The Danish pavilion at the Venice Biennale stands as a rather desolate figure among the well-tended buildings surrounding it. The apparent entrance is a door that stands permanently shut and unattended, while the moss-covered “classical” sculptures that flank the edifice suggest years of neglect. The true entrance is at the end of a concealed passageway and having faced such adversity merely to enter the building, the audience are left wondering what we will encounter inside.
The work Intercourses is a multi-channel installation piece created by Danish artist Jesper Just. It centres on the architecture of the space playing on the concept behind the whole Biennale, that of creating a microcosm of the world within Italy. By leaving the building apparently abandoned and unfinished, Just reminds us of the process and artifice behind the whole event. The pavilions are worked on and built up over time to present them as we see them, an idea that is easy to lose sight of when presented with the finished whole.
This idea of artifice is picked up again in the films, all of which are set in a city that at first glance appears to be Paris, but is in fact Hangzhou, a suburb of China built as a replica of the French capital. Tied into the dilapidated nature of the building, the pavilion emanates an overriding sensation of disconnection and dislocation; it does not seem to belong among its compatriots. This theme is reiterated and built upon as viewers follow the three protagonists, all of whom seem to be searching for a means of connection through the architecture of the city in which they live. A striking element within the work is that all the men are black, which hints at immigration and again suggests the idea of cultural dislocation.
The colours are muted; the projections are all in black and white and the lighting is provided by a soft, purple, neon glow installed above boxes of bamboo. Although Just has incorporated a soundscape, it serves only to accentuate the overriding impression of silence; much like hearing the loud tick of a clock emphasises the lack of any other sounds.
The Danish pavilion is an interesting work that successfully touches on ideas of globalisation and the eliding of different cultures.
Jesper Just: Intercourses at The Danish Pavilion runs until 24 November at the Venice Biennale.
1. Jesper Just, Intercourses, 2013, still from 5-channel video installation at the Danish Pavilion for the 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, 2013. Courtesy the artist.