FLESH TINT PROJECT
7th of march - 26th of april 2015
HESSELHOLDT & MEJLVANG
CULTURAL CRITIQUE WITH FLESH-TINTED FLAGS FLYING OVER AALBORG
Flesh Tint Project is Hesselholdt & Mejlvang’s largest scale presentation to date in Denmark. This sensational project consists of extensive exhibitions in both Kunsthal NORD and KUNSTEN, flag installations in the old boiler and turbine halls in Nordkraft and an almost 1.5-kilometre-long stretch of street, festooned with flesh-tinted flags and bunting.
In their previous works, Hesselholdt & Mejlvang have expressed a critique of nationalism and identity. They have dealt with concepts such as cultural sense of identity, the nation as an imagined community and “the other”, sometimes using black flags and ideological icons. But this is the first time that their controversial art has penetrated such an extensive urban space as Aalborg.
The main thrust of Flesh Tint Project is the “flesh colour” as sold in paint shops. In visual terms, it is the colour of Northern European “pigs”, mainly associated with Northern Europeans and the Aryan race. By using “the white man’s” skin colour and flesh-coloured flags as part of their project, Hesselholdt & Mejlvang are thematising national symbolism and challenging culturally specific models of “Us” and “Them”.
With their extensive use of ideological symbols and a disproportionate, seductive finish, Hesselholdt & Mejlvang deploy a strategy, which the Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek calls “overidentification”, an avant-garde artistic strategy, which makes use of exaggeration to expose power symbols. The extreme predominance of flags and “flesh tone” will conjure up doubt in the viewer, who is compelled to think and make up their own mind: “Surely they can’t be serious?!”
With Flesh Tint Project, the two artists also challenge familiar constructs such as Danish-ness, gender and the home as a bastion of security. Visitors can see all this at the exhibitions in Kunsthal NORD and in KUNSTEN’s temporary exhibition space at Aalborg Railway Station.
In Kunsthal NORD, Hesselholdt & Mejlvang have distorted their complex use of power symbols, combining them with a dream-like atmosphere complemented by a series of sculptural works, which respond to the rough and ready aesthetic of the venue. The objects belong mainly to the domestic universe: e.g. an embroidered pillowcase, a painted teddy bear, birthday flags in formations, worn sheets, an ordinary flagpole and a summerhouse, the windows and doors of which have been blocked off with peepholes that offer a view of a grotesque scenario portrayed in liver-like hues.
The artists are thus displacing the artistic strategy of Zizek’s overidentification and moving in the direction of the psychoanalytic concept of Das Unheimliche, which portrays the uncanny expect of something that is otherwise domestic. This is a means of highlighting our day-to-day encounter with symbols, which discreetly, but inexorably interact with power structures, ideologies and sense of identity.
In KUNSTEN’s exhibition space at Aalborg Railway Station, the artists very much disturb our view of reality. Visitors will witness a number of flesh-painted national flags, a home-made pink tapestry with 28 stars, which is (perhaps) a reference to the EU, and three, large, eagle-like birds in a variety of aggressive attack positions. At first sight, the stuffed birds seem lifelike. But they are, in fact, composed of Danish birds such as seagulls and common buzzards, with eagle beaks added and decorated with flesh-coloured war paint.
It is the first time that Kunsthal NORD and KUNSTEN have taken part in such an extensive collaboration, while the involvement of the urban space makes Flesh Tint Project a rare innovation in the cultural life of Aalborg.
Sofie Hesselholdt and Vibeke Mejlvang graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2006, but have been working together as an artistic duo since 1999. They have made a name for themselves in Danish contemporary art with a series of exhibitions in galleries and museums, also including solo exhibitions at Turku Art Museum (Finland), Oslo Kunstforening (Norway) and Norrtälje Konsthall (Sweden).
See or download the exhibition catalogue here