A couple many years back, Jeannette Ehlers and La Vaughn Belle erected I Am Queen Mary, 2018, a towering monument of a Black girl seated in a throne-like chair in front of the West Indian Warehouse in Copenhagen. The sculpture, which was a proposal for a everlasting set up at the site, commemorated the a person hundredth anniversary of the sale and transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States. The installation’s affect on basic consciousness of the country’s colonial heritage in today’s Denmark, dominated as it is by the discourse of liberal nationalism, can not be underestimated.
It is with the reverberations of this current task in thoughts that I entered Ehlers’s exhibition “Archives in the Tongue: A Litany of Freedoms,” which comprised eleven works—installations, videos, and sculptures—alongside a sequence of performances and a film software. Curated by Awa Konaté and Lotte Løvholm, the exhibition elucidated how Ehlers’s probingly poetic do the job explores the boomerang consequences and multilayered contradictions of colonial modernity. Rather than making an attempt to abolish the concepts, monuments, and establishments of art that have served colonialist passions, she employed the materials and imaginary space of artwork to attract notice to, heal, and reform a Danish historic present. This solution is most evident but also most tough in the video installation Moko Is Long term, 2022, which opened the exhibition. The perform is based mostly on the carnivals first structured by enslaved folks in the Caribbean in the eighteenth century, inspired by the colonists’ masquerade balls. In the middle of the large gallery area, a vertical projection showed Moko Jumbie (Healer Spirit), masked and dancing about on stilts via Copenhagen’s streets and squares and among the its historic buildings and statues. The character appears at the moment fragile, potent, and caring. But presented that today’s Denmark is a faltering welfare state with rock-hard immigration policies, and that the show alone was mounted in a palace created with the spoils of the country’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, the piece left me with minimal feeling of exuberance.
“People who have stake in their society safeguard that modern society, but when they really do not have it, they unconsciously want to wipe out it.” So ends the excerpt from a speech by Martin Luther King that makes up the soundtrack to the nineteen-second-prolonged video work There Is Very little A lot more Perilous, 2015. In Coil: The Sensuous Ways of Realizing, 2022, two various types of video footage played at the same time. A check confirmed a near-up of hair getting very carefully braided, although a voice-about informed a tale about how enslaved women applied their cornrows to encrypt information and disguise rice and grains. Close by, YouTube clips of uprisings from streets close to the entire world had been shown on iPhones hooked up to selfie sticks. If the art place can be a device for violence and domination, what solution acts of care and resistance may it however conceal?
The neon wall operate Until the Lion, 2021, which illuminated the space in its pink glow, reads UNTIL THE LION HAS THEIR HISTORIAN, THE HUNTER WILL Generally BE A HERO—a sentence the artist saw created on the wall of a fort in Ghana that belonged to Denmark throughout the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth generations. The which means driving this deceptively uncomplicated found poem little by little opens up: Could possibly the artist be the hunter, the lion, and the historian, all at once?