contemplate the fabric of economy and other forces governing our everyday lives, while literally reflecting on, while being reflected in, the mirror-like pendulum.

One Two Three Swing! is both an aesthetic and a conceptual installation inviting the audience to immerse themselves in a work engaging with the power of play and the collaborative entities people are capable of creating together. Swinging together with others is a very different experience to swinging on your own. SUPERFLEX see the collective potential emerging when people swing together as a positive energy, symbolically capable of changing the course of the planet and the path we, as a society, are following. The joint experience offered by the work may trigger reflections on fundamental issues like democracy, influence, and common citizenship – in that sense, SUPERFLEX´ swings are more than just play.

One Two Three Swing! was created in 2017 for the huge Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in London where, in a recognition of their work, SUPERFLEX were selected as the recipients of the Hyundai Commission.

SONG 1 is a 35-minute-long sound and video installation created by artist Doug Aitken. Within the framework of a pop song, the classic “I Only Have Eyes for You,” Aitken has created a compelling and spatial video work reflecting present day urban landscapes that reference the cultural history of modernity. Different versions of the well known song form the underlying structure in the monumental sound and video collage SONG 1 . The artwork is a rhythmic flow of video clips that are projected onto a large circular screen. This is an immersive artwork for the viewer, one that the audience can both walk around as well as step into. The song is a classic jazz standard from 1934, known across the world for its melancholy tune and romantic lyrics. Deeply embedded in the musical DNA of American cultural life, it has appeared in countless versions – the best known being The Flamingo’s version from 1959 characterized by its slow ‘doowop’ R&B sound.

For SONG 1 , Doug Aitken invited different musicians to record their versions of the song, echoing the song’s own history and its multiple interpretations through the decades –including Beck, Lucky Dragons, and No Age. Also interpreting the song visually are actress Tilda Swinton, street dancers and gospel singers who appear in the artwork.

SONG 1 ’s visual side oscillates between past and present, from stylized black and white clips that reference the influence of the stage and television screen to present-day hypermodernised metropolitan cities with crowds of people and pulsing light. Here men and women are seen in varied environments – the workplace, in cafés, in studios, and in traffic – singing the familiar tune.

The song’s minimalistic beat speeds up to echo the abstracted dynamic visual clips of a metropolis, where the search for love and belonging repeats itself across time and place and reminds the viewer of a universality of human experience. The simplicity of the song, the soulful backing choir, and the repetitive chorus emphasize a common ground, humanity linked through human emotions and experience. In the coupling of the visual representations of men versus women, the city versus the individual, the present versus the past, the work is an exploration of modernity and the conditions that influence our lives today.

Aitken's eye often leads us into a world where time, space, and memory are fluid concepts. His artworks often create landscapes that are immersive, interconnected and experiential both visually and physically. He employs a concept he calls ‘liquid architecture’ in which images and architecture transcend the spaces they are installed in. This was the intention of SONG 1 , originally created for the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington and projected onto its long cylindrical facade. In this way, he turned the inside of the museum out to face the world where music, images, space, time, and movement were gathered into one spectacular urban landscape.

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