Nylon sails reaching a height of 20m suspended between floor and ceiling, a labyrinthine sequence of tents inhabited by curious objects and machines and a steep hill with a factory producing arrowheads and axe heads out of soap. The Danish artist FOS, who is also featured at the Venice Biennial at the moment, has claimed the Sculpture Street at the National Gallery of Denmark
for his own, transforming the 2,000m2 space into an enormous, interactive, and intriguing total installation with the aid of the Austrian/Italian artists duo Krüger & Pardeller.
The words are those of FOS (Thomas Poulsen, b. 1971) and sum up his fundamental view of how the visual arts are distinct from other types of art and expression. Whereas design folds itself up around its function and aesthetic, art is a distinctive space with wide-ranging potential. Art is anything but a closed-off reservation. FOS' own works fuse sculpture, design, and architecture in a hybrid form. Under the common heading of Social Design; his own genre definition, his works create settings for social encounters, activities, and experiences. One example would be Osloo, his floating contribution to this years Venice Biennial, or the much-debated redesign of a shelter for homeless men in Copenhagen that he created together with his colleague Kenneth Balfelt in 2006. FOS views art as a platform for social interaction. Art is created, but also creates something links and relationships between the work and human beings and between human beings themselves which reach far beyond the artists intention and control.
Taking his point of departure in the concept of Social Design, FOS has proven himself to be a distinctive, original figure within the Danish and international art scene. Combining the subtle with the eyecatching and playfulness with social indignation, his installations have challenged audiences and the spaces they occupy, regardless of whether these are found at museums, galleries, art dealers, or the public space. FOS is very much aware of his own role and responsibilities as an artist, and he insists that art can make a difference in society. He never sets out to moralise or advocate particular political views. Rather, his works should be viewed as explorations of and alternatives to the systems that more or less overtly govern and regulate our behaviour and interaction.
One Language Traveller
The exhibition, which is held under the auspices of x-rummet at the National Gallery of Denmark, unfolds itself as an odd zigzagging journey through the Gallerys vast Sculpture Street. Visitors pass through tall membranes, colourful tent spaces with uneven clay floors, and passages featuring streetlamps and grates to finally reach a large hill made out of earth. On its top is a factory producing a kind of primordial design: arrowheads and axe heads made out of soap. During your journey you come across a range of objects, materials, machines, and sounds that accentuate the sense of being on a strange and uncertain journey that keeps branching out in new directions, both mentally and physically, only to sometimes have those branches merge again to form new sequences. In this sense FOS' installation is reminiscent of a huge organism; a structure which, rather than supplying answers, throws our thoughts, body, and conversation in all directions. At the invitation of FOS, the Austrian-Italian artists duo Krüger & Pardeller has contributed a machine sculpture to the exhibition.
FOS graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 1999 and now lives and works in Copenhagen. He has exhibited his works in many places in Denmark and abroad. He received the Danish Arts Foundations three-year grant in 2006 and the Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsens Grant in 2010.