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Joachim Koester's largest project to date in Denmark opens at Kunsthal Charlottenborg
Joachim Koester, If One Thing Moves, Everything Moves; Installation shot, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2012. Photo: Anders Sune Berg; Courtesy Jan Mot, Bruxelles / Brussels & Mexico City.

COPENHAGEN.- Charlottenborg presents a solo exhibition by Joachim Koester, one of the most significant Danish artists of his generation. The exhibition is the artist’s largest and most comprehensive project to date in his home country, and is a survey of his works from 2005 to 2012. The project features film, photography and installation, including many pieces that explore forgotten histories and altered states, and is part of Charlottenborg’s contribution to the Copenhagen Art Festival.

Koester’s exhibition, entitled If One Thing Moves, Everything Moves, features a dramatic staging that has been conceived in collaboration with the artist, and which takes the form of a darkened and immersive environment that transforms some of Charlottenborg’s grand gallery spaces. The installation also has a strong architectural character, featuring a number of large wooden structures, including an ominous wooden cabin that acts as an entrance portal for the exhibition, and a giant stepped pyramid that fills one of the largest galleries.

The environment at Charlottenborg is being used to stage a large group of works by the artist, many of which feature film or photography – either independently, or as part of installations that can also involve text and other elements. Koester’s works often have a documentary or storytelling aspect, and the subjects in the exhibition range from a tragic arctic expedition from the end of the C19th, to a depraved commune run by the infamous British occultist Aleister Crowley in the 1920s. The artist has described his search for these narratives as "ghost hunting", involving the seeking out and recording of forgotten information.

The lost or suppressed narratives that feature in Koester’s works have often included the histories of magic and other esoteric practices. One photograph in the exhibition depicts the surface of a black mirror used by a C16th scientist and magician to gain access to the spirit world, while other works explore the history of hashish from medieval Persia to the salons of C19th Paris and the American counterculture of the 1970s. The notion of alternative consciousness has been a recurring reference for the artist, some of whose films employ the flicker effect that is known to play a role in inducing altered states.

The exhibition at Charlottenborg also includes two major new films by Koester, demonstrating his recent research – as well as his ongoing interest in performance and movement. One film takes as its subject the Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski, who in the 1970s developed an experimental practice based on communal rites. The other work centres on John Murray Spear, the C19th American spiritualist and activist whose causes included socialism and women’s liberation – the film reflects Spear’s attempts to promote his economic and political agenda through bodily trance.

Born in Copenhagen in 1962, Koester is a graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Art and is based in Copenhagen. The artist’s recent and forthcoming solo exhibitions include: Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (2010); The Power Plant, Toronto (2010); Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2010); IAC Villeurbanne / Rhône-Alpes; (December 2011), MIT List Visual Art Center, Boston (2012); and SMAK, Ghent (opening December 2012). His recent group exhibitions include: Reality Check, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen (2008); Altermodern, Tate Britain, London (2009); and Animism, MuHKA, Antwerp (2010) and touring venues.

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