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Extensive Survey Exhibition of Danish Artist Henrik Olesen's Work at Kunstmuseum Basel
A visitor is looking at an artwork, entitled Lack of Information (2001), by Danish artist Henrik Olesen at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Basel, Switzerland, 13 May 2011. The exhibition includes a selection of Olesen's oeuvre of the past fifteen years and opens to the public from 14 May to 11 September. EPA/GEORGIOS KEFALAS.

BASEL.- The Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel presents an extensive survey exhibition of the artist Henrik Olesen (b. Denmark 1967). The exhibition includes a selection from his oeuvre of the past fifteen years in conjunction with works that draw on the existing architecture to create new sitespecific installations.

Henrik Olesen uses collage, sculpture, and minimalist spatial interventions to engage with the body and questions of gender and its representation in order to interrogate structures of power relations and the construction of historiography and identities. In a perspective on the political consequences of what is regarded as normality and everyday life, family structures, media, and divergent balances of power within society form one thematic focus of the exhibition.

The points of departure for Olesen’s examination include contemporary as well as historic references from a variety of fields such as architecture, law, and economics (the geographical and demographic distribution of capital), the natural sciences and the history of art. Olesen shows the homosexual body inscribed in spaces and interior settings from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in order to draw attention to the suppression and repression of homosexuality as a pervasive phenomenon in history. In the group of works entitled How Do I Make Myself a Body? (2009), Olesen studies the tragic history of the English mathematician Alan Turing, whom the British authorities sentenced to undergo treatment with female hormones; in other installations such as Mr. Knife and Mrs. Fork (2009), he presents a depiction and critical analysis of the heterosexual nuclear family, its potentially dysfunctional representatives and reproductive needs. He inserts pictures of gay sex scenes, photographs of submission and abuse, into Max Ernst’s surreal pictorial narratives La femme 100 têtes (1929) and Une Semaine de bonté (1934), suggesting the possibility that a repressed and concealed homosexuality inhabits Ernst’s surrealist world. The lack of information about homosexuality and its distorting use in media and history are an essential part of what Henrik Olesen’s approach is about. By inscribing facts that are usually suppressed or ignored upon (art-)historical documents, he connects missing links in order to reach a better understanding of history.

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