26.mar.2009 - catalog text by Jakob Fibiger Andreasen
Siggimund: Jakob S. Boeskov
at The National Gallery Of Denmark
Copenhagen in flames, high-tech soldiers in battle dress, and a murdered and mutilated social worker in a devastated local government office. Artist Jakob S. Boeskov pulls no punches when he castigates the spirit of our time with melancholy and the blackest of black humour in his new exhibition at Statens Museum for Kunst. This exhibition is also the starting signal for the series of biannual exhibitions as part of the Museum’s revitalisation of the Collection of Prints and Drawings with its copious collection.
Action between fiction and reality
Jakob S. Boeskov (born 1973) has made a name for himself on the international scene in recent years as one of the most original and controversial action artists of our time. Equipped with a false identity, he has broken into special hermetic milieus so as to gather unique insight and simultaneously extend the borders of artistic action. He did this in his project My Doomsday Weapon (2002-04) when he played the part of an arms dealer at a Chinese arms fair and displayed a fictive anti-riot weapon. Genuine arms dealers, intelligence services and journalists were intensely interested, and there were more than five million hits on the project’s web site, until the rather shocked artist revealed the truth that it was an art project.
In 2004, Boeskov and journalist Mads Brügger went undercover in America as arch-Republican supporters during the national election, and infiltrated and documented a number of neo-Conservative groups. The ironic turn-around was that reality unexpectedly intervened in the art project when several Danish politicians attacked it as being anti-American, when it was shown on Danish television as Danes for Bush.
Paranoia in the Welfare State
Jakob S. Boeskov’s approach in his exhibition at the Collection of Prints and Drawings is different in that it is classical and more complex, although the political aspect is very obvious. Here fiction and reality and both the political and personal aspects are interwoven. There are about 70 works which point in various directions. The many drawings and some video works depict a restless, rakish artistic life in which personal triumphs and defeats are transformed into satire and poetry. They are also catalysts of a revised picture of Scandinavia, which is far from what is probably the normal perception of Golden Age idyll, a high level of tolerance and cool design. Seen through Boeskov’s eyes, the modern age is characterised by the escalating forces of ideological confusion and violent turmoil. The works all investigate the no-man’s land between a cruel, globalised environment and a paranoid and hermetic welfare state. War, power and politics are central themes which are intricately entangled with erotic dream scenarios and sometimes relatively banal love motifs, which is a conscious and almost romantic ploy on the part of the artist, who seems to be making room for budding optimism in the enfolding darkness.
Drawings and Video
The exhibition consists of works from the Collection of Prints and Drawings as well as loans from other collections and presents a wide selection of Boeskov’s recent drawings, as well as some which are completely new. They are typified by the contrast between Boeskov’s skilled draughtsmanship and the confrontational and often brutal statements, either verbal or presented in detailed portrayals. The humour is wry and the drawings are presented so they are like a straight right to the chin, reminiscent of the no-nonsense, curt aesthetics of a cartoon strip or graffiti, which is the essence of their effectiveness. This practice is also employed in the more developed narratives of the video works.
There is no particular differentiation between art and entertainment, which accords with both the political and the personal aspects being clear and recognisable fixed points in his art. Boeskov works quite consciously in a grey area, where he lets himself be influenced from all quarters. You will find references to other artists and his own works, to philosophy, pop and kitsch. Edvard Munch and the Moomins are on an equal footing as suitable materials for the final artistic expression.